Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) wants to halt all U.S. economic and military aid to Egypt until that country adopts a new constitution and holds “free and fair elections” for a new president, which could take many months or even years.
Is he serious or just being his usual contrarian self, opposing whatever President Obama is doing, regardless of merit?
The Obama administration refused to call the military takeover that deposed the increasingly autocratic Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, a coup – which is what it really was – because that would trigger a halt in U.S. aid and cause diplomatic, political and security repercussions harmful to U.S. and Israeli interests.
McCain blamed the military takeover, in the wake of weeks of massive anti-government demonstrations over Morsi’s failure to rebuild the economy while pursuing an Islamist takeover at all levels of government, on a “lack of American leadership and influence.” The Arizona senator, who lost the 2008 presidential election to Obama, had developed a reputation since then for opposing anything Obama does. I have no doubt he’d be the first to criticize the administration for suspending aid if that’s what it had done.
Other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who don’t carry his grudges cautioned that following McCain’s advice would be destabilizing, cost the U.S. leverage to press for a transition to civilian government, further damage Egypt’s ailing economy, harm American strategic interests and would be damaging to Israel’s security concerns.
Israel sees the U.S. aid and relations with that country’s military establishment, now back in power, as essential glue that holds together its peace treaty with Egypt and a barrier to an Islamist takeover, as initiated by Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Many in the region as well as in the West see Morsi’s downfall as a serious setback for political Islam, which had appeared on the march in the wake of the “Arab Spring.”
NYTimes columnist Tom Friedman noted, “It was clear that Morsi was not focused on governing and appointing the best people for jobs. He was focused on digging himself and his party into power…(leading to) an invincible government and an insoluble economic and political disaster.”
Israelis welcomed Morsi’s removal. He had cut off diplomatic contacts with the Jewish state, spewed anti-Semitism, and was entrenching the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned Hamas and seeks the eradication of the Jewish state. Throughout Morsi’s time in office, the Israeli and Egyptian military and security establishments, however, remained in close contact.
McCain, as a longtime friend and supporter of Israel, had to know that, but apparently chose to put his hostility toward President Obama above his good judgment.