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Congress Grills White House Over Egypt Aid Cut, Praises Egypt Army’s Moves Against Islamic Radicals

The Hill reported today on heightening bipartisan Congressional criticism of the Obama administration’s decision to temporarily freeze some military assistance to Egypt, a move made in response to – albeit months after – mass anti-government protests led the Egyptian army to depose the country’s Muslim Brotherhood-linked former president Mohammed Morsi.

Rep.Eliot Engel (D-NY) slammed the White House’s decision, echoing analyst concerns that the cutoff was degrading U.S.-Egyptian ties:

“In managing America’s foreign policy, there are times when our ideals and our security interests don’t conveniently align,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the top Democrat on the committee. “The situation in Egypt today is a case in point.”

He went on to accuse Morsi of seeking to impose policies that would have been “devastating to most Egyptians, to American interests, and the interests of our allies in the region.” The military deposed Morsi on July 3 after large-scale protests demanding his ouster amid a worsening economic crisis.

“If I were given the choice between the military and the Brotherhood,” Engel said. “I’ll take the military every time.”

Both Engel and Committee Chairman Ed Royce declared that the army-backed interim government was preferable to what had become increasingly autocratic Brotherhood rule, with Royce declaring that the Brotherhood’s “hostil[ity] to American interests binds” the U.S. to Cairo.

In addition to launching a decapitation campaign against the Brotherhood, the military has also been engaged in a concentrated campaign to uproot jihadist infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula. Those campaigns have relied heavily on American military assistance – including and especially American-supplied air assets such as Apache helicopters, which were used as recently as last month to target arms depots in the northern Sinai.

The White House has insisted that its partial freeze explicitly exempts counter-terrorism assistance bound for the Sinai, but critics have questioned the feasibility of distinguishing between Sinai-bound aid versus other kinds of weaponry, and pointed out that the administration is in fact blocking the delivery of Apache helicopters.

[Photo: ReutersVideo / YouTube]