Egypt’s plans to bolster military with US money

A Texas congresswoman put the kibosh on the first half of a promised $1 billion aid package to Egypt, expressing concern over our relations with that country. Could this hold up Egypt’s controversial purchase of two German submarines?

“This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the U.S.-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny,” said Republican U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, who chairs the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations.

With that statement, made Friday, she’s holding up the first $450 million transfer.

Since the Obama administration promised the aid package to the newly elected and cash-strapped Mohamed Morsi government, relations have become strained between the two countries. The U.S. embassy came under siege on Sept. 11, and neither leader is able to officially call the other an ally.

Although the funds weren’t specifically earmarked for military purchases, observers have surmisedthroughout September that Egypt will use them to purchase two German 209 class diesel-electric attack submarines.

Diesel-electric subs may be considered “old school” by some, but they have one huge advantage over their younger nuclear brethren — they’re stealthier.

Egypt’s submarine deal with Germany, made late last year, has raised concerns in Tel Aviv and eyebrows throughout the rest of the world. Egypt isn’t at war with anyone — other than possibly itself and the U.S. embassy. And the funds could be put to better use bolstering its own beleaguered economy.

It’s feared that a couple of stealthy, high-tech submarines in the hands of an unstable Muslim Brotherhood-controlled government would pose a real hazard to shipping in the Mediterranean, especially for Israel.

When Israel first voiced its objections, Germany said it would cancel the sale, “if the Egyptian government pursues a policy hostile to Israel,” according to a Der Spiegel report. The latest accounts indicate that the deal is still “on track.”

It’s not as though Egypt and Israel are bosom buddies. Peace between the two countries is uneasy at best, and Morsi strained the relationship further when he sent tanks into the demilitarized Sinai near the Israeli border without Israel’s approval, which is a violation of the two countries’ peace treaty.

A senior State Department official said the administration would consult with congressional members “to make the case that this budget support is firmly in U.S. interests in seeing peace, stability and democracy in Egypt and the wider neighborhood.”

If the Texas congresswoman continues to firmly dig in her high heels, there’s still hope for Egypt. Morsi recently requested a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

 

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