WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama directed the Pentagon to review American aid to Egypt on Thursday, under pressure from leading members of Congress to reconsider the $1.3 billion package promised after the forced overthrow of democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, by the military.

“Given the events of last week, the president has directed relevant departments and agencies to review our assistance to the government of Egypt,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Foreign Assistance Act requires Congress to reconsider aid given to any country that has had its government deposed by military coup or decree.

Senators John McCain (R-Arizona) and Carl Levin (D-Michigan) have called for a suspension of the aid, based on what they consider to be the clarity of that law. But the White House has said it would take its time considering whether the provision applies to the situation that unfolded dramatically in Egypt last week.

Congress cannot restrict the president’s power to forge foreign policy, but it can defund the policies chosen by the executive.

The Pentagon is currently looking into what such a review will entail, The Jerusalem Post has learned. Meanwhile, the Pentagon plans to move forward with the sale of four F- 16 fighter jets to the Egyptian military, which are part of this year’s annual aid package.

“We have had very little indication about how that review is being conducted,” says Nathan Brown, a scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Egypt’s interim government praised the United States for showing “understanding” on Thursday after State Department spokesman Jen Psaki implied Morsi’s rule was undemocratic in nature.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said the comments “reflect understanding and realization...

about the political developments that Egypt is witnessing in the recent days, as embodying the will of the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets starting on June 30 to ask for their legitimate rights and call for early elections.”

Ever since the 1978 Camp David Accords, America’s aid package to Egypt has been its largest, second only to the aid it provides to Israel.

“What is clear is that the US is working hard to preserve the bilateral relationship at a time when almost all actors are suspicious,” Brown added. “Right now, the most functioning part of the bilateral relationship seems to be between the two defense establishments, but even that is rocky.”

Tamara Wittes, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, says that the US is balancing two simultaneous priorities: its relationship with the Egyptian military, and its interest in seeing a stable democracy in the country.

“This law is not on the books for Egypt,” Wittes told the Post. “It’s not meant to punish Egypt. It’s a universal tool, and if you’re going to fail to use the tool, you better have a good reason.”

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