US lawmakers on Sunday called for cutting off military aid to Egypt after its security forces killed hundreds of supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in a four-day “massacre.”
US Senator John McCain, who called for suspending the $1.3 billion in annual aid to the military after it overthrew Morsi in early July, said Washington risked losing credibility if it continued to turn a blind eye to the bloody crackdown.
“They have orchestrated a massacre,” he said, after the four-day death toll from mass shootings and street clashes climbed to more than 750 people.
“We have no credibility. We do have influence, but when you don’t use that influence, then you do not have that influence,” McCain, a Republican hawk and frequent critic of Obama’s foreign policy, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
McCain suggested Washington could pressure Egypt’s generals by cutting off aid, spare parts for US-made military equipment and backing for an International Monetary Fund loan to relieve the country’s devastated economy.
“For us to sit by and watch this happen is a violation of everything that we stand for,” he said.
Senator Rand Paul, a rising star in the Republican Party, also called for cutting off aid, saying on “Fox News Sunday”: “I don’t think we are buying any love of the Egyptian people when they see an American tank on the street.”
Obama last week canceled joint military exercises but has yet to suspend aid to Egypt, a key Middle East ally and one of just two Arab countries to have signed a peace treaty with Israel.
The administration has refused to call Morsi’s overthrow a “coup,” which would require it to cut off aid, saying it hoped to steer the country toward a democratic transition.
Democratic Senator Blumenthal said the administration should “condition our future aid on specific steps toward the rule of law and the return to democracy.”
“We shouldn’t cut off all aid. There are no good choices here. But of the two, there is more opportunity to protect American interests if we work with the military,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”
The military has defended its overthrow of Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, as a response to massive protests against his rule. It has blamed the violence on Morsi’s Islamist backers, whom it refers to as “terrorists.”