ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:
Two key senators today said the US must help Egypt rebuild its economy in the wake of the revolution that swept through the country last month.
“I wouldn’t take our eye off Egypt,” Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, said at the Brookings Institution in Washington. “Egypt is the heart and soul of the Arab world and what happens in Egypt, I think, will be vital to what happens in the rest of the region.”
McCain recently traveled to Egypt and other nearby countries with Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-CT, who joined him at today’s event. Both senators said the US should take an active role in bringing economic assistance to Egypt.
“I think, two things, very quickly, one is, to assist with the mechanisms of a free and fair election, the voter education, the voter registration. A lot of that they're very smart and doing themselves,” McCain said. “But the second and most important thing is job creation. This thing started with a young man in Tunisia who had a college degree who couldn't get a license to sell vegetables, so he burned himself to death. He epitomized in many ways this educated class of young people who had no hope and no job opportunity. And I would say that it's all kinds of assistance, but I would say that the thing they probably want more than anything else is investment, investment to create jobs.”
“I hope the high-tech community and friends of ours like John Chambers and Bill Gates and all of these people would come out and say, ‘Okay, we're going to invest in Egypt. We're going to help people create jobs and opportunity. I hope the administration would immediately say there will be a trade preference agreement with Egypt and long-term free-trade agreements with them so that we can help them in the most critical phase of any revolution, and that is economic development. And that, I think, is the key to it.”
The lawmakers also suggested working with other countries on debt forgiveness for Egypt. However Lieberman acknowledged that such actions “will be a tough sell on the Hill now because of all our deficit problems.”
McCain cautioned that the Muslim Brotherhood group could manage to rise to power in Egypt.
“The one organization that has handled this so far most perfectly is the Muslim Brotherhood and they have moderated their positions and their stances and their message and their rhetoric and right now according to the experts they would get about 30 percent of the vote in a parliamentary election. If there’s two or three or four parties, that’s one thing. If there’s a whole lot of parties, then I think it’s pretty obvious the consequences of that.”
In a broader sense, McCain said the revolutionary movement seen in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere will continue to spread.
“I think this revolution spreads beyond the boundaries of the Arab world,” he said. “I think the Chinese are obviously – I think Vladimir Putin and his KGB buddies ought to be a little more nervous than in the past. I think this thing is going to spread throughout the globe.”
“I think it’s even more consequential in its way than the collapse of the Soviet Union because we are now involved in a very hot and unconventional war with forces that come directly from this region,” said Lieberman.
Quipped McCain, “Anybody who tries to predict these events is smoking something fairly strong.”
Both McCain and Lieberman have recently called for the US to establish a no-fly zone in Libya and said the US should also be prepared to provide air defense weaponry to the rebels there if the rebels ask for it and if the Obama administration deems it necessary.
“What are the chances that in his desperation, say in Tripoli, that Gaddafi just starts to kill people? I mean, we all admit that he’s insane, so wouldn’t we want to prevent that from happening?” McCain asked.