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McCain and Graham: Cut Off Aid to Egypt

“Not all coups are created equal, but a coup is still a coup," write Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/15/2013, 4:45 AM

Morsi supporters gather outside a Republican Guard building in Cairo
Morsi supporters gather outside a Republican Guard building in Cairo
Reuters

In an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have called on the Obama administration to cut off the aid the U.S. provides to Egypt.

“Mohammed Morsi’s presidency was a huge missed opportunity. He placed himself above the law, failed to govern inclusively or capably, pursued a narrow ideological agenda and pushed through revisions to Egypt’s constitution that did not secure the basic rights of all citizens,” wrote McCain and Graham.

“This misrule had dire costs for Egypt’s economy and society, and we have a lot of sympathy for the millions of Egyptians who called on the military to remove Morsi from power.”

They added, “Not all coups are created equal, but a coup is still a coup. Morsi was elected by a majority of voters, and U.S. law requires the suspension of our foreign assistance to ‘any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree . . . in which the military plays a decisive role.’

“We find it hard to describe the situation in Egypt any other way. Congress should review this law to determine whether it serves our national interests, but at this time we believe the United States must suspend assistance to Egypt,” wrote the two senators. “This is a difficult decision, but if we expect Egypt and other countries to abide by their laws, then we must abide by ours.

“Egypt is not just any country. It is the heart and soul of the Arab world, and the stability of Egypt is a critical U.S. national interest. But we must recognize, as President Obama said, that ‘the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties — secular and religious, civilian and military.’ That is all the more reason suspending U.S. assistance to Egypt is both right and necessary,” wrote McCain and Graham.

“We know that many of our friends in Egypt and the region do not want the United States to suspend assistance,” they added. “But we are fully committed to encouraging the Egyptian people’s efforts to build an effective and enduring democracy. And if Egyptians join together and move their country toward the democratic future that so many of them have risked so much to achieve, we will be the first to call for a full restoration of U.S. assistance to Egypt.

“Egyptians will continue to face serious threats during this critical time. We should take every lawful step we can to help our Egyptian partners secure their country, which also benefits U.S. regional allies and our own national security interests. Our law requires a suspension of State Department assistance but not aid from the Defense Department. The president could use those authorities and resources to sustain limited cooperation with the Egyptian military to secure our mutual short-term objectives, such as counterterrorism, border security, intelligence sharing and the maintenance of regional peace.”

The White House has been cautious about calling the Egyptian military’s ousting of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi a “coup,” noting that it will need to “review what has taken place.”

A decision to brand Morsi’s ouster a coup would, by law, require the Obama administration to halt aid to the Egyptian army.

Last Saturday, President Barack Obama said the United States is “not aligned” with any political party or group in Egypt following Morsi’s ouster.

On Wednesday, officials said that the United States plans to go through with the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, despite Morsi’s overthrow.

Hours later, however, it was reported that Obama has ordered a review of U.S. assistance to Egypt's government.