Meanwhile at ‘home’:
– President Obama: ‘I’m proud that even in these difficult times we’ve fought for and secured the most funding for Israel in history’ – ‘I am proud to say that no US administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.’
Compare numbers (Reuters vs New York Post)!
– Obama proposes $800 million in aid for “Arab Spring” (Reuters, Feb. 13, 2012):
The White House announced plans on Monday to help “Arab Spring” countries swept by revolutions with more than $800 million in economic aid, while maintaining U.S. military aid to Egypt.
In his annual budget message to Congress, President Barack Obama asked that military aid to Egypt be kept at the level of recent years — $1.3 billion — despite a crisis triggered by an Egyptian probe targeting American democracy activists.
The proposals are part of Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2013, which begins October 1. His requests need the approval of Congress, where some lawmakers want to cut overseas spending to address U.S. budget shortfalls and are particularly angry at Egypt.
Obama proposed $51.6 billion in funding for the U.S. State Department and foreign aid overall, when $8.2 billion in assistance to war zones is included. The “core budget” for the category would increase by 1.6 percent, officials said.
Most of the economic aid for the Arab Spring countries — $770 million — would go to establish a new “Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund,” the president said in his budget plan.
It would also build on other programs for the area, including up to $2 billion in regional Overseas Private Investment Corporation financing, up to $1 billion in debt swaps for Egypt, and approximately $500 million in existing funds re-allocated to respond to the region last year, the budget document said.
It did not say how the Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund would be divided between countries, or give any other details of the plan.
Egypt has long been among the top recipients of U.S. aid, getting about $1.6 billion annually, mostly in military assistance. In fiscal 2012, $250 million of aid approved for Egypt was economic; $1.3 billion was military and there was a $60 million “enterprise fund” approved by Congress.
No U.S. assistance is moving to Egypt at the moment, U.S. lawmakers and their aides said last week. Some legislators favor cutting off aid to Egypt entirely if it does not drop accusations against American democracy activists and lift a travel ban on them.
Obama continued the practice of putting proposed foreign assistance for war zones in a separate account. This account, known as the “Overseas Contingency Operations,” includes $8.2 billion for the State Department and foreign aid.
It includes $3.3 billion for Afghanistan, $1 billion for Pakistan, and $4 billion for Iraq, where U.S. troops have left the country but the State Department has picked up some of their functions such as police training.
– 16 Americans busted? Egypt to still get $1.3B (New York Post, Feb. 14, 2012):
It’s stimulus funding — for the Middle East and North Africa.
President Obama’s budget plan includes $800 million in foreign aid to promote Arab Spring democracy and maintains $1.3 billion in assistance to Egypt — despite its recent arrest of Americans and pro-democracy activists.
Spending for the State Department and foreign aid for fiscal 2013 would increase by 13.8 percent, to $69 billion.
The $800 million Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund “will provide incentives for long-term economic, political and trade reforms to countries in transition,” the White House spending document claimed.
The president did not spell out how the money would be divided by countries like Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, each of which has ousted or is rebelling against a longtime dictator or autocrat.
Left unclear, however, was whether any money would go to help dissidents overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The budget also includes $2.7 billion to help development in emerging lands like Haiti, Liberia, Myanmar and South Sudan.
The Egyptian set-aside faces a rocky road in Congress, with 16 Americans charged with funneling aid to nonprofits there.
The budget also includes $11.8 billion in aid for Iraq, $4.6 billion for Afghanistan and $2.4 billion for Pakistan, despite rising tensions.
Israel, meanwhile, would get $3.1 billion and fellow ally Jordan $300 million.
As for funding to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS, mostly in Africa, it would remain steady at $5.4 billion.