White House Rules Out Suspending Military Aid To Egypt
Not surprisingly, the Obama Administration said today that it is not going to see to suspend military aid to Egypt based on the fact that there was a military coup:
The White House called on all sides in Egypt on Monday to refrain from violence and return to democracy but rejected an immediate cutoff of American assistance despite a law requiring the suspension of aid to countries after a military coup d’état.
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the Obama administration would study the events in Egypt to determine whether the military seizing of power constitutes a military coup d’état under law. But he added that the administration planned to take its time in making such a determination and ruled out any suspension of aid in the near term.
“We think that would not be in our best interests,” Mr. Carney said. “We are going to examine this and monitor this and take the time necessary in making the determination in a manner that’s consistent with our policy objectives and our national security interests.”
He added, “But we do not believe that it is in our interests to make a precipitous decision or determination to change our assistance program right away.”
The White House hopes to use the leverage of $1.5 billion annual aid to Egypt to shape events without actually cutting it off, even as violence has spiraled in the days since the military forced out President Mohamed Morsi. Shutting down aid at this point, White House officials have said privately in recent days, would reduce their ability to forestall further violence and repression of dissent in Egypt.
The Foreign Assistance Act says no aid other than that for democracy promotion can go to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état,” or where the “the military plays a decisive role” in a coup. The law allows no presidential waiver, and it says that aid cannot be restored until “a democratically elected government has taken office.”
Since 1979, Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of American aid after Israel. Mr. Obama has proposed $1.3 billion in aid to the Egyptian military and another $250 million for economic aid in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. But the most recent transfer of military aid took place in May, so the next tranche would most likely not go to Egypt until early next year at the earliest.
Egyptian officials have argued that the military’s ouster of Mr. Morsi last week did not constitute a military coup because it came in response to millions of Egyptians who had flooded into the streets protesting the government run by Muslim Brotherhood figures. They added that the military installed a civilian interim president.
As I noted yesterday, the U.S. simply has too many interests involved in Egypt, the idea that we were going to let the statute stop the aid from going forward was simply silly.