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Wednesday, October 5, 2011
U.S. 'Paid A Price' On Egypt
The United States’ Gulf Arab allies no longer trust Washington
since the White House yanked its support for Hosni Mubarak in February, former
Obama adviser James Jones told a private meeting.
By Eli Lake
Anti goverment protest in Cairo
a blunt assessment, President Obama’s first national security adviser told a
private audience this week that there is a “chasm” between the United States
and its Gulf Arab allies that has yet to heal since the White House very
publicly ushered Egypt’s president out of power in February.
Marine Gen. James Jones, who served as national security adviser in 2009-10,
told a private meeting at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that the United States’
Persian Gulf allies interpret the president’s handling of the Egyptian
revolution as a sign that Washington will dump their monarchies or governments
if enough demonstrators take to their streets, according to a recording of the
speech reviewed by The Daily Beast.
have paid a price,” Jones said of the decision to call for Hosni Mubarak’s
ouster. “Our policy with regard to Mubarak as interpreted by some of our closest
Arab allies in the Gulf has not gone over well.”
their interpretation of our dumping President Mubarak very hastily, [it]
answered the question of what we would be likely to do if that happened in
their countries. So there is a chasm there that somehow has to be bridged,” he
did not immediately return a call to his office seeking comment Tuesday.
remarks from the former national security adviser, who left the White House
last year, comprise one of the frankest assessments of the U.S. relationship
with its oldest and most important Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have
been aligned with the United States since the last Roosevelt administration,
providing oil to the West in exchange for security guarantees from the U.S.
the years, the intelligence and security relationship in particular between the
United States and Saudi Arabia has grown increasingly interconnected. At the
same time, since the 1960s the Saudis also have supported a foreign policy to
spread political Islam throughout the Muslim world, exacerbating tensions with
Washington since the 9/11 attacks. Many of the al Qaeda attackers were of Saudi
descent. Still, the Saudis remain a significant ally in the war on terror.
general, yes, there is that concern, certainly among the Gulf countries, that
the United States does not stand by its friends in the region,” said Marwan
Muasher, a former foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Jordan. “In the
case of the Saudis there is an additional point, which is a concern that the
United States is not serious about the peace process.”
the fall of Mubarak, the Saudis have begun to bolster Arab governments that
have not fallen to the Arab spring. In July, Saudi Arabia announced a $1
billion grant for Jordan. Meanwhile, the Saudis have provided logistical and
military support to the government of Bahrain, which has sought to suppress
popular unrest. The Saudi kingdom, however, has not supported the regimes in
Libya or Syria during the Arab Spring.
to some Egyptian observers, the Saudis also have sought to bolster political
parties in Cairo ahead of the upcoming elections in Egypt.
Taha, deputy to the liberal Egyptian political leader Ayman Nour, said in an
interview that since March he has been urging U.S. diplomats in the region to
use American influence with Gulf countries to curb unaccountable funding for
political groups that are sympathetic to the return of Mubarak.
funding is coming from charities,” Taha said. “It’s not the government, it’s
from families. But the Saudi government can stop this easily.”
Saudi ambassador in Cairo has publicly denied any role in funding political
parties in Egypt. Along with other Gulf countries, the Saudis have made grants
to Egypt for development in the country after the fall of Mubarak.
said he was frustrated that the U.S. has not responded to him about funding
from Gulf Arab countries to Egyptian political groups. “I have heard nothing
back from the State Department, from the U.S. Embassy, or from the
organizations that work closely with Egyptian parties,” he said. “This leads me
to think that there is probably a greater power than me on this. I think there
is a strong network of lobbying in Washington from Gulf countries that are
frankly more important to this administration than Egyptian democrats.”
senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing
diplomatic sensitivities, said, “We share the concern expressed by some
Egyptians that not all countries are as transparent and nonpartisan as the U.S.
in their support for the election process.”
official added, “Senior U.S. government officials have raised our concerns with
senior Egyptian officials and Egypt’s neighbors, and urged that appropriate
measures be taken to ensure the Egyptian election process is protected from
major concern for the United States has been the influence of Iranian money,
according to three U.S. officials.
also said he is urging the U.S. government to publish a list of political
organizations that have received support from the U.S. government for democracy
assistance in order to prove to the public that his party, al-Ghad, does not
receive U.S. funding. For years al-Ghad has been accused in Egypt of being a
pawn of the United States.
have repeatedly asked to clear our name because we haven’t received foreign
funding,” he said. “We are hoping we hear from a U.S. official that the United
States did not fund political parties, among them al-Ghad party.”
United States has provided $60 million for democratic transition in Egypt since
Mubarak’s fall from power in February. Some of that money goes toward technical
election training like platform writing, election law, and other programs aimed
at building a democratic civil society.
of State Hillary Clinton has said the United States will be prepared to meet
with a number of political parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood. A U.S.
official told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that a “handful” of members of the
Muslim Brotherhood have “availed themselves of programs” funded by the United
States for election training.
Alterman, the director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic
and International Studies, said the funding for election training executed by
groups like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic
Institute are not ways to influence the outcome of foreign elections.
the United States were trying to shift the outcome of the Egyptian elections,
it would not do it through the democracy assistance money,” Alterman said. “If
you want to influence elections, you do it covertly. There is too much
transparency in how [the democracy assistance funding] would be used.”
-This commentary was published in The Daily Beast on 04/10/2011-Eli Lake is the senior national security correspondent for
Newsweek and the Daily Beast. He previously covered national security and
intelligence for the Washington Times