During an address yesterday from his vacation spot in Martha’s Vineyard, President Barack Obama announced that his administration was canceling a joint military exercise with Egypt due to growing concerns on the violence that has engulfed the north African country.
“[W]hile we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back,” President Obama told reporters. ”As a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month.”
“Going forward I’ve asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship,” said President Obama in an indication that his administration is threatening to end $1.5 billion in annual military aid to the country.
Mohamed Morsi and his Islamist government were deposed last month by secularists, backed by the Egyptian military, who were angry about the regime’s consolidation of power and declining economic conditions.
Reuters reports this morning that 578 people were killed and thousands more have been injured as a result of the violence on Wednesday between factions fighting for control of the country. The news agency also noted earlier this week that the charred bodies of more than 200 Egyptians lie unclaimed in a Cairo mosque.
Despite his comments on the violence in Egypt, some feel that President Obama hasn’t gone far enough and are accusing his administration of violating the law by continuing to foreign aid to after a coup d’état.
“While President Obama ‘condemns the violence in Egypt’, his Administration continues to send billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for it,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) in a statement from his office.
“The law is very clear when a coup d’état takes place, foreign aid must stop, regardless of the circumstances. With more than 500 dead and thousands more injured this week alone, chaos only continues to grow in Egypt,” he added. “So Mr. President, stop skirting the issue, follow the law, and cancel all foreign aid to Egypt.”
Paul has been a critic of the Obama Administration’s approach to Egypt. He sponsored a measure earlier this year that would have prevented the administration from sending American-made fighter jets to Egypt and, just last month, offered an amendment to an appropriations bill to end all foreign aid to the country.
Both measures were tabled by the Senate (Roll Call Vote #9 and Roll Call Vote #195), ostensibly defeating them. The House, however, did approve Rep. Thomas Massie’s amendment to the defense appropriations bill to block aid to Egypt.
But Paul isn’t alone. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also called for an end to aid to Egypt. “I commend President Obama for reaffirming the principles our country stands for and calling for an immediate end to the violence and martial law. We want an Egypt that moves toward democracy and not toward dictatorship,” he said in a statement.
“In the meantime, while suspending joint military exercises as the President has done is an important step,” added Leahy, “our law is clear: aid to the Egyptian military should cease unless they restore democracy.”
Others are asking whether or not President Obama’s bumbling approach to foreign policy has been, in some way, responsible for the situation in Egypt, as Jacob Heilbrunn of The National Interest explained earlier this week.
While Morsi’s regime was dictatorial, Heilbrunn notes that President Obama’s hands-off approach to Egypt’s increasingly authoritarian interim government has made him an “enabler of tyranny” in a country that is sliding toward a civil war.