London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The White House on Wednesday denied reports that it was cutting all military aid to Egypt, following US media reports that Washington intended to suspend part or all of the USD 1.3 billion assistance the US provides annually to Egypt’s armed forces.
“The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” said US National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.
“We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the president made clear at the United Nations General Assembly, that assistance relationship will continue,” she added.
However, Hayden confirmed that deliveries of tanks and aircraft to the Egyptian military will be be frozen, while aid for counter-terrorism and border security will continue.
In a speech to the UN General Assembly in New York last month, US President Barack Obama pledged that the “assistance relationship [with Egypt] will continue.”
However, in the same speech, Obama also criticized the actions of Egypt’s military-backed interim government, saying it had “made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy.”
US support would “depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a more democratic path,” he added.
Following Obama’s statements at the UN, Egyptian authorities continued their crackdown against the former ruling Muslim Brotherhood, arresting and prosecuting senior leaders. Thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been detained over the past two months, including former president Mohamed Mursi, General Guide Mohamed Badie, and Deputy General Guide Khairat El-Shater. The three men are being held on charges including incitement to violence and murder.
On Tuesday, the same day that widespread rumors circulated regarding US military aid to Egypt, Cairo ordered the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from the list of approved non-governmental organizations following a judicial order. The latest decision comes after an Egyptian court last month banned the organization from operating and ordered its assets seized.
The September 23 ruling also banned “any institution emanating from or affiliated to the Muslim Brotherhood,” which would include the organization’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party. Taken together, the two judicial decisions return the Muslim Brotherhood to the status the group held throughout the Mubarak era, namely that of an illegal organization.
Prior to Mursi’s ouster, the White House had requested USD 1.55 billion in assistance for Egypt for 2014: USD 1.3 billion in military aid, USD 250 million in economic aid. The Obama administration subsequently said it would suspend approximately USD 585 million of the military aid to post-Mursi Egypt pending a wider policy review.
In an interview published earlier this week, Egypt’s armed forces chief and defense minister, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi described Egypt-US relations as “strategic” and founded on mutual interests, but also cautioned that Cairo would not tolerate pressure from Washington, “whether through actions or hints.”
“We need to be clear here and say they (the US) are keen on continuing the aid and that it is not cut off…they are trying to take measures that conform with the spirit of the law and deal with what happened in Egypt as the outcome of popular will,” he added.
In other news, Egypt’s official MENA news agency announced that the trial of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Mursi is set to start on November 4. He is facing charges of inciting the murder of protesters. The former president will reportedly stand trial with 14 other defendants over the killing of protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012, almost six months prior to his ouster on July 3.