Administration Budget Requests Foreign Aid Increase, Including More Aid to Jordan

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The budget for FY 2003 that the administration of President George W. Bush presented to Congress in February includes a request for $25.4 billion for international affairs, an increase of $1.4 billion over the current fiscal year's amount. Included in the request is $16.1 billion for foreign aid, $780 million more than this year. The amounts for Israel and Egypt are in accordance with the previous agreement to reduce Israel's economic aid by $120 million per year while increasing military aid by $60 million, and reduce Egypt's economic aid by $40 million per year, leaving military aid unchanged. Therefore, the amounts in the FY 2003 budget for Israel are $2.1 billion in military grants and $600 million in economic grants, plus $60 million for "refugee resettlement." For Egypt the numbers are $1.3 billion in military grants and $615 million in economic grants.

The proposed budget's major change regarding the Middle East is a sharply increased allocation for Jordan. The administration requested $250 million in military aid to Jordan, an increase of $100 million over this year's amount, and $198 in economic aid, an increase of $123 million.

Meanwhile, during the visit to Washington of Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Bush announced that he had ordered that $220 million of the $40 billion emergency package passed by Congress after Sept. 11 be reallocated to Pakistan, plus $28 million to be transferred immediately to Israel. These transfers were justified, according to an Office of Management and Budget document, because "the administration now believes that a portion of these funds would be better used to provide assistance to Pakistan and Israel, as allies in the war on terrorism."

In presenting the foreign affairs portion of the budget to the Senate and House Foreign and International Relations Committees, respectively, and to the House foreign operations (foreign aid) appropriations subcommittee, Secretary of State Colin Powell did not defend the numbers. Instead, as has become customary, he used the occasion to present an overview of developments and U.S. policies in all parts of the world. On the Middle East, he began with the "confrontation" between Israel and the Palestinians, saying that U.S. policy remains to get both parties to back off from violence and return to a political process, first through a cease-fire and then following "the path outlined in the Tenet Security Workplan and the Mitchell Report." He said that Chairman Yasser Arafat must act to confront the sources of violence, and that the Israeli government should act in ways to ease the Palestinians' hardships and avoid further escalation.

Powell Defends, Slightly Softens, "Axis of Evil" Statement

Powell also both defended and tried to soften Bush's tough State of the Union address, wherein the president called Iran, Iraq, and North Korea an "axis of evil." First, Powell said that Bush "wasn't talking about people who are evil. He was talking about regimes who are evil or do evil things." On Iran, Powell acknowledged that Tehran has been helpful in the anti-terrorism efforts, particularly at the Bonn and Tokyo conferences regarding Afghanistan. But, he said, Iran still is pursuing weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorism. According to Powell, it would be hypocritical to say, "Well, they've done these good things and let's ignore all the unpleasant things they are doing"--apparently forgetting for the moment the innumerable "unpleasant things" done by several countries, notably Israel, that the U.S. chooses to ignore.

On Iraq, Powell said that the U.S. has long had a policy of regime change, because "the Iraqi people deserve better leadership than they have had for the last 30 years." He went on, however, to talk about strengthening the sanctions, saying, "I believe by the end of May we will have moved to smart sanctions so the Iraqis can no longer claim that we are somehow affecting the well-being of their citizens. …