Sen. Rand Paul is calling the U.S. sale of 16 advanced F-16 fighter jets to Egypt "a huge mistake" that could come back to "haunt" America in the years ahead, depending on the direction Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi takes his country.
" I think it's a huge mistake," the Kentucky Republican told Fox News' Greta Van Susteren Thursday night.
" I think there's a potential that it elevates an arms race, and what we give to Egypt, Israel wants more or needs more to defend themselves," Paul continued. "And I think there's a risk. President Morsi's had words . . . calling those who are in favor of Israel, calling them bloodsuckers, and apes, and descendants of pigs. I'd be a little bit concerned about arming a person who had that kind of language.
"I'm also concerned that these are weapons that could come back to haunt us," Paul added, recalling how the United States helped arm Osama bin Laden in the 1980s when he was part of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
Asked what would happen if the fighter sale, which was arranged when former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was still in power, was canceled, Paul said he wasn't sure how Morsi would react.
" I'm not sure exactly what would happen, necessarily," he said. But he added that they would likely be willing to negotiate.
What would the U.S. ask for in return for planes? "I would say to them, 'Maybe you should protect our embassy. Maybe you shouldn't let hordes of people jump on top of our embassy and burn our flag and chant death to America."
"I would condition money and anything we give to them on good behavior. And I don't think we've been getting good behavior from Egypt," he added.
Paul acknowledged, however, that Egypt has the potential to play a broader role in helping to stabilize the Middle East and still controls the important Suez canal.
"I'm not for . . . saying we have no relations with Egypt. I'm for friendly relations with Egypt. And as friendly as they want to be to us, we should be," he said. "But you don't always have to buy friends and you don't always have to arm friends. And so I'm concerned and I think they need to prove that they want to live in the civilized world."
He cited Morsi's connection to the Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamist elements as a continuing concern, as well as the fact that some Egyptians are still being held as political prisoners by the government.
Paul outlined his view of how he would determine whether to continue any kind of U.S. aid to Egypt.
First, he said, Morsi would have "to pledge to protect our embassy" and prove his ability to do so. Then the State Department would have to conduct a study to make sure protections were in place.
He said a waiting period of six months to a year would follow before a final determination on aid was made.
"I would wait a little while. It's a very new government . . . But I would condition it on behavior and I would see how they're going to behave," he said, adding: "We need to use our aid as leverage to get things that are good for the people, not only their people, but our people."
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