Gun control USA, but F-16s for the Muslim Brotherhood

Obama's administration will be remembered for taking weapons from the American people, yet providing them to Egypt's theocratic tyranny

Two peas...?
On 1 February 2013 21:56

The administration of Barack Obama is likely to be remembered, in the short term at the very least, for saying, "No" to Americans owning rifles, but "Yes" to the Muslim Brotherhood's demands for F-16 fighter jets.

Of course, given Mohammed Morsi's penchant for anti-Semitism, a fact that extends further than the unscrupulous brain of just the Egyptian President himself, you may have thought the American government would think twice before arming the regime with devastatingly effective fighter jets. 

Alas, once again, we are forced to stomach the dealings between Western powers and nasty theocracies. 

As we are all painfully aware of by now, many Democrats and a significant number of Republicans are in favour of extending gun control in the United States - an irony not lost on numerous political commentators who have noticed that US legislators seem more comfortable with a heavily armed Islamist bully state than a responsibly armed American public. It is no stretch of the imagination to call it scandalous.

Senator Rand Paul has rightly ignited the debate in the United States regarding arms sales to Egypt and what it means for America's ally, Israel.

Several things are noteworthy about this development, including the fact that the US's Israel Lobby, AIPAC, has effectively come out in favour of providing the arms to Egypt on the basis that not doing so would hamper America's influence over the Muslim Brotherhood-run state. One might insist that denying the Brotherhood access to these weapons, at least from American sources, would be a certain display of the leverage the Americans so wish to hold over the region. And once you provide the weaponry, doesn't that capital run out anyway?

This is a debate that quite clearly cannot take place over a few minutes, or realistically, within a few pages. But it is worth noting for those who are keen to glean what they can from a few short passages on the subject, that firstly, this is not simply some 'Obama Doctrine' which seeks to undermine the State of Israel. 

No, in fact, 19 Republican Senators opposed Rand Paul's amendment to prohibit the transfer of F-16s to the Egyptian government, a position which the son of the libertarian firebrand Ron Paul elaborated upon in this interview, where he stated, "Absolutely we stand with Israel... any attack on Israel will be treated as an attack on the United States".

And yet, tanks, jets and $1.5bn in aid are to be distributed to the current Egyptian regime, despite the deal being made before Hosni Mubarak was deposed. I might also add that since when does the United States need to provide aid to a country with higher GDP growth than Great Britain? (Ok, I concede, that's not the only measure we should be considering).

Advocates of the measure however, argue that America faces a tough choice in either starring down the Muslim Brotherhood, or allowing Iran to develop a nuclear weapon over this year. For the US to be truly effective in a war with Iran, it is argued that it will need to secure the backing, or at least the passivity, of Morsi's Egypt. 

But with the US able to utilise Afghanistan, Israel, Turkey and Gulf allies to name a few, it is unclear as to how much of a role Egypt would actually play in any impending entanglement. Effectively, it is argued, the crux of the matter is the Suez Canal, and America's need to utilise the waterway in the event of an attack on Iran.

But what use is it, emboldening one tyrannical Islamist regime, in the hope that another can be deterred or destroyed before launching a hostile attack on US interests or allies in the region?

Instead of supplying military hardware, Obama's White House would do well to seek to leverage the fact that without access to the US or European markets that dominate Egypt's balance of payments, Morsi's new regime would likely topple in a matter a months, even if a third party such as Russia or China sought to prop them up. This is very much a milder version of the same sanctioning tactic that has delayed Iran in its nuclear ambitions for the previous few years.

Of course, sanctions aren't a silver bullet (only silver bullets are) - and if belligerent, tyrannical and hostille regimes cannot be seen off economically or politically, they should almost always be eradicated militarily. Providing arms to countries like Morsi's Egypt, is not a legitimate tool in this instance, and should likely come off the table.

I realise Senator Rand Paul may not quite agree with me to that extent - but at least he can take pride in the fact that he knows that America cannot and should not trade off morality and security from one state to another. 

Whether Iran, Egypt or otherwise, the first and foremost message from America must always be a front-footed, "Don't f**k with us". Under Obama and the Republicans he's brought in tow, that seems like a message he's only willing to send to the gun-owning American public.

Raheem Kassam is the Executive Editor of The Commentator and tweets at @RaheemJKassam

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