Egypt surprised by planned U.S. aid cut

The Wall Street Journal reports: Egypt bristled over Washington’s plan to reduce military aid to Egypt, saying the country would consider altering certain agreements with the U.S.

Some accords, such as American ships’ special access to the Suez Canal, should be “adjusted,” said Col. Ahmed Ali, the spokesman for the Egyptian military. “The U.S. is abandoning Egypt as it fights a serious war against terror,” he said. “This is a stance that doesn’t coincide with such a strong, long-standing relationship.”

Col. Ali said he wouldn’t comment further until after talking with Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi, Egypt’s minister of defense and commander of the armed forces, who was informed of the decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

The planned cuts come after a weekend in which more than 60 supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi were killed in street-level fights with security services. More than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters have now been killed by security forces and hundreds more arrested since the military ousted Mr. Morsi on July 3.

The crackdown on the Brotherhood showed no signs of abating on Wednesday, as prosecutors said Mr. Morsi, Egypt’s first-ever freely elected president, would face trial on Nov. 4 for inciting his followers to kill protesters against his rule late last year.

The announcement of the aid censure marks a new low point in the already frosty relationship between the U.S. and Egypt, once one of America’s closest security partners in the Middle East.

It is also emblematic of the shortfalls in U.S. messaging that have left both sides of Egypt’s tense political divide bitter over Washington’s role in the country, said Egyptian diplomats, analysts and policy makers.

The move was unlikely to exert strong pressure on Egypt’s military to abide by human-rights norms, experts say. At the same time, as news of the decision emerged late on Tuesday it reinforced the impression among many Egyptians that the Obama administration was supporting the ousted leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, while not winning any points with Brotherhood supporters, either.

“What the U.S. is doing is the worst of both worlds right now,” said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert and head of research at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center. “They’re not putting pressure on the military but they’re still going to anger the Egyptian population and make it seem like they’re punishing the military and suspending aid.” [Continue reading…]

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