By Teresa Welsh |
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi – the first democratically elected leader in his country's history – was deposed last week in a military coup. The Egyptian army, led by General Abdul Fattah al Sisi, claims to have been compelled into action by days of massive protests against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, of which Morsi is a member.
"As the armed forces cannot just turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the movement and call of the Egyptian people, they have invoked their patriotic, and not political, role," Sisi said in a televised statement. The army had given Morsi a 48-hour ultimatum to craft a deal with the protesters, a deadline that Morsi failed to meet.
Under U.S. law, countries with leaders installed by a military coup are ineligible for foreign aid, leaving the Obama administration in a tough spot. Thus far, the administration has refrained from calling the event a coup.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, facing repeated questions during his briefing Tuesday, said, "I acknowledge that this is a complex and difficult situation and that we are handling it cautiously for that reason. We don't want to make a precipitous decision. We don't think it would be in the best interests of the United States to change the assistance program quickly or immediately."
Members of Congress, though, are not tiptoeing around the word. "It was a coup and it was the second time in two and a half years that we have seen the military step in," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on CBS. "Reluctantly, I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a new constitution and a free and fair election." Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., agreed, saying, "I don't think that skirting the law here is the right thing to do."
Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said that Egypt's aid money could be used as "leverage" to nudge the nation back towards democracy. "We have to make sure the military gets a very clear message that we want to see a transition to civilian government as quickly as possible," he said.
So should the U.S. cut off aid to Egypt? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Trey Radel Republican Representative from Florida
Charles Dunne Director of Middle East and North Africa Programs at Freedom House