U.S. Congress eyes urgent aid to ‘stressed’ Egypt

Special to WorldTribune.com

The U.S. Congress is proposing emergency funding for Egypt and other Middle East nations in the “multiple billions” of dollars.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, part of a congressional delegation that recently visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel, said he was “stunned at how things have deteriorated,” notably in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel. “If you go to Egypt and don’t realize they need some help yesterday, you’re making a huge mistake.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham meets with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi on April 3. /MENA via AP
Sen. Lindsey Graham meets with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi in Cairo on April 3. /MENA via AP

Graham, chairman of the Senate Appropriations panel on foreign aid, added: “One thing I will talk to [Democratic counterpart Patrick] Leahy about is an emergency appropriation that will help Egypt, Jordan and probably Lebanon to deal with the stresses they’re facing. And we need to get some money into the system to help Israel create some capabilities to shore up borders that have been compromised.”

Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and several other lawmakers met with Egyptian President Abdul Fatah Sisi and other national leaders. Separately, House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, also met with Sisi on April 7.

The emergency appropriation would go beyond the $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic assistance that the State Department has requested for Egypt for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

Several senators who went on the trip with Graham also backed the plan for additional support for Cairo.

“We came back with a renewed sense of urgency about what we should be doing in that part of the world to help address some of the crisis issues,” Senate Foreign Relations member David Perdue, Georgia Republican, told Al-Monitor.

“[Sisi] has the potential of being a great partner of the United States. Yes, there are issues, and we had some very strong conversations. But we walked away with a sense of encouragement that he recognizes the balance that needs to be had.”

Sen. Thom Tillis, North Carolina Republican and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, agreed: “If you take a look at Egypt, we have two things that we need to do there: We need to figure out what more we can do to provide them with the capabilities to take the fight to [ISIL], in particular in Sinai.

“We also need to work with them on economic relationships. Their economy is in serious trouble. The foreign direct investment is anemic. Their tourism is almost nonexistent. So we’ve got to figure out how we work on those fundamentals that also allow the president to continue to gain the popular support that he needs to stabilize and strengthen his military.”

Tillis said he would also look favorably on Egypt’s requests for helicopters, fighter jets and surveillance technology.

Meanwhile, Saudi King Salman announced on April 8 an agreement with Egypt to build a bridge over the Red Sea to connect the two countries.

Salman made announcement in televised comments after meeting with Sisi in Cairo where the two countries signed several investment deals.