Arab Spring Takes Back Seat to U.S. Military Aid for Egypt

Some telling remarks buried in a speech (“On Ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge“) justifying renewal of the annual US$3 billion aid package to Israel by the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs:

I know that the uncertainty over the Egyptian transition has prompted some in Congress to propose conditioning our security assistance to Egypt. The Administration believes that putting conditions on our assistance to Egypt is the wrong approach, and Secretary Clinton has made this point strongly. Egypt is a pivotal country in the Middle East and a long-time partner of the United States. We have continued to rely on Egypt to support and advance U.S. interests in the region, including peace with Israel, confronting Iranian ambitions, interdicting smugglers, and supporting Iraq. Egypt’s well-being is important for the region as a whole.

Conditioning assistance risks putting our relations with Egypt in a contentious place at the worst possible moment. As the Secretary explained, “We support the democratic transition, and we don’t want to do anything that in any way draws into question our relationship or our support.” The Egyptian people, not just the Egyptian government, view our assistance as symbolic of our support for their country and their transition. At this time of great change, we need to maintain the flexibility to respond to events and adjust our assistance accordingly.

As The Arabist notes, “there was reluctance to upset Mubarak and a feeling that arguing with him was a lost battle. The SCAF, Egypt’s governing military council, is playing the same obtuse game of stubbornness.”

So is this Administration. And yet Obama still isn’t good enough for the Israel Lobby and Congress. He threw the Palestinian Authority under the bus at the UN (and continues to do so at the moribund Quartet Talks), and he’s apparently willing to endure SCAF’s troubling actions — sectarian violence, constitutional manipulation, the torture and detention of activists — all in the name of the Camp David Accords.

Bahrain, Shmarain — there’s the Fifth Fleet to consider (Tunisia sure is lucky that it doesn’t host a U.S. naval base). And Yemen is the new Afghanistan. Send in the drones.

Goodness knows what Obama has planned for Libya, though I imagine Bechtel and Halliburton have some ideas (and if not them, others will).

Of course, the fact that Obama is nonetheless willing to do business with Islamists is (somehow) just further proof of his anti-Israel sentiment, even though these people are Israel’s silent partners in the region, thanks to their shared fear of Iran and willingness to throw Palestinian statehood under the bus.

Man, what’s a President got to do to win some love from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s favorite people?

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.