Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn.
x Brandon, Associated Press
White House takes steps to suspend economic aid to Egypt
- Article by: Mark Landler and Thom Shanker
- New York Times
- August 18, 2013 - 11:28 PM
Chilmark, Mass. – The Obama administration has taken preliminary steps to withhold financial aid to the Egyptian government, officials said Sunday, even though it is curtailing economic assistance, not the much larger military aid on which Egypt’s generals depend.
The State Department has put a hold on financing for economic programs that directly involve the Egyptian government, administration officials said, out of a concern that the military-led government might have violated congressional rules prohibiting aid to countries where there has been a coup.
Democratic leaders have generally supported the president’s approach. But earlier on Sunday, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., said he would end aid to Egypt. Ellison is the first Muslim elected to Congress and is co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
“I would cut off aid but engage in intense diplomacy in Egypt and in the region to try to say, look, we will restore aid when you stop the bloodshed in the street and set up a path towards democracy that you were on before,” Ellison said. “In my mind, there’s no way to say that this was not a coup. It is. We should say so. And then follow our own law, which says we cannot fund the coup leaders.”
Among Republicans, there were growing calls to eliminate military aid to Egypt. But others were more hesitant.
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., said curtailing aid could reduce U.S. influence over Egypt’s interim government, which controls access to strategic resources, including the Suez Canal. “We certainly shouldn’t cut off all aid,” said King, who chairs the House panel on counterterrorism and intelligence.
The administration has not declared whether the Egyptian military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi constituted a coup. But the State Department is abiding by a complex web of restrictions governing foreign aid, an official said. Those restrictions are tighter than the rules governing the military aid, which has not been suspended.
For Egypt, the aid is perhaps less important than the advanced systems it can buy with U.S. support. Already, the United States is considering a delay in the shipment of Apache helicopters and repair kits for tanks. That comes on top of decisions to delay the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets and to pull out of a major joint military exercise next month.
But the administration has stopped short of suspending the aid, which has served as a foundation of the U.S. relationship with Egypt for more than 30 years and is viewed as critical to the region’s stability, not least as a pillar of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
Military aid to Egypt dwarfs civilian aid: Of the $1.55 billion in total assistance the White House has requested for 2014, $1.3 billion is military and $250 million is economic. The civilian aid goes to such things as training programs and projects run by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
© 2013 Star Tribune