U.S. plans to reduce aid to Egypt could hurt other American interests in the Middle East, several critics of the plan say. Egypt's military rulers have already begun to look to Gulf States to fill the void, and speculation suggests they could also look to Russia.
"…Egypt is the strategic linchpin of the region – as important to peace with Israel as it is to the stability throughout Africa – expect the Russians to be aggressive recapturing influence lost after the Camp David Accords secured Egypt's position as a key American ally," Col. Ken Allard, a noted military and intelligence analyst, wrote in a Washington Times op-ed published Sunday. "With characteristically adept footwork, Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to pick up the pieces left scattered across the Middle East chessboard by administration intent on adhering to its adversaries as it is to leading from behind."
Saudi Arabia promised Cairo it would offset any cutoff of U.S. aid in August after Egyptian security forces killed more than 600 people in clearing out Muslim Brotherhood supporters from their encampments. Israeli officials called cut of hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid "a strategic error" and reportedly persuaded the U.S. not to cut funds being used to fight jihadists in the Sinai.
In announcing the aid cut, The State Department said in that it would "work with the interim government to help it move toward our shared goals in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation." But Obama administration officials had little to say last December when Muslim Brotherhood militiamen attacked anti-Morsi protesters and tortured them.
And, Allard pointed out, Egypt is well on its way to establishing a new constitution, a first step in moving toward the new elections the U.S. wants.
"Not only will religious toleration and separation of powers be established, but each sector of Egyptian society will be represented," Allard wrote.
He doesn't buy the administration's argument that it is acting in the name of advancing democratic reforms. Rather, he sees the Obama administration as "suspiciously supportive" and "oddly tolerant" of the Muslim Brotherhood's policies.
He noted that ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is about to face trial in Egypt for encouraging violence and torture against opponents during December's protests against his rule. President Obama's decision to reduce aid gives "his Egyptian counterparts every incentive to reveal secret dealings and maybe even White House complicity" in helping Morsi and the Brotherhood rise to power, Allard wrote.
"Think the price of gas is high right now? Then what happens if the Middle East oil supplies are disrupted by military pressures against the Suez Canal?" Allard wrote.