Obama Cancels Egypt Military Exercises, But Not Aid

President Obama condemned yesterday's violence in Egypt, canceling joint military exercises, but not withdrawing foreign aid.

President Obama makes a statement on the Egyptian massacre

United States President Barack Obama makes a statement regarding the Egyptian violence at his vacation home on Martha's Vineyard. (Source: Reuters)

Yesterday, in Cairo, Egyptian police and military forces, with approval from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and the transitional government, cleared out two mosque areas where supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi were encamped in protest of the military's coup.  In the ensuing violence that followed as Morsi supporters were slaughtered wholesale, at least 638 people were killed and 3,700 wounded.  In a strongly-worded message, United States President Barack Obama condemned the actions of the Egyptian military and police today, and has canceled joint military exercises between American and Egyptian forces that were scheduled for later this month.  However, American military and civilian aid for Egypt remains.

President Obama declared that "Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual while civilians are killed," citing that as justification for the cancelation of the joint exercises.  However, the cancelation is unlikely to move the Egyptian military, which has re-enshrined itself as the primary leader of the country following the July 3 coup.  The military had been forced into the background following the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak in January 2011.  What is more likely to move the Egyptian military is the removal of $1.5 billion in annual foreign aid from the American government, partly given to uphold the Camp David Accords and ensuing peace treaty between Egypt and Israel from 1979.

Many influential figures have raised the specter of removing aid to end the bloodshed.  The Egyptian economy, incredibly weak due to the discord and already-rampant corruption prior to Mubarak's ouster, relies heavily on the foreign aid. The argument that it would give Egypt impetus to breach the treaty and attack Israel seems flimsy, given that the internal discord the Egyptian military has to deal with at the moment.  However, it remains to be seen whether the American government will have the audacity to pull off the move.  The influence of the Greater Israel lobby, led by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), remains strong.

Meanwhile, bloodshed continues.  Morsi supporters responded by attacking Christian churches throughout the country, seizing the Giza Governorate building, and attacking residents of Alexandria.  Leading liberal and transitional Vice-President Mohammed ElBaradei resigned in protest to yesterday's attacks, weakening the legitimacy of the transitional regime significantly.  Whether religious figures such as Coptic Pope Tawadaros II and Grand Imam of Al-Anzhar Ahmed el-Tayeb, leading allies of the transitional government, will continue supporting the regime after this carnage remains to be seen.