More US legislators urge pause of Egypt aid
By Doug Palmer and Lisa Lambert, ReutersWASHINGTON -- A growing bipartisan chorus of U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday that the United States should suspend its US$1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt following a violent crackdown on protesters that has left nearly 800 dead.
August 20, 2013, 1:54 pm TWN
Senator John McCain, a top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he now supported suspending the aid, even though he initially believed it should be continued after the Egyptian military removed democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi from office last month.
“I wanted to give (Egypt's military leaders) an opportunity to do the right thing after the coup had taken place,” McCain said on CNN's “State of the Union” program. But after the crackdown, aid should be withheld, he said.
“For us to sit by and watch this happen is a violation of everything that we stood for,” McCain said, arguing there are several other steps the United States could also take, such as withholding support for an International Monetary Fund loan or stopping shipments of military spare parts.
“There are many areas where we could exercise influence over the generals, and we're not doing any of it, and we're not sticking with our values,” the Arizona Republican said.
Around 800 people have died in three days of violence that has earned Egypt stiff condemnation from Western nations.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, on Thursday announced that normal cooperation with Cairo could not continue amid the crackdown and announced the cancellation of military exercises with Egypt next month.
But he stopped short of cutting off U.S. aid to Egypt, which lately has been running about US$1.55 billion a year, with US$1.3 billion of that provided to the military.
The White House declined to comment on Sunday about the growing calls from lawmakers for suspending aid.
Around 800 people have died in three days of violence that has earned Egypt stiff condemnation from Western nations
Untangling the aid relationship with Cairo would not be simple and could be costly for the United States as well as Egypt. A special financing arrangement Cairo uses could leave U.S. taxpayers holding the bill for billions of dollars in equipment Egypt already has ordered on credit, and companies like Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics that build military hardware for Egypt would be affected by aid restrictions.
Also on Sunday, several lawmakers made the point that the security of neighboring Israel and the Suez canal were compelling reasons in favor of continued aid. Since 1979, when Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel, it has been the second largest recipient, after Israel, of U.S. bilateral foreign aid, the Congressional Research Service says.