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MILITARY SUPPORT HIT

US withholds some aid for Egypt

Washington, October 10, 2013

The United States said it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as $260 million in cash aid from Egypt's military-backed government pending progress on democracy and human rights.

The decision, described by US officials, demonstrates US unhappiness with Egypt's path since its army on July 3 ousted Mohamed Mursi, who emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood to become Egypt's first democratically elected leader last year.

But the State Department said it would not cut off all aid and would continue military support for counterterrorism, counter-proliferation and security in the Sinai Peninsula, which borders US ally Israel.

It also said it would continue to provide funding that benefits the Egyptian people in such areas as education, health and the development of the private sector.

The split decision illustrates the US dilemma in Egypt: a desire to promote democracy and human rights along with a need to cooperate with a nation of strategic importance because of its control of the Suez Canal, its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and its status as the most populous nation in the Arab world.

"We will ... continue to hold the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The military-backed authorities have cracked down hard on the Brotherhood since ousting Mursi. On Aug. 14, security forces smashed two pro-Mursi sit-ins in Cairo, with hundreds of deaths, and then declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. Many of the Brotherhood's leaders have been arrested since.

In the latest violence, protesters clashed with security forces on Sunday, with state media reporting 57 people dead.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said it was doubtful Washington would gain any leverage over Cairo by withholding the aid.

"It may make some Americans feel better about the US role in the world, but it's hard to imagine how it changes how the Egyptian government behaves," he said.

Some lawmakers criticised the administration's decision.

"The administration is trying to have it both ways, by suspending some aid but continuing other aid. ... The message is muddled," said Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee panel that funds such aid.

"Pulling away now may undermine the ability of the United States to work with a critical partner," said Representative Kay Granger, the Texas Republican who chairs the House Appropriations Committee's panel on foreign assistance.

The US position also exposed differences with its key Gulf ally Saudi Arabia, which welcomed Mursi's ouster and has promised extensive financial support to Egypt's new government.

As if to underscore the divide, the Saudi Embassy in Washington released a statement noting that Saudi King Abdullah had met Egyptian interim President Adly Mansour in Jeddah.

"We will support Egypt against terrorism, sedition, and those who try to undermine its security," King Abdullah said during the meeting, according to the statement. - Reuters




Tags: Egypt | US | military | aid |

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