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.
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
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
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
“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
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.”