July 8th, 2013
08:53 PM ET

U.S. avoids calling Egypt's uprising a coup

By Elise Labott

While America's top military officials continue in-depth discussions with their counterparts in Egypt, the Obama administration is looking how to map America's relations with the crucial Middle East ally.

Top officials huddled at the White House again on Monday to discuss the issue.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel once again talked with Gen. Abdel Fattah al Sisi, Egypt's defense minister.

It's at least the fourth time Hagel has spoken to Sisi in the past week, both before and after his military deposed Egypt's first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsy, and put him under house arrest.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said the conversations "have been lengthy and very candid."

A defense official, who requested anonymity, says some of the calls "have lasted nearly two hours."

Meanwhile, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has also had two calls with the chief of staff of Egypt's armed forces, Lt. Gen. Sedki Sobhi.

The importance of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, which has been developing since the Carter-era Camp David Peace Accords, is evidenced by how carefully government officials are avoiding labeling the past week's developments a "military coup."

If Morsy's removal were to be called a coup, under U.S. law, more than $1 billion in military aid to Egypt would have to be slashed.

Israel is concerned that such a cut could jeopardize the peace treaty between the two countries

Israel and Egypt are the two biggest recipients of American military aid.

The determination of whether a coup took place is generally made by the State Department's Legal Advisor Office.

But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki described it as an interagency process on Monday.

Psaki also said that the fact tens of millions of Egyptians supported the move and did not consider this a coup would be factored into the deliberations.

Senior U.S. officials say the administration is examining three potential options – calling events in Egypt a coup and cutting off aid; calling it a coup and issuing a national security waiver; or not determining it a coup, recognizing that the military has taken steps to move the country toward a civilian transitional government and move toward elections.

White House spokesman Jay Carney suggested what happens next will be very important.

"Our relationship with Egypt is not limited to or defined solely by the assistance that we provide to Egypt. It is broader and deeper than that, and it is bound up in America's support for the aspirations of the Egyptian people for democracy, for a better economic and political future, and we support that," Carney said.

"So our decisions with regards to the events that have happened recently in Egypt will be - and how we label them and analyze them will be made with our policy objectives in mind, in accordance with the law and in accordance with any consultation with Congress," he said.

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Filed under: Dempsey • Egypt • Mohammed Morsy • State Department
soundoff (15 Responses)
  1. Luke

    People in the west have really no idea what is going on in EGypt, do they? Millions of people went down in protest against President Morsy. They wanted him to leave office because he has been a complete failure for 1 year. Regardless of the reasons of the failure, he was not fit to take over this office. And the people told him LEAVE. The military chose the side of the people. What is the difference between 2011 and 2013? That Omar Sulaiman said Mubarak stepped down? And in 2013 the Military said Egypt has a new president? In 2011 the military council took over power for 1.5 years, and not a single mouth uttered the word COUP. But now.... Now of course, as this 2013 revolution was not in the plan of certain powerful politicians, it is not called a revolution. But as cautious as they are they neither clearly call it a coup. But on th eother hand what is happening in Egypt now, some small groups of terrorists, very similar to the ones that wer fought before, are appearing in Egypt. And here also the american administration is not branding them as terrorists yet.... It is a fine line between being called a terrorist and a "free army". Someone is stalling in taking sides here. Someone is waiting ofr the first big mistake, to clearly state that it is either a coup against a free army, or a heroic egyptian army against terrorosts..... STOP PLAYING POLITICS FOR ONCE..... HEAR THE PEOPLE FOR ONCE.......

    July 10, 2013 at 1:56 am | Reply
  2. StanCalif

    When "we, the USA" call for elections in countries that don't have any knowledge of how politics work and "the people" vote "the wrong way", what do we expect??? Was Karsai "elected" democratically? No, people vote how they were told to vote. The general public in these countries have no knowledge and no experience in "democracy". They vote how they are "told" to vote, or risk retribution (no such thing as a secret ballot). No "free election" can be conducted until there is some rule of law and some stability in place. Rioters are not qualified to cast unbiased ballots.
    The British knew this centuries ago. Hong Kong would never have survived and succeeded if the British held "free elections" until after being colonized and educated! This process took how long? Certainly not just a year!

    July 9, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  3. California

    This administration couldn't call the Ft. Hood shooter a terrorist either. Democrats are very ignorant.

    July 9, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Reply
    • Pete

      @California,hey look into a mirror lately bud..Truelly the hypocric here and prove me otherwise.You did vote for Bush both times didn't yah,an ignorent as well as being in denile right!!

      July 10, 2013 at 9:45 am | Reply
  4. Pete

    That's fine with me cut out all foriegn aid as I've said before to all countries and see what happens..They'll fall like economic dominoes not being able to exist without their monthly handout from Uncle Sam..Just see how these so called allied countries work with us in the future if the money is turned off and they have to do it on their own for once,just watch the bad mouthing of America begin as soon as their aid runs out,nothing new in life when you have bloodsucking relatives bumming off you all the time and you're crap when their money runs out as well...Just take care of our own here first and let them fend for themselves for once,a little wakeup call to countries is good for them once in a while isn't it!!!

    July 9, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Reply
  5. BANGASH

    Although Americans always have double stander being a champions of democracy therefore it is not unexpected that they still show reluctance in calling it a coup. USA President Obama being a democrat has no reason to keep silence and this coup expose their real face. Now world should know that Americans killed thousands in the name of democracy in Iraq to bring down Dictator Saddam and same they did in Libya. So USA has no right any more to call her self as democrates if they continue silence on military coup in Egypt.

    July 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
  6. Towel Heads

    It's a Towel Head vs. Towel Head cage match!

    July 9, 2013 at 9:32 am | Reply
  7. Ahmed

    It's a military coup , or a military intervention in the political life under the name of millions of the people.on the one hand It's not welcomed step from the military , and on the other hand It wasn't acceptable to let Dr.Morsi in power after his last speech. "My personal opinion as an Egyptian Citizen"

    July 9, 2013 at 7:09 am | Reply
  8. USMC1371

    If sounds like a coup, looks like a coup, then it must be a coup! Now save our tax dollars for use at home and let them clean up their own mess.

    July 9, 2013 at 7:05 am | Reply
    • Ahmed

      you are right USMC1371 , please encourage the American Administration to save your tax dollars for you at home and to let us clean up our own mess. believe me we could do , and we could have done without the American intervention in everything in our political life. I agree with you!

      July 9, 2013 at 7:16 am | Reply
      • Thinker23

        As much as I would like to believe you I'm pretty skeptical about the ability of the Egyptians to clean their own mess. After all, they somehow did not clean it since the days of King Farouk, did they?

        July 9, 2013 at 8:05 am |
    • Ahmed

      Actually they have done it well after the King Farouk ; during the period of Nasser and until the weak regime ; who allowed the foreign intervention, has come.

      July 9, 2013 at 8:20 am | Reply
  9. scorpioman

    Perhaps the WH and Dept. of State might wish to consult Google to obtain a definition of a military Coup.
    I did so and found this answer below. IMO this definition sure sounds just like what transpired recently in Egypt.

    "A military coup (d'etat) is an organized action by the armed forces of a country meant to overthrow and replace its government. It can be successful (the former government is replaced by a new one controlled by the military) or not (the government stays in power), it can be temporary (the military relinquishes power quickly) or permanent (the military remains in control for lengthy periods of time), bloody or bloodless."

    July 9, 2013 at 12:38 am | Reply
  10. SISI IS THAT NAME OF ARMY CHIEF....SISI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    IT IS A COUP....ARMY THUGS COUP...NOW THE ARMY IS KILLING THE PEOPLE!!!! SISI GIRL THE GENERAL....MUST BE HANGED.....................

    July 8, 2013 at 11:33 pm | Reply

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