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No, The President Is Not Giving $1.5 Billion To The Muslim Brotherhood

Late last month, the Obama Administration announced that it was waiving certain “democracy requirements” to allow aid to continue to flow to Egypt despite concerns about the political transition in the country and the apparent growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. This led many on the right to raise the alarm, starting not surprisingly with National Review’s Andrew McCarthy:

In October 2010, on the eve of the Islamic revolution that the media fancies as “the Arab Spring,” the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood called for jihad against the United States.

You might think that this all but unnoticed bombshell would be of some importance to policymakers in Washington. It was not. It is not. This week, the Obama administration quietly released $1.5 billion in foreign aid to the new Egyptian government, now dominated by a Brotherhood-led coalition in parliament — soon to be joined by an Ikhwan (i.e., Brotherhood) luminary as president.

It is not easy to find the announcement. With the legacy media having joined the Obama reelection campaign, we must turn for such news to outlets like the Kuwait News Agency. There, we learn that, having dug our nation into a $16 trillion debt hole, President Obama has nevertheless decided to borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China so he can give it to an outfit that views the United States as an enemy to be destroyed.

It didn’t take long for the rest of the conservative blogosphere to pick up on McCarthy’s argument that the President was giving money to the Muslim Brotherhood, as a quick Google search reveals.

There’s just one problem with the meme. It isn’t true.

Let’s go back to the original article from late March:

The Obama administration told Congress on Thursday it will waive democracy requirements to release up to $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt despite concerns that the country is backsliding on commitments it made to democratic governance and rule of law.

U.5 officials and lawmakers said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has determined that it was in the U.S. national interest to allow $1.3 billion in military assistance to flow. She also certified that Egypt is meeting its obligations to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which frees up an additional $200 million in economic aid, they said.

A senior State Department official said the decisions “reflect our overarching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy.”

(…)

All of the $1.3 billion in foreign military financing is obligated to pay U.S. defense and security companies for contracts they have to supply equipment and support for the Egyptian military. Unless Clinton had issued a certification or waiver, those contracts could have been abrogated. The State Department official said there would be significant fees and penalties due to canceled contracts.

So McCarthy and those that followed in his footsteps got it wrong in two respects. First, the money isn’t going to the Muslim Brotherhood, or even to the Egyptian government per se, but to the Egyptian military. We’ve been providing military assistance to Egypt since the days of the Camp David Accords, and it’s fairly well recognized that it was the close ties between the U.S. and Egyptian military’s that allowed government officials to keep tabs on what was going on during last February’s revolution, and exercise some degree of influence to prevent a bloodbath. Given the ongoing political uncertainty in Egypt, it is probably wise to keep those channels open. Second, the money isn’t even going to Egypt, it’s going to U.S. defense contractors who have ongoing contracts to supply the Egyptian military.

But you know those are just facts, and who lets facts get in the way of a good partisan political rant?

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    Can’t we just give Andrew McCarthy to the Muslim Brotherhood? Maybe that idiot will find Obama’s real birth certificate over there.

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  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    So I know it’s standard political polemicy, but I love the implications in this quote:

    There, we learn that, having dug our nation into a $16 trillion debt hole, President Obama has nevertheless decided to borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China so he can give it to an outfit that views the United States as an enemy to be destroyed.

    Because before Obama we had no debt! We had a surplus even! Three years later and Obama has spent 16 trillion!

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 44 Thumb down 90

  3. James Joyner says:

    McCarthy is engaging in silly foreign policy analysis, not dishonesty.

    One can indeed argue that funding the Egyptian military is tantamount to funding the Muslim Brotherhood, since the MB now dominates the government coalition. The military is an arm of the government, especially in places like Egypt.

    The problem is that there’s no great option here. The US is obligated by treaty to provide this assistance to Egypt and we really want to keep Egypt in the fold and nudge them to continue good relations with Israel.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 45 Thumb down 15

  4. Franklin says:

    @James Joyner: One can indeed argue that funding the Egyptian military is tantamount to funding the Muslim Brotherhood, since the MB now dominates the government coalition. The military is an arm of the government, especially in places like Egypt.

    I completely agree that one could argue that. But McCarthy doesn’t even try, and hopes that no one will notice the leap there. It doesn’t matter, though, this is now considered a fact to the NR crowd.

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  5. @James Joyner:

    I think your last paragraph sums it up nicely. There are plenty of things to be concerned about vis a vis Egypt but it strikes me that punishing them (particularly the military) at a time when nudging is exactly what’s needed is fairly dumb.

    As for McCarthy, he’s a guy who sees an Islamist under every bed and around every corner.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 29 Thumb down 22

  6. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    One can indeed argue that funding the Egyptian military is tantamount to funding the Muslim Brotherhood, since the MB now dominates the government coalition. The military is an arm of the government, especially in places like Egypt.

    Seems to me that should be reversed, in that it’s pretty clear that in Egypt, the government is an arm of the Military (a point Steven Taylor made at multiple points during the uprising). To that point, the Muslim Brotherhood’s position in the government is as much a byproduct of the Military allowing it as anything else in that country.

    While I realize this might seem like a distinction without a difference, I think it also help rationalize the pragmatic necessity of continuing aide.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  7. @Franklin:

    Yea that’s the point about McCarthy’s piece (and the numerous blogposts that were born from it) that is the problem IMO. He completely glosses over the fact that the aid is going to the military. He fails to note that, at least at the moment, the military controls the Egyptian government. He makes it sound like Obama just stroked a check made payable to the Muslim Brotherhood because it suits the narrative he wants to weave/

    That’s what makes the piece dishonest.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 22 Thumb down 10

  8. She also certified that Egypt is meeting its obligations to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, which frees up an additional $200 million in economic aid, they said.

    Some might disagree with that characterization:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/04/05/us-israel-egypt-rocket-idUSBRE8340E320120405

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/summary-box-militants-attack-egypts-gas-pipeline-to-israel-and-jordan/2012/04/09/gIQAxaBh6S_story.html

    And while characterizing it as money given to the MB, the fact remains part of why Egypt is so messed up is because we spent decades funding an authoritarian regime there, and it’s good time to consider whether we now want to start funding one that appears to be just as authoritarian.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  9. Doubter4444 says:

    But Money is fungible! Money is Fungible!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. @Stormy Dragon:

    And while characterizing it as money given to the MB

    “And while characterizing it as money given to the MB is sensationalist and wrong” even.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 5

  11. anjin-san says:

    the fact remains part of why Egypt is so messed up is because we spent decades funding an authoritarian regime there

    I would go a bit further. We spent decades subsidizing torture chambers there, and we outsourced our own dirty work to them when our government decided we are ok with torture.

    Sooner or later, the chickens come home to roost…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  12. Davebo says:

    The military is an arm of the government, especially in places like Egypt.

    And places like the USA, Canada, France, Germany.

    In fact I can’t think of any country who military is not an arm of the government James. Any examples?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  13. mantis says:

    @Davebo:

    In fact I can’t think of any country who military is not an arm of the government James. Any examples?

    The Salvation Army? ;)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 1

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I actually don’t know who Andrew McCarthy is, but that’s not really germane.

    Definitely we need to make sure existing contracts are honored. No doubt.

    Going forward, however, I would hope that we’d give very serious thought to whether, how and to what extent aid payments are made to this new Egyptian government. The same should hold true for the likes of Libya, et al.

    Regarding the National Review, the chances of facts getting in the way of their various partisan rants nearly are the same as a coin toss coming up “feet.” That is to say: no f’n chance in hell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 5

  15. @Davebo:

    In fact I can’t think of any country who military is not an arm of the government James. Any examples?

    Iran. The Revolutionary Guard is distinct from the Iranian military and is not part of the government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  16. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The Revolutionary Guard is distinct from the Iranian military and is not part of the government.

    Only if you’re defining “the government” as “the official organs of state” rather than “the people who run the state.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. al-Ameda says:

    Well, it’s the National Review, it’s not as if my expectations are high.

    The fact that Andrew McCarthy would insinuate that Obama is paying off the Muslim Brotherhood seems so … normal … by the standards of current conservative opposition to the President.

    If you listen to the conservative echo chamber, you might believe that Obama has “lost the Middle East,” that he has sold Israel out and supported insurrectionary movements – in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya – that are inimical to American interests. Whatever. Frankly, Obama could round up the Muslim Brotherhood, incarcerate them all in prisons in Afghanistan and conservatives would claim that Obama sold out Israel in the process.

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  18. anjin-san says:

    borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China

    I wonder how many “Made in China” products this armchair warrior has in his home.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    I wonder how many “Made in China” products this armchair warrior has in his home.

    McCarthy: “President Obama has nevertheless decided to borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China so he can give it to an outfit that views the United States as an enemy to be destroyed.”

    I’m sure that McCarthy thinks he’s clever – that fact is when we issue debt ANY country can purchase those securities. The Chinese possess approximately one trillion dollars in American securities, it is not be likely that the Chinese are going to purposely diminish the value of the dollar holdings they posses. I’m sure that McCarthy would love to reprise those wonderful Cold War red-baiting years again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 2

  20. nequelquepart says:

    so do the math…300 million americans only 50% are paying net taxes. so everyone of you working suckers just paid $10 plus interest (to be paid by your children) to people who at a rate of 75% advocate for the genocide of Jews, pedophilia, and the routine mutilation of female genitalia, as well as subjugating women to the level of cattle.

    i just love this guy more and more each passing day.

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  21. matt says:

    @nequelquepart: It’s always cute when people get federal income taxes mixed up with general taxation..

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4

  22. Kate says:

    Oh please! Everyone knows Obama is a Muslim! Of course he is helping the Muslim brotherhood! This guy wrote this article make everyone think that Obama is doing something good. Which he isnt. You guys are blind! Wake up!

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 23 Thumb down 22

  23. 'Rae says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Iran? well THAT speaks volumes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  24. Laurie says:

    @Neil Hudelson:
    We didn’t have a surplus when Obama came into office. We had a surplus when George W. Bush came into office.

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  25. Doug Abbott says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Question for Neil Hudelson: What amount of the U.S. national debt can be attributed to accumulation in the last 39 months? Whom do we hold accountable for the debt accumulation during the Obama administration?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1