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Cutting Off Aid Honors American Values and Law

Author: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies
August 20, 2013
Wall Street Journal


'You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that." That was the message Gen. Abdel Fattah Al Sisi conveyed to the U.S. during the first week of August, before more than 700 Egyptians had been killed by his security forces and police. But neither the general's comments nor his actions have stopped the Obama administration from delivering $1.3 billion in military aid and $200 million in economic aid to Egypt.

To maintain these payments, the administration is contravening the American law—Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act—that requires the U.S. to suspend foreign aid when a military coup has ousted an elected government. While President Obama called off a joint U.S.-Egypt military exercise next month, the continuing bloodbath didn't cause the president to suspend aid.

It should have. The first mistake the Obama administration made was not instantly suspending aid when the coup occurred in July. The administration's twisted defenses for persisting in its current policy—Who says we have to make an immediate decision to cut off aid? Why is it a coup if it has significant public support?—showed contempt for the rule of law. The White House's refusal to enforce this statute has undercut U.S. influence in Egypt, not enhanced it. Had we stuck to our laws and principles, it would have signaled to Gen. Sisi and the Egyptians that we have a few of both.

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