The Cable

Here we go again: Rand Paul launches another effort to cut Egypt aid

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) plans to again offer an amendment later today to cut off all U.S. aid to Egypt due to the Egyptian government's ongoing prosecution of U.S. NGO workers around the world.

The Egyptian government has asked Interpol to issue international arrest warrants for American and other foreign NGO workers for organizations working to develop civil society in Egypt as it struggles with its transition to democracy. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton waived congressional restrictions on U.S. aid to Egypt last month, following the release of more than a dozen NGO workers who were barred from leaving Cairo, but the Egyptian government is now seeking the arrests of those NGO workers who were not in Egypt at the time criminal charges were brought.

Interpol is considering the request and can reject warrant requests that are politically motivated, but meanwhile Paul wants to prevent the United States from sending more than $1.5 billion in annual aid to the Egyptian government. He told The Cable Tuesday he will offer an amendment along those lines to the bill moving in the Senate on fixing the financial problems at the U.S. Postal Service.

"I find it incredibly insulting that we're sending them $2 billion in aid and their putting out international warrants," Paul said. "Interpol is not supposed to be involved in political persecution so this is troubling to me."

In February, Paul attempted a similar gambit and filibustered a transportation-related bill as a means of pressuring the Senate to hold a vote on his previous amendment to cut off U.S. aid to Egypt. Democrats blocked Paul's amendment from getting a floor vote.

Asked why he thought this time might be different, Paul said, "You have to just be an optimist around here. I don't know that it will go better (this time) but I'm going to try."

Sen. John McCain, the chairman of the International Republican Institute, one of the NGOs with members facing charges, told The Cable today the new Paul amendment was unwise and would not succeed.

"It won't pass," he said. "A lot of us are very unhappy about the events in Egypt and very unhappy about the treatment of NGOs. But this is not the time to cut off aid to Egypt as they are going through this electoral process. ... Most members of the Senate understand that."

The Cable

Jim Jones named top lobbyist for U.S. businesses in Kurdistan

Former National Security Advisor Jim Jones took on yet another job last week when he was named the chief executive officer of the U.S.-Kurdistan Business Council, a new trade association in charge of advocating for U.S. companies in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.

"General Jones is exceptionally knowledgeable about Kurdistan and about the history and importance of U.S. engagement with the region. His long experience will be an asset to the U.S. business community interested in Kurdistan and its important investment opportunities," said Alex Cranberg, chairman of USKBC founding member company Aspect Holdings, in a Monday press release.

The council is brand new. It was launched this month with a reception last week held in honor of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Mahmoud Barzani, who was in Washington to meet with top administration officials. Jones was announced as its first CEO at the event.

"The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is very pleased and proud to recognize the launching of the USKBC," Qubad Talabani, the KRG representative to the United States, said. "I expect this U.S. trade group will provide American companies with a new and important platform to do business in Iraqi Kurdistan."

"Founding members" can join for only $30,000 per year, "associate members" can join with fewer privileges for $10,000 a year, and NGOs can apply for "affiliate membership," which is free.

 "The USKBC is dedicated to facilitating trade and commerce for U.S. companies in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and to strengthening ties between the private sector in the U.S. and Kurdistan Region," the organization's website reads. "With one of the most liberal investment laws in the Middle East and significant needs in almost every industry sector, the Kurdistan Region presents untapped business opportunities for U.S. companies."

Kurdistan's oil reserves are vast, and new pockets of oil resources are being discovered on a regular basis. But the KRG is embroiled in a fight with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over who controls the rights to Kurdistan's oil and who can sign contracts with foreign firms for exploration and extraction.

For Jones, this is just the latest in a list of private-sector jobs he has taken on since leaving government. He is also a fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics, and a senior advisor at Deloitte Consulting.