Following a CNN report that the U.S. was about to suspend its aid to Egypt, the White House released a statement Tuesday night pushing back on those claims. The CNN report, citing an unnamed U.S. official, said that the U.S. would suspend all military aid to the country in the "coming days," but hadn't yet informed Egypt of its decision. The story, which was featured on Tuesday's Anderson Cooper 360 and briefly led CNN's site, follows months of speculation on the U.S.'s pending decision on its annual $1.5 billion in support to the country after Egypt's military deposed a democratically-elected Islamist government. Here's the White House statement from NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden:
The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false. We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the President made clear at UNGA, that assistance relationship will continue.
It wasn't clear from CNN's first reports whether the rumored suspension would be across the board, a more limited suspension previously recommended by the president's national security advisors, or something even more limited than either of those options. Here's how CNN's national security reporter Jim Sciutto tweeted out the news on Tuesday:
US to suspend aid to #Egypt - "decision has been made...will take effect in coming days" - US official— Jim Sciutto (@jimsciutto) October 8, 2013
That's in contrast to whatever an anonymous source told Reuters, who reported that the president was "leaning" towards suspending some aid to the country, "except to promote counterterrorism, security in the Sinai Peninsula and other such priorities." Later on Tuesday, the Washington Post published a separate anonymously-sourced story (with a curious dateline of Bali, Indonesia) on a partial suspension of Egypt aid, writing that the U.S. will "announce curbs on most nonessential military aid to Egypt" in a few days. That has quite reasonably led some to focus in on the "all" in the White House's denial as a possible place for emphasis here:
My money is on this Egypt thing coming down to the word "all." Clearly an announcement coming that @jimsciutto got ahead of.— Matt Apuzzo (@mattapuzzo) October 9, 2013
The Washington Post report cautions that "the announcement could be postponed."According to the paper's source, the reported suspension would cover "most" of the $1.2 billion in annual military aid provided to the country. Other reporters asking the White House for comment on the rumored aid suspension were told earlier this evening that there's no news to discuss:
On cutting Egypt aid, WH says they have no new announcements to make at this time, FWIW— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) October 8, 2013
The U.S. still has about $584 million in aid remaining for Egypt in 2013. Last week, the administration reportedly deposited that amount in a federal bank for safekeeping while President Obama mulled over his options for suspending — or continuing — aid to Egypt.
The Obama administration has declined to determine whether the actions in Egypt constituted a coup or not, in part because calling the military overthrow of Mohammed Morsi's elected Islamist government a coup would automatically trigger a halt in U.S. aid to the country. The non-decision also allows the U.S. to turn aid on and off, in part or entirely, as the situation demands. The U.S. previously withheld some limited military aid to the country in August in response to an continued crackdown on supporters of Morsi's ousted government. While Egypt has been out of the headlines more or less ever since it looked like the U.S. was getting ready to bomb Syria, that's not because of any substantial improvement in the unrest in the country. Last weekend, at least 53 anti-military protesters died in Cairo clashes between pro-Morsi protesters and the military, who are backing the new, hand-picked government in the country. Nine members of the country's security forces were then killed, apparently in retaliation. Earlier on Tuesday, the White House expressed concern over the latest wave of violence.
The U.S. provides $1.5 billion in annual aid to Egypt, $1.2 billion of which is in military aid. Previously, the president was rumored to be considering a plan that would suspend only aid going directly to the Egyptian government (as opposed to other groups working in the country), and wouldn't include aid pertaining to security in the Sinai Peninsula.
This post has been updated with new information