The White House on Tuesday denied a news report that it has secretly frozen aid to Egypt’s military, effectively treating the ouster of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi as a coup despite publicly refusing to say so.
“The report that we have suspended assistance to Egypt is incorrect,” National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said. “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.”
That “no policy decisions” line leaves ample room for what amounts to an aid freeze by another name. The Obama administration has said it is reviewing the overall U.S.-Egypt relationship and could decide not to release all or part of the remaining funds in the annual aid package.
In terms of aid to the military, “approximately $585 million remains unobligated,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday. “It would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made with respect to the remaining assistance funding.”
"We have not made a decision to put a blanket hold," Psaki said. "We are reviewing each of those (aid) 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."
For weeks, top U.S. officials have said that cutting off assistance to Egypt’s military would harm American national security and risked ridicule by saying that the administration has decided not to decide whether Morsi’s ouster is a coup. Under U.S. law, that would trigger a suspension of aid.
But the Daily Beast reported Tuesday that the Obama administration has “temporarily suspended” aid, keeping with the spirit of the law if not the letter.
“The Obama administration has decided to temporarily suspend the disbursement of most direct military aid, the delivery of weapons to the Egyptian military, and some forms of economic aid to the Egyptian government while it conducts a broad review of the relationship,” the Daily Beast reported.
It cited the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who oversees foreign aid spending in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs.
Leahy spokesman David Carle said in a statement emailed to reporters Tuesday that the 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.”