Obama cancels joint Egypt maneuvers, leaving military aid untouched for now
Obama issued only veiled threats to halt the military aid to Egypt, demonstrating his reluctance to use what some experts say is Washington's last means to influence a key Mideast ally.
President Obama, under pressure to suspend aid to Egypt’s military rulers immediately, Thursday responded to that nation’s violent turn by canceling planned joint military exercises but issuing only veiled threats to halt the aid if Egyptian security forces remain on a repressive path.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Continued Turmoil in Egypt
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The president decided to cancel the biennial Bright Star US-Egypt military exercises set for September but to leave $1.3 billion in annual military assistance untouched for now – despite a crackdown by security forces Wednesday that left more than 500 Egyptians dead and thousands injured. That suggests just how reluctant the administration is to relinquish what some experts say is Washington’s last means of influencing a key Arab ally in a region of critical national security interests.
The US “strongly condemns” the repressive actions carried out by Egypt’s interim government and security forces Wednesday, and “opposes” the martial law declared by the military rulers, said Mr. Obama, who is vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard.
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Given those actions “our traditional cooperation cannot continue,” Obama said, as he announced cancellation of the Bright Star exercises. Stating that “the Egyptian people deserve better than what we’ve seen in recent days,” the president said that “going forward’ the US would assess the actions of Egypt’s rulers as it determines “further steps that may be necessary.”
Obama’s action Thursday reflects a sense that the US had to do something concrete beyond issuing harsh statements – as Secretary of State John Kerry did Wednesday – especially as criticisms of the administration’s stance piled up overnight.
“As we predicted and feared, chaos in #Cairo,” Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona tweeted, referencing his position that the administration’s failure to get tough by suspending military aid would embolden military rulers to take repressive steps.
Many human rights organizations and major editorial pages implored Obama to suspend military aid immediately – with some lamenting that the president was playing golf while Egypt burned.