Washington • The Obama administration announced Wednesday a modest and temporary freeze on military assistance to Egypt.
To signal its displeasure with the Egyptian military’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the United States will withhold the delivery of Apache attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and M1-A1 tanks parts. It will also hold up $260 million in aid for the Egyptian budget.
But the administration will continue aid for Egypt’s counterterrorism programs and its efforts to protect its borders and secure the Sinai Peninsula, which has become a haven for extremists. Programs to train and educate Egyptian military officials in the United States will also be continued.
U.S. officials emphasized that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had had a friendly phone conversation Wednesday with Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the army chief who led the ouster in July of Mohammed Morsi, the president elected with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The White House has taken the position that it does not regard Morsi’s ouster as a “coup.” But in presenting its decision on aid Wednesday, administration officials continued to stress that the Egyptian military’s heavy-handed crackdown on supporters of Morsi was not acceptable.
The assistance the administration is holding back, officials said, could be restored if el-Sissi takes steps toward returning to democracy.
The administration’s explanation of its policy appeared to leave plenty of room for the prompt resumption of aid, if events in Egypt proceed according to the plans of its new military-backed government.
According to its timetable, a 50-member committee is scheduled to complete work within a few weeks on a package of constitutional amendments, and the revisions are expected to move swiftly to a national referendum.