Suzy V (15 Feb 2012)
"Obama requests $800 million to give to the Arab Spring"

Obama requests $800 million to give to the Arab Spring.

Published On Monday, February 13, 2012 02:14 PM

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. Rolling Eyes Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad

Analysts said it was difficult to tell how much of the proposal was actually new money.

"As presented it's very difficult to determine if the Arab spring fund is new wine in new bottles or old wine in new bottles," said John Norris, a former U.S. foreign aid worker now at the Center for American Progress.

The Middle East and North Africa Incentive fund "will provide incentives for long-term economic, political, and trade reforms to countries in transition -- and to countries prepared to make reforms proactively," the White House budget document said.

The proposal said this approach "expands our bilateral economic support in countries such as Tunisia and Yemen, where transitions are already underway."

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.

US to cut funding for Israeli missile defense programs by $6.3M

Obama's 2013 budget proposal requests $99.8M for Israel's missile defense, down some $20M from 2011. Republican Jewish Coalition head says cut 'extremely dangerous, worrisome and reckless'

Yitzhak Benhorin

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama's 2013 budget proposal includes a $6.3 million reduction in the funding of Israel's missile defense programs, Ynet reported Tuesday.

US officials said this is the second consecutive year the Obama administration is cutting its support for the development of Israel's Short Range Ballistic Missile Defense program and the Arrow System Improvement Program.

According to the officials, in 2011 the administration requested $121.7 million in military aid for Israel’s major missile defense programs. That number dropped to $106.1 million in the 2012 budget proposal, and dropped again to $99.8 million in President Obama’s newly released 2013 budget proposal.

The Obama Administration’s 2012 budget request proposed $106 million for the missile defense cooperation program with Israel, but Congress more than doubled the administration’s request by authorizing a cooperative program with Israel at more than $216 million.

Israel has yet to issue an official response to Obama's budget proposal, but conservative elements in Washington criticized Obama for cutting the aid to Israel at a time when Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are threatening the Jewish state.

Obama's budget proposal for 2013 also cuts funding for the US's ballistic missile program. The program's budget stands at $9.7 billion, down $700 million from last year.

Robert Hale, the Pentagon's comptroller, said "there could be other Middle Eastern countries that we hope will either step up themselves or we will have to slow down some of our actions to improve their missile defenses." He did not specify which ME countries the US provides military assistance to.

Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, lamented the funding trend. "For an administration which tried to claim that it’s the best for Israel’s security, cutting critical funds for missile defense at a time when the threat from Iran has never been greater is extremely dangerous, worrisome and reckless," he said.

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