Two conservative senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, went to Egypt this week to urge Egyptian leaders to show more respect for democracy. McCain and Graham may be Republicans, but they have a lot of clout. They were reported to have the blessing of the Obama administration in making this embassy.
Why do they have such clout? One reason is that they are extremely responsive to the Israel lobby. In fact, both men lately flipflopped on a principled statement– cutting off aid to Egypt — evidently at the urging of AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby organization.
Here is the sequence.
Back in early July, McCain went on CBS’s Face the Nation saying that the U.S. should cut off aid to Egypt.
“Reluctantly, I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election.”
McCain had good company: libertarian Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham too.
McCain and Graham made clear that this was a matter of principle. They wrote a long op-ed in calling for a cut-off of aid to Egypt in the Washington Post last month:
We know that many of our friends in Egypt and the region do not want the United States to suspend assistance. But we are fully committed to encouraging the Egyptian people’s efforts to build an effective and enduring democracy. And if Egyptians join together and move their country toward the democratic future that so many of them have risked so much to achieve, we will be the first to call for a full restoration of U.S. assistance to Egypt.
The op-ed cited “our democratic values” and the wisdom gained from the U.S. experience in the Middle East:
If events in Egypt and the broader Middle East over the past three years have taught us anything, it should be that we may pay a short-term price by standing up for our democratic values, but it is in our long-term national interest to do so. Ultimately, that is the best thing the United States can do to support our friends in Egypt and around the world.
The retired Democratic-turned-independent senator expressed guarded optimism about the state of affairs in Egypt, and declared that, contra his former ally John McCain, the U.S. shouldn’t cut off its aid to the Egyptian military.
He explained to Sean Hannity today… “I’m actually going to disagree with my buddy John McCain; I don’t think we should suspend military aid.”
Then the other shoe drops. AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group, also speaks up. Jewish Telegraphic Agency:
“We do not support cutting off all assistance to Egypt at this time, as we believe it could increase the instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally,” AIPAC said in a letter to Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), its top Republican.
The letter is the first public signal since the army coup that deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in early July that AIPAC is actively opposing efforts to cut aid to Egypt.