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While officially displeased, U.S. had vigorously funded Egyptian military before coup

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
July 4th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While U.S. President Barack Obama officially said he was deeply concerned over the military coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected leader, the U.S. has been steadfastly funding the Egyptian military in the past few months. Secretary of State John Kerry approved $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Egypt, secondly only to Israel.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - American aid to Egypt in the past has included armored personnel carriers, helicopters, anti-aircraft missiles, surveillance systems, fighter jets and tanks, as well as training. Historically, the U.S. has poured more than $70 billion in military and economic aid into Egypt since 1948.

The new challenge for Washington now will be how to support democracy in Egypt and throughout to the Arab world. The U.S. also wishes to hold onto its presence in the strategic region, on the border with close ally Israel.

The biggest immediate hurdle is that American law bans military or financial assistance "to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree." 

While President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" about the Egyptian military's ouster, he assiduously avoided the word "coup."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told Reuters that Morsi's dismissal was a "military coup" and branded it "unacceptable." Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has also alleged the deposed president was the victim of a coup.

The Egyptian army has said it has no interest in ruling the country. An Egyptian constitutional court judge, Adly Mansour, appointed by former dictator Hosni Mubarak, the strongman leader ousted by the Arab Spring uprising has since been sworn in as acting president. Mansour will serve until a new election is held

Egypt expert Dr. Maha Azzam says the United States had not done enough to show it is defending democracy in Egypt, and should condemn what she did call a military coup.

Otherwise, it "will be understood in the Arab world as an antagonistic move against an Islamist president," she said. Other countries in the region will hear a message that American pro-democracy rhetoric is not matched by its action. 

"Despite [the United States'] words for the support for democracy, it is ready to see [Morsi] replaced through unconstitutional means and that sets a bad precedent for the United States," she said.

Contrarily, Jon Alterman at the Center of Strategic and International Studies disagrees, saying the United States has already warned Egypt's military that it needs to respect the rule of law and civilians' rights.

It has also made clear that it supports a broad-based "consultative" approach that includes Egyptians from across the political spectrum.

"[The United States] has cautioned [the military] about the implications of a removing a democratically elected government," he said. "It seems to me the U.S. statements support broad consultations."

The United States will have a limited impact on the whether or not democracy takes root in Egypt, Alterman says. "What the U.S. says and does may move the needle to some degree but there will be a lot of Egyptians who believe that the U.S. has done the wrong thing no matter what it says or does," he added.

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