WASHINGTON Aug 19 The United States said on
Monday it still may cut economic or military aid to Egypt but
has not made any decision to do so after the Egyptian military's
violent crackdown on protesters in which almost 900 people have
died in the last week.
President Barack Obama's administration is uneasy at events
in Egypt, which has suffered its worst political violence in
modern history since the Egyptian army and police used force to
break up sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohamed
The Egyptian military on July 3 overthrew Mursi, who emerged
from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement to become the country's
first freely elected president last year after the February 2011
fall of long-time authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.
The United States has refused to call Mursi's ouster a
military coup and it has never called for him to be reinstated.
Nor has done much to curb the extensive military and
economic aid that Cairo receives from Washington.
On July 24, Obama decided to suspend the delivery of four
F-16 fighters to Egypt and on Aug. 15 he canceled a regular
military exercise with the Egyptian army.
However, he has largely left the aid intact. In recent
years, it has run at roughly $1.3 billion in military assistance
and about $250 million in economic aid annually.
Because of the across-the-board U.S. government spending
cuts, U.S. aid to Egypt in the current fiscal year to Sept. 30
will be slightly lower, amounting to about $1.23 billion for the
military and $241 million in economic aid.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied a New York
Times report on Monday that the department had put a hold on its
funding for economic programs that directly involve the Egyptian
Psaki told reporters the State Department was reviewing the
economic aid to see how much, if any, might be curtailed as a
result of Mursi's ouster and the subsequent violence in Egypt,
but stressed that no decisions had been made.
She said this might apply to less than half of the $241
million but was unable to provide a specific amount.
U.S. LEGAL QUESTIONS
Under U.S. law, economic aid that goes to non-governmental
groups as well as to government programs that promote free and
fair elections, health, the environment, democracy, rule of law,
and good governance are exempt from such a cut-off, Psaki said.
Economic programs that do not cover these areas may be
affected, she said.
"We are reviewing each of those programs on a case-by-case
basis to identify whether we have authority to continue
providing those funds or should seek to modify our activities to
ensure that our actions are consistent with the law," she said.
Psaki also said the Obama administration could choose to cut
some of the $1.23 billion in military aid this year.
The emphasis on this came as something of a surprise since
the State Department said on July 25 that it had decided to
sidestep a U.S. law that would have required it to cut off the
military aid if it found that a military coup took place.
Under U.S. law, most aid flows must stop if Washington
determines that a country's "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."
There seems little doubt that Mursi's ouster fits the bill.
As a result, the State Department chose to circumvent the
law, arguing that it was under no legal requirement to make a
determination and thereby avoiding the question of whether to
cut off the military aid.
Leaving aside the legal question, Psaki said that the
administration was still in the mist of a wider policy review
that could result in the reduction of the military or the
economic assistance to Egypt.
"We can make other decisions related to our aid," she said.
"The president has a range of options."
Of the roughly $1.23 billion in military aid due to be
disbursed this fiscal year, Psaki said $650 million has already
been transferred to an account for Egypt at the Federal Reserve
Bank of New York.
A further roughly $585 million has not yet been transferred
and could be reduced or eliminated if Obama chose to do so.