US senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham in Cairo 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih)
WASHINGTON – As Washington woke up to a new reality in Egypt last week,
Republicans and Democrats fell out of traditional party lines on foreign policy
and reflected growing confusion on how to handle yet another fundamental
conflict of American interests in the Middle East.
on are calling the Egyptian military’s offensive against its people both
inhumane and undemocratic.
And some Republicans, hawkish on spreading
liberalism themselves, agree and insist that our foreign aid must have a
purpose, a leveraging power, that should be rescinded if that power no longer
demonstrates an effect.
In between the two idyllic ends of the spectrum
are the realists, represented in both parties, that are calling for the
continuation of America’s relatively modest $1.4 billion in assistance to the
The figure is dwarfed by
aid packages from Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allied neighbors, that collectively
will give Egypt over $10b. in assistance this year.
Those that argue US
aid should continue do so out of a fear that its cancellation would disrupt a
multitude of interests.
The move might compromise the spirit of the Camp
David Accords, and a vacuum may open for competing countries to buy influence
with their own aid packages. The US might also find itself de-facto supporting
the Muslim Brotherhood, which proved itself illiberal under Mohamed Morsi’s
It would also diminish what remains of US influence
with the country’s military leaders, who are already ignoring international
efforts to halt the violence.
Last week, over 1,000 civilians were killed
and thousands more injured when the military, after weeks of threats, used
lethal force to clear Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators from their camps in
cities across Egypt.
The operation occurred after a week of high-level
negotiations between the Egyptian military and the United States, European Union
and Arab League, during which the parties attempted to negotiate a peaceful
settlement. Egypt’s military chose a “more dangerous path,” US President Barack
Obama said of the ensuing violence.
“We’re headed for Algeria,” Senator
Lindsay Graham said on Sunday on CBS News’ Face the Nation
. “The Brotherhood
will go underground, al-Qaida will come to their aid, and you are going to have
an armed insurgency, not protesters, on your hands.”
“We are going to
have a failed state in Egypt and we are going to have to suspend our aid because
we can’t support the reaction of the military,” Graham added.
Robert Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made only a
veiled reference to the aid package in a prepared response to the
“This violence only harms the Egyptian military, dampens the
democratic spirit of the Egyptian people, and further complicates the support of
our government as well as the international community that wants a thriving
Egypt to take hold,” he said.
Menendez’s Republican colleague on the
committee, Bob Corker, changed his position on Sunday against continuing
“I think the actions of the last week no doubt are going to cause us
to suspend aid, and I think it’s, at the same time, a time for us to recalibrate
and look at what is our national interest,” Corker told ABC News’ George
Yet Representative Peter King, chairman of the House
Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, said he was “reluctant to cut
off aid” when considering the possible consequences to American interests in the
Sinai and the Suez Canal, through which US ships get preferential right of
“We have to be careful and not cut off our nose to spite our
face,” Rep. Eliot Engel said on Sunday.