U.S. Discusses What To Do With Aid To Egypt

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President Obama's national security team met Tuesday to talk about policy options on Egypt. The country's military-backed government has been cracking down on Islamist protesters. The U.S. seems to have little influence or leverage over the situation. But it does give Egypt $1.5 billion a year — most of it to the military.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The political crisis in Egypt could be on the verge of yet another dramatic turn: A judge in Cairo just ordered that former dictator Hosni Mubarak be released from jail.

GREENE: It is unclear at this point whether Mubarak will go free. Prosecutors have sought to try him on a series of charges. His release would likely intensify the ongoing turmoil in the country. Now, President Obama's national security team met yesterday afternoon to talk about their policy options on Egypt.

MONTAGNE: The U.S. seems to have little influence over the situation, even though it does give Egypt one-and-a-half billion dollars in aid a year, most of it to the military.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says all that is under review, but it's complicated.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

JOSH EARNEST: Providing foreign assistance is not like a spigot. You don't turn it off and on, or turn it up or down like a faucet. Assistance is provided episodically.

MONTAGNE: The last installment of this year's military aid, $585 million, could be withheld.

GREENE: An aide to Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, who chairs a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, says his office was told that the transfer of military aid has already stopped. White House officials deny that.

MONTAGNE: Senator Leahy is among those reminding the Obama administration that, by law, the U.S. has to cut off aid when a democratically elected government is deposed by a military coup or decree. The White House has carefully avoided calling the ouster of Mohamed Morsi a coup.

GREENE: And the White House is taking its time reviewing U.S. aid to Egypt, which dates back to the 1979 peace accord that Egypt signed with Israel.

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