WASHINGTON — The Egyptian government’s state of emergency should be lifted and a process of reconciliation must begin, President Barack Obama said Thursday of the turmoil in that country.
The president also condemned the violence against civilians and announced the United States is canceling next month’s joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercises.
When Egypt’s first democratically elected president was tossed out earlier this year, the White House stopped short of calling it a coup.
Doing so would have forced an end to the $1.3 billion that the U.S. sends in military aid every year — and changed the course of its relationship with its strongest Arab ally in the region.
But that was before Wednesday, when the military-led interim government stormed two camps full of former President Mohamed Morsy’s supporters. More than 525 people were killed and 3,717 wounded in the bloodiest day in Egypt’s recent history, officials there said.
Will the carnage in Egypt change the U.S. policy toward the most populous Arab country?
The short answer: We’ll have to wait and see.
To understand why, one needs to appreciate the importance of Egypt in U.S. foreign policy.
The United States helps Egypt because it’s one of only two Arab countries — along with Jordan — that made peace with Israel.
In return, Egypt gets a billion dollars each year of U.S. taxpayer money for military and civilian programs. No other country except Israel gets more.
That aid buys Washington an ally to depend on in a turbulent region.
The U.S. doesn’t want to upset that balance. And pulling aid might do so.
“It’s a hornets’ nest. And that’s why the administration is trying not to stir it too much,” said CNN’s Fareed Zakaria.
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