Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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About Military Aid to Egypt

by Elliott Abrams
July 8, 2013

Egyptian military jets fly over Tahrir square as protesters who are against former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi gather, in Cairo July 7, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh) Egyptian military jets fly over Tahrir square as protesters who are against former Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi gather, in Cairo July 7, 2013. (Courtesy REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)


Should U.S. military aid to Egypt now be suspended, as the law appears to require when there has been a military coup?

My answer is yes. First, it should be clear that there was a coup: the Army overthrew an elected president, and did so without judicial or legislative justification. I discussed this at greater length last week in National Review. Second, we should follow our law and explain to the Egyptian military why we are doing so and what it means–and does not mean.

As the Working Group on Egypt, of which I am a member, said today in a statement I signed,

Suspending aid offers an incentive for the army to return to democratic governance as soon as possible, and a means to hold it accountable. Cajoling on democracy while keeping aid flowing did not work when the military ruled Egypt in the 18 months after Mubarak’s fall, and it did not work to move President Morsi either. Abiding by the aid legislation will be unpopular with many Egyptians, and will cause tension in the bilateral relationship. But it need not rupture relations with Egypt’s military or harm security cooperation, as long as the army fulfills its duty to shepherd a democratic transition. On the contrary, the administration should make clear to Egypt’s generals and in its public statements the desire to maintain a close working relationship and to resume aid promptly once a democratically-elected government has taken office.

Third, we should remember how little our aid actually helps the Egyptian military cope with the problems it faces today. The photo shown here is of F-16s flying over Tahrir Square. Those are among the 220 such planes that Egypt has acquired since 1980, and in fact Egypt operates more of them than any other country except the United States, Israel, and Turkey. In January it received 4 more, and another 8 are scheduled for later this year–at about $125 million each. Too much of the aid in past years, and this year, goes for this prestige item for the Egyptian military, with little use in addressing terrorism, internal disorder, lawlessness in Gaza, or any other of Egypt’s pressing problems. Suspending deliveries of new F-16s for a few months, if it comes to that, is not a heavy price to pay for following our own laws.



Post a Comment 12 Comments

  • Posted by solarrman

    I agree that US aid should be suspended. Egypt is in danger of falling apart unless there are people with cool heads on all sides.

    Suspending US military aid would send the message to disgruntled Morsi supporters that the outside world acknowledges their problem and that it may be worth pursuing peaceful rather than violent means.

    One thing I am not sure of – if aid is suspended then how does it get un-suspended i.e. who has to decide to resume aid?

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    I believe the President can make that decision, once the terms of the legislation have been satisfied because there have been new elections.

  • Posted by neville craig

    Military Aid should be suspended and, to maintain the late 1970s US-intended ‘balance’, so should the same amount be to Israel.
    (President Obama rightly seeks to reduce US military spending.)

    Saudi Arabia has of course just announced $4bn aid to Egypt, so the ‘Muslim Spring’ will move on to further Democratic Disasters.

    Well done Bush-Sharansky US Foreign Policy!

  • Posted by Marino de Medici

    Since the us should cut down aid to Egypt and other foreign recipients, what About Israel that gets far more and does not need it? Enough is enough!

  • Posted by Sally Shelton-Colby

    How does Israel feel about a potential cut-off of U.S. aid to Egypt?

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    It seems pretty clear that the Israelis oppose a suspension of US aid to Egypt.

  • Posted by jennifer wong-dilligong boof head

    YES!! i totallly agree thet US aid shoold be absolutey and utterly balanced, poised and hovering in suspension!!….now i think they should let egypt live freely without any danger ready to boomb there shivering and soft heareted souls pleeeaseee i would appeal to them thet this is very concerning to many and woold encourage many to bring there important ideas and suggestions forward in order 4 multipul and powerfull responses….thank you for your muchly loved and called 4 cooperation..!!

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    I believe the answer is wordpress, but our tech people handle it and I don’t have any info.

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