Obama administration says aid to Egypt is under review, not on hold

 Obama administration says aid to Egypt is under review, not on hold
Egyptian troops search vehicles at a checkpoint during a curfew in Cairo imposed by the country's military-backed leaders. (Khaled Elfiqi / European Pressphoto Agency)

WASHINGTON –  The U.S. government hasn’t secretly cut off economic or military aid to Egypt, the White House said Tuesday, denying news reports that the assistance program is on hold.

But a spokesman for President Obama did not contest the idea that aid is not currently flowing to the country in the wake of a brutal crackdown on protesters by Egyptian security forces.

The delivery of aid happens "episodically," Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said Tuesday, and not like a "spigot" that flows continually.

"You don't turn it off and on, or turn it up and down like a faucet.... It's provided in specific tranches,” he said. “Those tranches are under ongoing review."

Earnest noted during his briefing that the administration has halted some aid, including delaying the planned delivery of F-16 fighter planes, and canceled joint military exercises set for September.

But he said those responses don’t reflect a decision to cut off aid altogether and noted that each aid package is being considered on a case-by-case basis. One of the next scheduled aid dispatches is the delivery of Apache helicopters expected in the next few weeks, aides said.

Two senators on both sides of the political aisle said Tuesday that the administration should halt the aid.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said he was “deeply troubled by the ongoing violence in Egypt.”

“I understand the complexities and depth of our relationship with Egypt, especially with regard to our assistance package,” Kaine said in a statement.  “Today I am calling on the U.S. government to immediately cease all assistance to the Egyptian government as we conduct a thorough policy review.”

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) called the situation in Egypt “disturbing.” 

“We should stop giving foreign aid to Egypt and its military unless the country moves toward an inclusive democratic system. American taxpayers should not contribute to a military that slaughters civilians in the street,” Toomey said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) insisted that cutting off aid to Egypt would pose a threat to Israel, Saudi Arabia and other allies in the region.

“Both Israel and Saudi Arabia, important allies of the United States in the Middle East, have asked President Obama to remain neutral in the ongoing conflict in Egypt,” he said in a statement.

Obama ordered a review of U.S. aid to Egypt in July, but administration officials say it has not been  concluded. The president plans to convene the National Security Council on Tuesday afternoon to discuss Egypt and other security matters.

The White House also rejected suggestions from Turkey's prime minister that Israel was behind the overthrow of Egypt's Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also accused Muslim nations of betraying Egypt by supporting its new military-backed leaders.

"Suggesting that Israel is somehow responsible for recent events in Egypt is offensive, unsubstantiated and wrong," Earnest said. "Statements like these only distract from the urgent need for all countries in the region and, frankly, many leading countries around the world to work together through constructive dialogue to address the fluid and dangerous situation in Egypt."



Twitter: @cparsons

Times staff writer Lisa Mascaro contributed to this report.