Egypt Denounces U.S. Decision To Withhold Aid Package

Washington is withholding delivery of Apache helicopters and other things to show its displeasure with the Egyptian military's bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. The Obama administration says aid can be restored, if Egypt returns to a democratic path.

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Ever since then-President Mohamed Morsi was forced out of office by Egypt's military, the Obama administration has struggled with how to handle the massive amount of U.S. aid that goes to Egypt and goes mainly to its military. This week the Obama administration made a decision. It is suspending a significant amount of the annual $1.5 billion in aid.

The move appears aimed at maintaining U.S.-Egyptian ties on one hand, but to also get the attention of the military in Cairo and showing U.S. displeasure over the military's violent crackdown on Morsi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood. NPR's Leila Fadel joined us from our Cairo bureau. Good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, the Obama administration suspended $260 million in cash, the delivery of Apache helicopters, and other materiel to the Egyptian military is also on hold. What is the reaction in Cairo from the people and the government?

FADEL: Well, basically the foreign ministry said this is a bad decision at a bad time for Egypt. They want a strong relationship with the United States but they said they won't bow to foreign pressure. So they're really saying you can go ahead and keep your aid right now and we're going to continue to do what we think is best for Egypt.

MONTAGNE: Well, it is true that in recent weeks we have heard more about attacks on police and on army outposts, attacks on military convoys there, particularly in the Sinai Peninsula. You know, is this the beginning of what you might call an insurgency?

FADEL: Well, at this point we are seeing what analysts are saying is a low level insurgency in the rest of the Sinai Peninsula, long a really lawless region. The bigger concern is will that spread to the rest of Egypt. And we have seen bombings and RPG attacks in places like Cairo and on the outskirts of Cairo.

And that's one of the points of the military-backed government, saying they can't suspend this type of aid now at a time that we need it, that we're fighting what they're saying is a terrorism problem. Of course, there's no proof that the Muslim Brotherhood or their supporters are involved in these attacks and at this point all of Egypt is not engulfed in an insurgency.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, when the Obama administration announced the freeze, it said that aid could be restored if Egypt takes steps toward restoring democracy. What would those steps be?

FADEL: Well, at this point there is a roadmap to elections. They're amending the constitution right now and if that's passed in referendum there will be elections sometime in February if they stick to schedule. So it may be that just once elections are held, the U.S. will give back that aid. But the bigger question is will this be an inclusive process. Will Islamists, the Muslim Brotherhood, be allowed to participate and be represented in a future democracy here in Egypt.

MONTAGNE: And Leila, one final big picture question. There has been so much turmoil in the countries that experienced the Arab Spring in 2011 and just this last few days we've been talking about Libya's prime minister. He was even detained by, it's believed, an Islamist militia. Is there any common thread here?

FADEL: Well, I think in 2011, ousting these autocratic leaders - in some cases really brutal leaders - there was so much hope that there would be social justice, that the economy would flourish, that people would be able to feed their families, that poverty would lessen. And a lot of those promises haven't come to fruition. There is frustration and anger towards the authority.

And in the case of the prime minister in Libya, that was another situation where people got frustrated with the leadership. And we're seeing that across the board; a lot of people feeling like what did the Arab Spring bring me?

MONTAGNE: NPR's Leila Fadel speaking to us from Cairo. Thanks very much.

FADEL: Thank you.

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