The Office of Senator Patrick Leahy (D. Vt.) has revealed to The Daily Beast that the Obama administration has temporarily suspended military foreign aid disbursements, which are disproportionately directed towards military spending, to Egypt, pending a longer legal review of whether the military’s sudden seizure of power amidst a wave of demonstrations in early July legally constitutes a military coup. Per the article:
The administration’s public message is that $585 million of promised aid to the Egyptian military in fiscal 2013 is not officially on hold, as technically it is not due until September 30, the end of the fiscal year, and no final decisions have been made.
The revelation that American military aid to Egypt has been halted pending a legal determination comes on the heels of an announcement that the military has cancelled a large-scale bi-annual war game that was scheduled to be held in Egypt in September.
The revelation brings some clarity to what had been rather an opaque situation, wherein the administration drew criticism and ridicule for studiously avoiding the usage of the word ‘coup’, as American law prohibits the federal government from disbursing foreign aid to governments which have risen to power by means of coup d’etat.
It is a matter of speculation whether the move to cut military aid will sway Egypt’s new military government, apparently led by former Morsi-era defense minister General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to make, as promised, a transition back towards a peaceful political process. American aid as a share of Egypt’s military budget has fallen in recent years, amidst incoming money from Qatar and other oil rich Gulf nations, so it is entirely possible that the ruling generals will opt to retain power and do without further American aid money; this eventuality, together with a still-dire political and humanitarian situation in Syria, threatens to throw the region into geo-strategic disarray and further injure American policy goals in the Near East.
It is worth noting that suspending the aid pending further review falls short of committing to a legal withdrawal of military aid following a determination that a bloody seizure of power from a civilian government by the military constitutes a coup, and many analysts believe that the federal government is unlikely, in the long run, to discontinue military aid to Egypt and willingly surrender whatever influence may still come with it.