House Excludes Majority of MENA Incentive Fund
The Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund budget request of $770 million was fully supported by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama, but excluded in the House Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee report. Though the entire $770 million was not included, the Committee did approve $175 million under the same heading, $25 million under Foreign Military Financing, “to promote regional peace and security, political and economic reform, and stabilization efforts in the Middle East and North Africa.” Within this funding, the Subcommittee’s report specified $70 million to go to the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), $5 million to USAID’s Office of Middle East Partnerships, and not less than $50 million for Jordan.
Josh Rogin writes in Foreign Policy about the hope that is now upon the Senate to pass the Incentive Fund which the House declined. There has been significant debate around the Incentive Fund, Rogin says, particularly due to the ambiguity of how the money would be used. Stephen McInerney, executive director of the Project on Middle East Democracy, says the administration fell short in “pitching [the Incentive Fund] to the Hill,” and adds, ”This fund should be a signature initiative of the administration to respond to the historic events in the region, and these funds could be essential to the administration’s ability to respond to events that haven’t yet unfolded in places like Syria, where there is no existing U.S. assistance package in the budget.” Rogin says the Incentive Fund does have one power staunch supporter: Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. ”We’re witnessing a period of historic change in the Middle East, and it’s impossible to predict what will happen next month, let alone next year, which is why the State Department should have the flexibility to deal with unforeseen contingencies,” Kerry said.