Can Obama sustain US policy on Egypt?
The statement of U.S. President Barack Obama on Egypt on Aug. 15 was too little and too late.
Too late because the massacre in Cairo as a result of a security forces attack on civilian protesters had taken place in the early hours of Aug. 14 and almost every other country on earth had given some sort of response about it.
Too little, because many people think that the U.S. could use its military aid leverage on General Abdel Fettah Sisi who had toppled the Egyptian President through a coup d’etat and could stop at least the brutal use of force on civilians by police and military.
But no... Noting that it would be difficult for the U.S. to continue its relations with Egypt as long as civilians were killed on the streets, Obama thought it would be enough to cancel a joint military exercise with Egypt.
Obama’s reaction, failing short of stopping, at least suspending U.S. military aid program to Egypt was not enough for the rising Egypt awareness in the world politics. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan was among the first and perhaps the most strong in condemning the July the 3rd coup anyway and had called the UN Security Council to convene for Egypt prior to Obama’s speech. Turkey is not a member of the UN Security Council now, but UK, France and Australia called the Council for an emergency meeting the same June 15 afternoon.
The outcome was not something to be proud of, expressing sorrow because of violence. But Argentinean Ambassador to UN, Maria Cristina Perceval as the term president of the Council did not hide her disappointment and expressed her country’s condemnation of the “coup d’etat” in Egypt, asking the interim government to stop using force on civilians immediately. The same evening the U.S. State Department announced that the military aid agreement was to be revised depending on developments there and the U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reportedly called general Sisi to say that they’d like to continue the military relationship if they behaved to the protesters properly. The incidents on August 16 showed that the military rulers of Egypt did not care much.
Yet, on July 16, Holland suspended its relations with Egypt’s military-backed government and following a series of talks between the leaders of UK, France and Germany, the European Union decided to have an emergency meeting on Egypt.
Despite the reports that it was Russia and China who had softened the UN reaction against Egypt on the bases on “non-interference” principal (probably thinking of Chechnia and Uigur examples of their own) the pressure mounts on the U.S. administration to put more pressure on Cairo; the reason being the military aid leverage.
But decades long U.S. military aid to Egypt, which has been planned as more than $1.3 bln for 2013 and more than 80 percent of this money goes directly to the pockets of American defense companies; mainly to Lockheed-Martin, the producer of F-16 fighter jets and General Dynamics, the producer of M1A1 Abrams tanks. Plus, according to the Washington Post, there was $8.5 bln worth of military orders to U.S. companies from Egypt since 2008 but only $4.7 bln worth of them have been delivered.
So if Obama cancels the aid, the U.S. defense companies will be indebted to Egypt some $3.8 bln and penalties. If Obama calls the Egypt coup a coup, then he may have to face similar trouble in the Congress.
That is a major reason why Obama cannot use the military aid as leverage to pursue Israel in order to stop more settlements and have peace with Palestinians. The amount, some $1bln more than the one to Egypt goes back to the pockets of a few American companies (one can add Boeing and Raytheon on top of the ones in Egypt); that means American jobs for Obama, too. And when it comes to record breaking (a $60,5 bln deal in 2010) military sales to Saudi Arabia, to one of the most autocratic regimes on earth, it is possible to see that Obama, too has difficulties in executing his foreign policy independent of the military-industrial complex, as former U.S. President Ike Eisenhower once defined.
Can Obama sustain this policy in today’s world of mass communications, social media and awareness about human rights? The answer is “not so easy.”