Unity: McCain, Graham, Paul, Cruz all call for suspending military aid to Egypt; Update: State Dep't ducks question of whether army used U.S. weapons

Not jointly, of course, and not for the same reasons, but the bottom line is that they’re each pushing in the same direction for once.

We’re all wacko birds now, my friends.

U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) today released the following statement on the latest developments in Egypt:

“The massacre of civilians this week in Egypt has brought our longstanding relationship with that country to a fork in the road. The interim civilian government and security forces – backed up, unfortunately, by the military – are taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them.

“We condemn all acts and incitement of violence against civilians, including those that supporters of former president Mohamed Morsi have committed against Christians and other Egyptians. At the same time, we cannot be complicit in the mass slaughter of civilians. It is neither in our long-term national interest nor consistent with our values and laws to continue providing assistance at this time to Egypt’s interim government and military. We urge the Obama Administration to suspend U.S. assistance to Egypt and make clear to the current leadership of the country what steps we believe are necessary to halt Egypt’s descent into civil conflict and ultimately to restore our assistance relationship, which has historically served U.S. national security interests.

If you’re keeping score, McCain initially called for halting aid to Egypt more than a month ago, on grounds that the military’s removal of Morsi was a coup. Then, when Rand Paul brought an amendment to the floor calling for aid to Egypt to be cut off, McCain voted against it on grounds that it would only end up hurting Israel. Now he’s back to wanting to suspend aid. Either the sight of Egyptian soldiers cracking heads changed his mind or he suspected that Paul’s amendment would lead to terminating aid to Egypt permanently rather than simply holding it in abeyance until they hold elections again. Or, of course, maybe he just wanted to deny Paul a political victory. Oh, that Maverick.

Paul blasted his colleagues in Congress yesterday for voting down his amendment, saying of the “engagement” caucus, “When you’re protesting in the streets and you’re run over by an American tank, you’re not going to be appreciative of American engagement.” As for Cruz:

“When a military coup occurred, [the White House] failed to follow current U.S. law and suspend aid to Egypt, something that could have been done to encourage the new government to move swiftly toward democratic reforms. Not illogically, the Egyptian military took this as permission to act with impunity against the Muslim Brotherhood, which in turn is provoking violence and committing savage crimes against Coptic Christians.

“The one sentiment uniting these disparate groups—as President Obama noted in his remarks—is to blame the United States, the country that continues to pour taxpayer dollars into Egypt. The situation demands recognition that our country’s current aid system is utterly and irretrievably broken. Not only are we giving arms and money to people who hate us around the world—in Egypt, we are managing to give arms and money in a way that makes our former friends hate us. It must stop now…

“But the President concluded his remarks, tellingly, with, ‘We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure.’ That was his policy in 2009 when he failed to vigorously support the Green Revolution in Iran. It was his policy in 2011 when he failed to swiftly call for the removal of the Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad when there was a unified, peaceful and secular opposition to him. And it has been the basis of the Obama Administration’s failed policy in Egypt, which, by refusing to use our leverage to advance U.S. interests and priorities, has contributed to that country’s descent into chaos.”

As usual, Cruz is trying to walk a line between the McCain and Paul positions. Although condemning the military’s abuses against protesters, McCain’s real issue with Egypt is the anti-democratic nature of the coup. Neoconservatives believe the only path out of Middle Eastern madness is through elections, even when a loathsome outfit like the Brotherhood wins. The military’s massacre of MB members gives him another reason to renew his call to cut aid for that deeper reason. Paul, while also condemning the coup and the abuses, wants foreign aid canceled more broadly as an exercise in futility that a broke country can’t afford. If we’re not bankrolling primitive, America-hating “allies” like the Brotherhood, we’re funding goons who are shooting them in the face during sit-ins. No good can come of it. Cruz borrows a page from both — he’s with Paul, seemingly, on perceiving broader problems with U.S. foreign aid (“utterly and irretrievably broken”) but then he raps Obama for not intervening more aggressively in Iran and Syria when he had a chance. That’s how it’ll be for the next two years. I wonder if Rand won’t be drawn slightly more towards interventionism to counter him.

By the way, it’s not only Republicans who want aid cut, even if temporarily. Carl Levin and Pat Leahy also want it suspended — and interestingly, pretty much everyone involved is citing the fact that Morsi’s removal was a “coup” as grounds for doing so. They don’t have to do that; the argument could simply be that the military crackdown this week was a bridge too far, whether or not the current government took power in a coup or not. By framing it that way, the senators are further alienating the anti-Morsi coalition that wants his ouster seen as a populist revolution, not a military power grab. And of course they’re making things harder on O, who’s strained mightily to avoid using the word “coup” for that reason. Anyway: Looks like we really, truly might finally see aid cut to Egypt, along bipartisan lines no less, if only for the simple reason that the aid we’re sending now has bought us basically zero leverage. The threat of being cut off didn’t stop Mubarak from crushing dissent, it didn’t stop Morsi from consolidating power, it didn’t stop Sisi from going ahead with the coup, and it didn’t stop the Egyptian military from rolling over Islamist protesters in the street. It’s free money. Why not yank it?

Update: Via the WFB, a brutal exchange. Expect Paul to mention it sometime next week.

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David Strom 9:21 PM on February 02, 2023