The growing tension between Egypt and the United States has reached new levels in recent days.
The office of Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democrat head of the appropriations state and foreign operations subcommittee told American news outlet The Daily Beast on Monday that military aid to Egypt had been temporarily cut off.
The White House denied yesterday having cut off the aid, clarifying that the aid was under review but had not been stopped.
Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawi declared on Tuesday that Egypt would survive any cuts in military aid, adding that Egypt had successfully resorted to other arm providers in the past, such as Russia.
The US yearly military aid package to Egypt is related to the 1979 Camp David treaty. The American Congress sets the size, allocation and conditions attached to the military aid each year.
Providing aid to a country where the government is a result of a military coup is forbidden by American law but it is up to the White House to determine whether the events in Egypt constitute a coup or not.
Since the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, both the Democrat and Republican parties are deeply divided on the stance to adopt with regard to Egypt.
President Obama has cancelled joint military exercises and delayed the delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt but has so far refrained from publically denouncing Morsi’s removal as a coup.
The ambivalence of the US position with regard to Morsi’s ouster has stirred anger in Egypt. Torn between the desire not to antagonize an historical ally and internal pressure to more strongly condemn repeated human rights violations, the White House has somewhat softened its stance.
It appears that the US presidency has decided to keep its options open and await further developments before adopting a more definitive stance. US$ 585 million is due to be delivered to the Egyptian military by the end of the American fiscal year on September 30.
The White House spokesperson John Earnest declared yesterday that there was nothing abnormal in the halting of the aid. “Assistance is provided in tranches”, he said. But he further added that human rights violations did not make the transfer more likely, referring to the arrest of Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie.
It is likely that this veiled threat provoked the strong reaction from Prime Minister Beblawi.
The end of the military alliance between the United States and Egypt would be a major upset to American hegemony and the role of Israel in the region.