MidEast

With Analysts Piling On, WH Scrambles to Deny Zeroing Out Egypt Aid

CNN last night announced that they had a bit of a scooplet about Egypt, and that the White House planned to cut off aid to Cairo in the wake of the army’s July move to depose the country’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked former president Mohammed Morsi. The news came as a surprise to analysts, with Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Wasington Insitute, noting that the policy would mark a “180 degree turn” from President Barack Obama’s recent remarks at the United Nations General Assembly.

It also apparently came as a surprise to the White House:

“The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. “We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the president made clear at UNGA (the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York), that assistance relationship will continue.”

The White House is scheduled to clarify its stance about Egypt at 4:30pm Washington time today.

As they did last month when an aid cut-off was floated, analysts questioned the logic behind such a decision. An August New York Times article had already outlined critical ways in which Washington leverages U.S.-Egyptian ties, especially military-to-military ties. The Times specifically mentioned “near-automatic approval for military overflights” and being allowed “to cut to the front of the line through the Suez Canal in times of crisis.”

Council on Foreign Relations fellow Steven Cook noted last night that cutting aid would not alter Egypt’s domestic policy:

Satloff went further, noting that – as far as Egypt’s foreign policy was concerned – cutting off aid would negatively affect U.S. interests:

Satloff’s concerns about Washington appearing pro-Brotherhood echoes increasing fears in the region that the U.S. is distancing itself from an emerging Israeli/Arab bloc made up of traditional U.S. Mediterranean and Gulf allies. That camp is aligned opposite two other emerging Middle East blocs: a Shiite one led by Iran and a Sunni extremist one that includes the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy had already recently worried in recent weeks that relations between Cairo and Washington had grown “troubled.”

Saudi Arabia this week reaffirmed its support for Cairo’s army-backed interim government.

[Photo: FRANCE 24 / YouTube]