— The Obama administration is facing questions about whether it is able to influence Egypt’s military government to end its bloody crackdown on the opposition. Officials say discussions on the matter are ongoing.
Administration officials say they are continuing to review U.S. policy of sending $1.5 billion a year to Cairo.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged Monday that Washington’s leverage in the situation has limits.
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“Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited. It is up to the Egyptian people, and they are a large, great sovereign nation. And it will be their responsibility to sort this out. All nations are limited in their influence in another nation’s internal issues. I do not think the United States is without influence," said Hagel.
A recent New York Times report said the military decided to crack down, despite 17 personal telephone calls from Hagel and meetings between the military leaders and two U.S. senators.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki Monday denied a Times report that the United States has decided to cut its military and civilian aid to Egypt.
“We have not made a policy decision to put a blanket hold on the Economic Support Fund-ESF-assistance. Clearly, that review is ongoing, as we have talked about in here quite a bit. That review includes military assistance, security assistance. It also includes economic assistance," said Psaki.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest, when asked if the U.S. has lost influence in Egypt, said President Barack Obama has made two decisions that will result in consequences for the interim government.
“The first is the delayed delivery of the F16s that were in the pipeline and scheduled for delivery to Egypt. That delivery was delayed. And also last week, the president delivered a statement from Martha’s Vineyard, where he announced the cancellation of the joint military exercise known as Bright Star," said Earnest.
Earnest said officials are continuing to talk with their counterparts in Cairo, to determine how the U.S. should proceed.
He also said the administration has no plans to decide whether to refer to the military’s July overthrow of democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi as a coup.
“We have concluded that it is not in the best interests of the United States to reach a determination on a coup. That is a decision that will be set aside," he said.
Federal law requires the cutoff of U.S. aid to any country in which a military coup has displaced an elected government.
Earnest said decisions on Egypt are being made according to U.S. law and the nation’s security interests.