Top national security aides to President Obama are advising that the U.S. suspend at least some of the $1.5 billion in aid it gives Egypt every year, a proposal that would signify a radical change in decades of friendly U.S.-Egypt relations.
The advice comes in the wake of the coup that took place in the country last July, in which democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi was forced from office by the country’s military amidst massive nationwide protests. The Obama administration has avoided labeling the incident a coup, as the Foreign Assistance Act forbids the U.S. from providing aid to countries “whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree.”
However, advisors are suggesting that the administration substantially reduce its flow of aid to the country. The U.S. has given around $1.5 billion to Egypt every year since 1979, when the country signed a peace treaty with Israel. Around $1.3 billion of that is military aid; advisors are suggesting that the U.S. eliminate almost all of this. The exception would be military funds used to enforce security in the Sinai Peninsula and along the border of the Gaza Strip, two particularly tumultuous regions.
While the amount of U.S. aid to Egypt has fluctuated from year to year, it has never been suspended or halted. The recent proposal would allow aid to resume if and when a democratically-elected government resumes power in Egypt; in addition, it wouldn’t touch aid that goes to non-governmental organizations in the country. That being said, it isn’t a final proposal, and should Obama choose to adopt it, he’ll have substantial leeway to modify it per his wishes. (It’s reportedly been on his desk for the last week.)
Last month, Saudi Arabia and several other gulf states pledged to give $12 billion to Egypt’s interim military leadership, and vowed to compensate Egypt for any aid the U.S. might withdraw in the future.