US: No stand on whether Egypt underwent coup

Determining coup would force US gov't to comply with law prohibiting foreign aid to countries that have experienced such events.

July 28, 2013 02:00
2 minute read.
Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi carry a banner with his picture.

muslim brotherhood - morsi banners 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON – The US will not make a determination of whether or not events in Egypt last month constituted a coup, a State Department official has told Congress.

Instead of defining the events that toppled president Mohamed Morsi with one word, the US will continue to evaluate the situation as unique, complex and ongoing, officials said last week.

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Legally, the government is not required to make such a determination, said US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns – and it is not within the interests of the US to do so.

Determining that Egypt underwent a coup on July 3 would force the US government to comply with a decades-old law prohibiting foreign aid to countries that have experienced such events.

According to the law, most aid must stop to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’etat or decree” or toppled in “a coup d’etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.”

The Obama administration and majorities in both parties in Congress have expressed their desires to continue the annual $1.55 billion aid package to Egypt, after the military terminated Morsi’s presidency before the end of his term.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday that a team of lawyers had approved this policy path, and that the administration does not plan on revisiting the question.

It does, however, plan on “continuing to work with Congress” on “ongoing” developments.

While the US will not cut off aid fully, nor will it call what happened a coup d’etat, the White House announced that it would hault the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian military in light of “the current situation.”

The majority of lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and America’s allies in the Middle East, have expressed anxiety at the prospect of cutting off Egypt’s aid and privately celebrated the policy sidestep by the administration.

But critics of the determination warn that choosing to ignore the law, instead of seeking a waiver for Egypt’s situation or an amendment to the law through Congress, sets a troubling precedent.

“There was a coup in Egypt. It meets the exact legal definition of a coup,” says Dany Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

“The fact that the administration has chosen to ignore both the coup and the law are of a piece with this administration’s behavior in a whole variety of areas.”

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