When is a coup not a coup? Apparently President Barack Obama is still trying to figure that out.
The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that it is delaying the shipment of several F-16 fighter jets to Egypt while the Obama administration tries to figure out whether the July 3 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi was in fact a military coup.
If it was a coup, military aid must halt, under U.S. law. That means an end to the $1.3 billion in aid that the U.S. sends to Egypt each year. But since Morsi’s swift removal from power by the Egyptian military, U.S. officials have been reluctant to call it a coup. And they’ve been reluctant to abandon the country, one of the most strategic and vital nations in the region to U.S. security.
Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said that the decision to stop the delivery of the fighter jets was made by Obama himself. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi directly on Wednesday to deliver the news.
“Just given the overall situation in Egypt right now we thought it prudent to make this decision,” Little said. “We remain committed to the U.S.-Egypt defense relationship as it remains a foundation of our broader strategic partnership with Egypt and serves as pillar for regional stability.”
Little said the Defense Department is going ahead with a long-standing military exercise with Egypt called Bright Star.
“Moving forward, everything that we do and say will continue to be focused on hastening Egypt’s return to a democratically elected government as soon as possible,” Little said.
Just not with the help of American F-16s.