Washington(Araweelo News)The Obama administration hopes to use encourage a swift return to civilian rule in Egypt by threatening to withdraw $1.3bn in foreign aid if the generals are judged to have led a military coup under legal definitions set by Congress.
Barack Obama has declared that “relevant departments and agencies” in Washington will review the implications for US foreign assistance programmes to Egypt, in light of the overthrow of President Morsi. An estimated 20% of Egypt’s military budget is provided by the US.
Under the terms of Foreign Operations Appropriations law enacted each year by Congress, the US government is prohibited from giving aid to “the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree or … a coup d’état or decree in which the military plays a decisive role”
But Washington officials have been very careful not to describe Wednesday’s events in Egypt in precisely such terms yet – leaving open the possibility they may use any power sharing by the generals in Cairo as an excuse not to trigger the clause.
“We now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters,” said President Obama in a statement on Wednesday night.
“During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.”
Speaking earlier on Wednesday, in response to preliminary reports that Morsi had been placed under house arrest, the State Department struck a similarly cautious note – stressing much depended on the “choices” taken by the Egyptian military.
“There’s general legislation applicable to any country to which we provide assistance as a part of the appropriations bill that takes a close look at this,” said spokeswoman Jen Psaki. “With respect to the ongoing situation in Egypt, it’s premature to suggest that we have taken steps, we’re thinking about taking steps. I’m not going to get ahead of, of course, events on the ground, but clearly assessments would be made based on the facts on the ground and choices made by all parties, if needed.”
Some congressional leaders have already stated that the military overthrow of Morsi is a clear violation of the US foreign aid rules. Senator Patrick Leahy said: “Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise. In the meantime, our law is clear: US aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree.”
But many Republicans are likely to support administration attempts to maintain close ties to the new regime in Cairo. The Pentagon has also said that defense secretary Chuck Hagel has “maintained close contact” with his counterpart, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, throughout the current crisis.
The principle of not funding military coup leaders has often been loosely observed, as lists of US support for armed insurrections around the world make clear, but it has been used in recent years to temporarily block aid to Mauritania, Mali, Madagascar and Pakistan.