Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham on Friday urged the Obama administration to suspend American aid to Egypt in light of the ouster of elected President Mohammed Morsi.
“Not all coups are created equal, but a coup is still a coup,” McCain of Arizona and Graham, who represents South Carolina, said in an opinion piece in The Washington Post
. “Morsi was elected by a majority of voters, and U.S. law requires the suspension of our foreign assistance to ‘any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d’état or decree . . . in which the military plays a decisive role.’
“We find it hard to describe the situation in Egypt any other way.”
The senators, both of whom sit on the Armed Services Committee, added: “Congress should review this law to determine whether it serves our national interests, but at this time we believe the United States must suspend assistance to Egypt. This is a difficult decision, but if we expect Egypt and other countries to abide by their laws, then we must abide by ours.”
Egyptian Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced on July 3 that Morsi had been removed and was replaced with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court. He also suspended the Islamist-backed constitution and called for early presidential elections.
Hazem el-Beblawi, a veteran economist, has since been named Egyptian Prime Minister — and pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei was named a vice president.
Morsi’s ouster as the nation’s first elected leader comes two years after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in another popular uprising.
The Arab world's most populous nation has been in turmoil since the fall of Mubarak as Arab Spring uprisings took hold in early 2011, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.
“Mohammed Morsi’s presidency was a huge missed opportunity,” McCain and Graham said. “He placed himself above the law, failed to govern inclusively or capably, pursued a narrow ideological agenda and pushed through revisions to Egypt’s constitution that did not secure the basic rights of all citizens.
“This misrule had dire costs for Egypt’s economy and society, and we have a lot of sympathy for the millions of Egyptians who called on the military to remove Morsi from power,” they said.
However, “The prospect of fully restoring our long-standing relationship with Egypt would be the best way to encourage its military and transitional government to take the urgent steps needed to move Egypt toward lasting democracy over the coming months,” McCain and Graham added.
“Those steps should include the participation of Egyptians across the political spectrum to establish a constitutional and democratic system that enjoys maximum public support; protects the basic rights of all Egyptians, including the right to speak freely and demonstrate peacefully; and leads as soon as possible to successful elections for a new civilian government.”
The senators suggested ways to “implement this suspension in a way that furthers our interest in a democratic and secure Egypt.
“The law allows assistance to civil society groups, election preparations, democracy promotion and other nongovernmental activities in Egypt. We should move urgently to deepen our engagement with the Egyptian people on this basis.
“We should take every lawful step we can to help our Egyptian partners secure their country, which also benefits U.S. regional allies and our own national security interests,” they added. “Our law requires a suspension of State Department assistance but not aid from the Defense Department.
“The president could use those authorities and resources to sustain limited cooperation with the Egyptian military to secure our mutual short-term objectives, such as counterterrorism, border security, intelligence sharing and the maintenance of regional peace.”
McCain and Graham acknowledged that suspending aid was not popular with Egypt or other U.S. allies in the region, but “if Egyptians join together and move their country toward the democratic future that so many of them have risked so much to achieve, we will be the first to call for a full restoration of U.S. assistance to Egypt.”
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