OTR Interviews

Sen. Rand Paul: Sending F-16s to Egypt could potentially elevate an arms race

Senator sounds of apparent US conflict of interest in sending F-16 fighters to Egypt, despite Pres. Morsi's rhetoric and American alliance with Israel

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 24, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTERN, FOX NEWS HOST: Many lawmakers questioning why the U.S. would send 16 highly advanced F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, especially since Egypt's new President Morsi has had some very harsh words for America.

You may recall Egypt's President Morsi saying that President Obama was very clear when he uttered his empty words on the land of Egypt. He uttered many lies of which he could not have fulfilled a single word, even if he were sincere, which is he is not.

And President Morsi has had even uglier words for our very close ally Israel. He reminds his countrymen to, quote, "Nurse our children, grandchildren on hatred toward those Zionist Jews and all those who support them. They must be nursed on hatred. The hatred must continue.

And today, Senator Rand Paul pressing secretary of state nominee John Kerry about the U.S. decision to send the F-16s anyway.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY: You've heard President Morsi's comments about Zionists and Israelis being bloodsuckers and descendants of apes and pigs. Do you think it's wise to send them F-16s and Abram tanks?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VAN SUSTEREN: Now, we spoke with Senator Rand Paul a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

PAUL: Glad to be with you.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your view of the United States selling F-16s -- four have been delivered and ten more to -- or 16 more to go in a 2010 deal to Egypt?

PAUL: I think it's a huge mistake. You know, the original deal was made with another leader who was deposed by a somewhat semi-violent revolution. And so I don't think it's a good idea. 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.

And I think there's a risk. President Morsi's had words interpreting 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.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let's reverse engineer this a bit. In the event we don't -- in the event we don't send the 16 F-16s and the tanks to Egypt, what happens?

PAUL: You know, I'm not sure exactly what would happen necessarily. I think the Egyptians would come to us and negotiate with us, and say, What kind of behavior would we have to have? And would I 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 flat and chant death to America.

And I wouldn't give them money. 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.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Morsi has said the worst things about Jews. He's also had President Bashir of Sudan recently for a state visit. And let's not forget that Sudan has the Iranian munitions factory that Israel just bombed recently inside Sudan. And of course, they're locked in pretty closely, Iran and Sudan. What happens, though, because Egypt does control the Suez canal, so a tad bit they have our foot on our throat?

PAUL: I'm not for having -- 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. 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 word.

Within the last year, Morsi was seen at a prayer meeting with a radical sheikh who was saying death to Israel and death to Israel's supporters. Also within the last year, Egypt arrested 16 Americans, held them in the country, threatened not to let them leave the country. And when I rattled the cages and said, We may talk about ending your aid, and when other senators traveled there with that message, all of a sudden, the Americans were released.

There are still Egyptians held for political trials in Egypt, and I think it's a big mistake. They need to show they want to be part of the civilized world, and I would make all aid contingent on that.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why do they need them? What -- what -- who's their enemy that...

PAUL: Yes, that's the real question.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... they're going to be in a dog fight with?

PAUL: That's a real question. And really, for every plane we give them, Israel will say, We need one-and-a-half for every one you give them, and we'll need a little better planes than what you give them.

We're giving them some of the most sophisticated technology in the world that no one else has to offer. No one else can offer them F-16s. I don't think anybody else will. And I think we should be friends and have relations with those who want to have relations with us, including Egypt, and I don't think that it necessarily mean that we have to be giving them sophisticated weapons.

VAN SUSTEREN: How much, though, is President Morsi going to want to be friends with us if, for instance, we aborted this deal on the F-16s? And wouldn't Morsi then try to get similar aircraft or -- from another country or even buy them from a secondary market of some sort?

PAUL: You know, maybe, but we don't have to buy England's friendship. We have common cause. We trade with China. We don't have to buy China's friendship. We trade with Russia. We don't have to buy their friendship. Trade is a great thing. We can be a great trading partner.

VAN SUSTEREN: But we do have to buy it a little bit because it's very important to us that Egypt keep the lid on the trouble in the Middle East to the extent they can with Israel. We don't want Egypt firing up everybody else against Israel.

PAUL: It's also in their best interests to keep things peaceful and to keep down radical jihad and things like that. But my fear is maybe they're going to be part of that. I mean, those statements from the Muslim Brotherhood have not been moderate statements. These are people calling an entire race a descendant of apes and pigs.

And so I'm concerned about that. I'm also concerned that these are weapons that could come back to haunt us. And this isn't the first time we've done this. Do you know who the biggest funders of the Mujaheddin were? The United States. Who was part of these freedom fighters? Bin Laden. We gave missiles, Stinger missiles and all kinds of weapons to the Mujaheddin because we thought they were the enemy of our enemy. In the end, it backfired. Supporting radical jihad is something no America would be in favor of. That was our policy for a decade.

So we do need to think through giving weapons to people who may well not be our friends.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, you say giving -- we're actually selling them, but we're giving permission for others -- American companies to sell them. It's not -- is it the U.S. government selling it, or is it one of our...

PAUL: We -- I think we give them money and they have to use the money to buy them from U.S. munitions manufacturers, so...

VAN SUSTEREN: So the people who are making the money actually are a lot of people...

PAUL: In private business.

VAN SUSTEREN: In private business who do that.

PAUL: Right. But we give the money to Egypt to buy the weapons.

VAN SUSTEREN: What I always find astounding, though, is that nobody is looking at the connection between President Morsi of Egypt and President Bashir of Sudan, who's an indicted war criminal who has this Iranian munitions plant inside Sudan that Israel had to bomb because the munitions factory was supplying Hamas against Israel. I mean, nobody sort of follows this whole circle.

PAUL: The other thing about foreign and military aid is people think -- they say, Oh, it's buying friendship. They won't be our friends if we don't do this. Well, guess what? The people aren't the same as the leaders. You can buy the leaders' friendship, but sometimes the people don't see it the same way.

We've given billions upon billions to Pakistan. A Pew Research study recently said 74 percent of them don't like us and think America's the enemy in Pakistan, despite the billions we give them. In Egypt, when the masses were uprising against Mubarak, do you think those people were happy that the tear gas that was being sprayed on them was from Pennsylvania, bought for with U.S. aid? So really, U.S. aid doesn't always buy friendship, it buys leaders, who are often corrupt and steal the money, like Mubarak, but it often angers the people that feel like they're being oppressed by the leaders that we're giving money to. So I think sometimes it backfires.

VAN SUSTEREN: What would President Morsi have to do to make you think it was a good idea to send these F-16s to Egypt?

PAUL: One, I would say that he needs to pledge to protect our embassy, show his ability. I think there needs to be a State Department study saying, Are they able to and will they defend our embassy? That would be the first step.

And then I would wait a little while. It's a very new government. I would say we'll reassess this in about six months to a year, and I think that would be a very reasonable policy without saying absolutely they're not getting them, but you're right, might get a bad reaction. But I would condition it on behavior and I would see how they're going to behave. I would say, Maybe you need to start releasing political prisoners.

We need to use our aid as leverage to get things that are good for the people, not only their people, but our people. Doctor Afridi is being held in Pakistan. Why? Because he's a friend to America and an informant, and yet we continue to ply the Pakistanis with billions of dollars.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir. Always nice to see you.

PAUL: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)