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Friday, July 22, 2011     GET REAL

House may cut U.S. aid to allies with terror ties

WASHINGTON — Congress is examining legislation that would link U.S. aid to the Middle East to counter-insurgency cooperation.


A House committee has introduced a bill that would sever U.S. military and civilian assistance to Arab and Muslim allies unless they cooperate against Al Qaida and other insurgency movements. The legislation by the House Foreign Relations Committee cited Egypt, Lebanon, Palestinian Authority and Pakistan.

"Our goal is to promote democratic governments in these countries and ensure that U.S. taxpayers are not subsidizing groups that seek to undermine U.S. policies, interests, and allies," committee chairman, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, said.

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The legislation has been supported by House committee leadership and was meant to ensure that these countries demonstrate their commitment to CI cooperation, Middle East Newsline reported. The bill would also block aid to Egypt, Washington's second largest recipient, should the Muslim Brotherhood take over power of the government.

Under the bill, Washington would be forced to stop its $550 million in aid requested for fiscal 2012 should the PA appoint members of Hamas to any ministry or policy position. In April, Hamas and the ruling Fatah movement approved a reconciliation accord that would include the establishment of a so-called national unity government.

Egypt would also have to demonstrate cooperation with both Israel and the United States in CI. The bill would require the administration of President Barack Obama to certify that Cairo was stopping arms and other smuggling from the Sinai Peninsula to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

U.S. aid to Lebanon would also be halted if any Hizbullah member was appointed to a policy position in the new government of Prime Minister Nijab Mikati. Congressional sources said the requirements were meant to ensure that Washington would not fund any entity that supports or tolerates movements deemed terrorist.

The House has already drafted a foreign operations bill that called for $40 billion for fiscal 2012. The figure was $11 billion less than that requested by the administration.

"Regrettably, I get the sense that what I already consider to be a bad bill is going to get much worse in this markup and on the floor," Rep. Howard Berman, ranking member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, said on July 20. "That will simply ensure that this is a one-house bill."

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