Obama throws backing behind Egypt putschists

Obama throws backing behind Egypt putschists

The Obama administration has still refrained from calling former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster a “coup,” but top U.S. officials have thrown their backing behind the military rulers.

“It’s clear that the Egyptian people have spoken,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, when asked whether Washington still considered Morsi the legitimate president.

“There’s an interim government in place ... this is leading the path to democracy, we are hopeful. And we are in touch with a range of actors. But obviously, he is no longer in his acting position.”

Challenged about the fact that, before his ouster, Egypt already had a democratically elected government, Psaki replied: “It wasn’t a democratic rule. That’s the whole point.”

A U.S. decision to brand his overthrow a coup would, by U.S. law, require Washington to halt aid to the Egyptian military, which receives the lion’s share of the $1.5 billion in annual U.S. assistance to that country.

Egypt’s interim government praised the United States for showing “understanding” by describing the rule of ousted Morsi as undemocratic. Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said the U.S. comments “reflect understanding and realization ... about the political developments that Egypt has been witnessing in recent days, as embodying the will of the millions of Egyptians who took to the streets starting on June 30 to ask for their legitimate rights and call for early elections.”

F-16 deal on track

U.S. officials are engaged in verbal acrobatics, insisting Washington’s role is to help ensure the country returns to a democratically elected civilian government, without passing judgment yet on last week’s events. “We remain deeply concerned about the removal of President Morsi from power,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said July 10.

But he stressed there were “consequences” about how they “designate the events that happen in Egypt.” Psaki highlighted that some 22 million people had signed a petition calling for Morsi’s removal. That “is a large number of people to voice their concerns about the method of governing,” she said.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is moving ahead with plans to deliver four F-16s to Egypt, despite the continuing debate. Defense officials say senior administration leaders discussed the delivery and decided to let it continue.

The fighters are part of a $1.3 billion package approved in 2010 that included 20 F-16s and some M1A1 Abrams tank kits. About half of the aid package has been dispersed, officials said. Eight of the F-16s were delivered in January, the next four are expected to be delivered in the coming weeks and the final eight will be sent later this year.

The White House reiterated the view that it would not be in the United States’ national security interests to interrupt U.S. aid to Egypt, including to the armed forces, as would be required by law if Morsi’s ouster is determined to have been a coup.

“We do not believe it is in the best interests of the United States to make immediate changes to our assistance programs,” press secretary Carney told reporters, adding that the administration is going to take its time to make any determinations about the removal of Morsi from power.