Top US lawmakers have quietly agreed to temporarily suspend most military aid to Egypt, indicating that behind the scenes Washington is starting to treat the military’s ouster of President Morsi as a coup, according to a new report.
The Obama administration has temporarily halted the delivery of weapons to the Egyptian military as well as some forms of economic aid to the government, despite deciding not to officially describe the military takeover as a coup. The office of Senator Patrick Leahy, the head of the Appropriations State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, told The Daily Beast on Monday that the administration has implemented these changes over the past month as it formulates an official determination on the coup.
If a coup is determined to have taken place, current law requires the government to cut off aid funding. While the Obama administration has maintained that its $585 million aid package is not technically on hold, it is not due until September 30 and “no final decisions have been made.”
“It would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made with respect to the remaining assistance funding,” US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday.
Multiple sources said that US leaders are acting as if a coup had taken place, even as lawmakers work to formulate their official position.
“The decision was we’re going to avoid saying it was a coup, but to stay on the safe side of the law, we are going to act as if the designation has been made for now,” one official told The Daily Beast. “By not announcing the decision, it gives the administration the flexibility to reverse it.”
The US will also hold off on delivering a fleet of Apache helicopters that the Egyptian military has already paid for, and will not yet deposit economic support funds for programs that are expected to directly help the government – although the Obama administration has repeatedly denied claims of this sort.
“Programs with the government designed to promote free and fair elections, health assistance, programs for the environment, democracy, rule of law, and good governance can also continue in cases even where a legal restriction might apply,” Psaki said on Monday. “But to the extent where there are ESF programs that would benefit the government, which is obviously, a section, we are reviewing each of those programs on a case by case basis to identify whether we have the authority to continue providing those funds or should seek to modify our activities to ensure that our actions are consistent with the law.”
Last week, Obama criticized the Egyptian military’s violent crackdown on protests – an assault that killed hundreds of civilians – but refused to directly comment on US aid to the African nation.
“While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” he said.