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Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Is the Trump administration unfreezing military aid it withheld from us last year?

Will the Trump administration unfreezing the c. USD 200 mn in military aid it withheld from us last year? Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahmed Abu Zeid said the US would release the full USD 1.3 bn in military aid to Egypt in its FY2018 budget and will do so in again in FY2019. His statement came in response Hona Al Asema’s Lamees Al Hadidi questioning remarks made by US Secretary of State Tillerson that US military aid to Egypt amounted to USD 1 bn. The Trump Administration had gone to the US Congress to request the funds for Egypt, added Abu Zeid (watch, runtime: 4:10).

Are Abu Zeid’s remarks corroborated by the US budget? That appears inconclusive when looking at the Trump Administration’s FY2019 budget proposal (pdf). “The Budget also dedicates significant security and economic assistance to other key partners in the region, including Egypt,” the proposal reads, without listing a figure. It lists USD 3.3 bn to Israel and USD 1.3 bn to Jordan. Defense News, however, seems to say that Egypt is indeed in line to receive USD 1.3 bn in military assistance, while Jordan will fact receive USD 350 mn. It also says that US President Donald Trump is requesting a USD 1 bn cut to the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program for 2019 to USD 5.3 bn (draw your own conclusions as to what that may mean for Jordan; either way, it seems a bit odd to us). Trump said Monday that aid expenditures in the Middle East were “a mistake,” erroneously claimed that the United States has spent USD 7 tn in the Middle East over the past 17 years, according to the Washington Post. As we noted yesterday, analysts expect Egypt and a number of key allies will be spared the cuts.

Speaking of Tillerson, the Secretary of State urged the GCC to restore unity and resolve the Qatar dispute, Reuters reports.

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