Egyptians wave their national flag Sunday in Cairo's Tahrir Square as they mark the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. Reports surfaced late Tuesday that the U.S. is considering curtailing military aid to Egypt. (Khalid Desouki / AFP)
Reports surfaced late Tuesday that the U.S. is considering curtailing military aid to Egypt, a move that would end months of closed door consideration as the Obama administration has weighed how to handle the $1.3 billion in aid it was set to give a government that recently overthrew a democratically elected leader.
CNN first reported that the U.S. would stop military aid altogether, citing an anonymous U.S. official. That would be one step further than the administration took in August, when it withheld the delivery of a half dozen F-16 aircraft. Abrams tank kits were delivered subsequently, with officials describing the review of weapons deliveries as analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
Obama administration officials immediately denied that a complete cut to military aid was planned, but did describe an upcoming major decision on aid.
The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement. We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the President made clear at UNGA [United Nations General Assembly], that assistance relationship will continue.
Egypt has been the second largest recipient of US military aid, behind Israel. That monetary aid, in the form of Foreign Military Financing, is used to buy weapons the Foreign Military Sales process. Most of the equipment now being delivered is tied to deals struck two regimes ago in Egypt under former ruler Hosni Mubarak. When Mubarak's successor, the democratically elected Mohammed Morsi, was overthrown by the military earlier this year the continuance of U.S. aid was cast into doubt. US law prevents the delivery of aid to governments that have just overthrown democratically elected regimes.
Wanting to maintain influence with the new regime, with that influence largely derived from the delivery of weapons to the ruling military, the Obama administration found a clever solution deciding that it would simply avoid making any determination as to whether a coup had occurred, thus allowing weapons to be delivered.
But as government crackdowns on Morsi supporters has continued, the administration has been put into an increasingly difficult position.
Several weapons delivers have been stuck in limbo, with the F-16 delays, Apache components, and even Fast Missile Ships all part of the debate on what should or shouldn't be delivered to the regime.