The Obama administration is treating funds earmarked for the Egyptian military "as if the coup prohibition applies" but without saying so publicly, according to Washington insiders. But they will be forced to make a decision soon about whether to disburse the funds, about $1.5 billion, or close down the US military aid program in response to the coup and new dictatorship.
It will require a waiver from Congress if the Obama administration should decide to disburse any of the funds. Coming in the week of the Syrian showdown with Congress, a collision over Egypt will be consequential. Already senators as diverse as Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), John McCain (R- Arizona) and Lindsey Graham (R - South Carolina) have insisted that the overthrow of the elected Morsi government be branded as a "coup" requiring the suspension of military assistance. That might be the only way for the Obama administration to restore leverage in the crisis which has seen one thousand members of the Muslim Brotherhood killed and thousands more wounded. The Egyptian generals have moved to ban the Brotherhood, restored emergency laws from the Mubarak era, and censored the media and even liberal activists who favored the forced ouster of President Mohamed Morsi, who remains under house arrest.
The July 3, 2013 coup originally was celebrated with Orwellian claims by liberals like Secretary of State John Kerry that it was a "restoration of democracy". The liberal leader, Mohammad el-Baradei, appointed as a vice-president by the generals, soon fled the country as the repression threatened his status. The young activists of the April 6 movement are experiencing raids and detentions.
The inflamed generals may mistakenly believe that a new military strongman, like Humpty-Dumpty, can be put together will enough repression. History is likely to prove them wrong, with a spreading war being the immediate consequence. While opposing President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, how can the US possibly come to the aid of the emerging Sisi regime in Cairo?
Insurgency in the Sinai is increasing in spite of increased repression by the Egyptian army in coordination with the Israelis, who reportedly are deploying drones.
Egypt's economy is cratering, with foreign investment and tourism down significantly; tourism by 85 percent last month. The Suez Canal may be at risk of insurgent attacks, and already is experiencing a loss of traffic.
At stake is whether so many liberals will continue to ally with the conservative-right against the electoral rise of Islam in the form of the Muslim Brotherhood. The unity is cracking. A decision by President Obama to refuse aid to the dictatorship, on the basis of American law, will be a critical rebuke to the Islamophobic infecting American foreign policy as a parallel to the anti-communism paradigm of the Cold War. An endorsement of the Egyptian coup will be seen by many as leaving no alternative to terrorism and armed struggle to Islamic movements.