Confusion over America’s Egypt aid policy erupted on Tuesday, after the White House denied reports that it secretly halted military assistance to the volatile Middle Eastern nation.
The Daily Beast reported that a spokesperson for Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy said it was his understanding “that aid to the Egyptian military has been halted, as required by law.”
“The decision was we’re going to avoid saying it was a coup,” an anonymous Obama administration official explained, “but to stay on the safe side of the law, we are going to act as if the designation has been made for now.”
“By not announcing the decision, it gives the administration the flexibility to reverse it.”
But on Tuesday morning the White House rejected the claim. “The report that we have suspended assistance to Egypt is incorrect,” said Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokesperson.
“As the President has said, we are reviewing all of our assistance to Egypt. No policy decisions have been made at this point regarding the remaining assistance,” she continued.
Leah’s office released a statement to reporters on Tuesday responding to the White House’s push-back.
“As we noted yesterday, the State Department and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee was told that the transfer of military aid was stopped, that this is current practice, not necessarily official policy, and there is no indication of how long it will last,” it said.
The $585 million in military aid promised to Egypt this fiscal year has not yet been spent. While the administration will not make a public determination on its fate, that money appears to be on hold until at least Sept. 30, the end of Fiscal Year 2013.
The delivery of several Apache helicopters already paid for by the Egyptian government is also allegedly delayed.
“We are reviewing each of those programs on a case-by-case basis to identify whether we have authority to continue providing those funds or should seek to modify our activities to ensure that our actions are consistent with the law,” said State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki.
The Foreign Assistance Act makes it illegal for the United States government to provide assistance to any country whose democratically-elected government has been overthrown by a military coup or decree.
The White House has so far declined to officially label the overthrow of former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi as a coup d’etat.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported on Monday that the State Department is already taking preliminary steps to halt the $250 million in Egyptian economic aid scheduled for next year.
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