Obama Won't Call Egypt a 'Coup' Any Time Soon

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The Obama administration, faced with the question of whether the series of events in Egypt that led to the ouster of former president Muhammed Morsi was a coup or not, have decided not to make a final judgement in the near future. In doing so, they have, by default, declined to call it a "coup," ensuring that the U.S. will continue to provide $1.5 billion in annual aid to the country.

Here's why, according to the Associated Press (hint: it has a lot to do with that continued aid): 

The administration has been forced into difficult contortions to justify not declaring a coup d'etat, which would prompt the automatic suspension of American assistance programs under U.S. law. Washington fears that halting such funding could imperil programs that help to secure Israel’s border and fight weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, among other things seen as critical to U.S. national security.

The non-decision leaves a door open for the administration to call the 2013 overthrow of the Egyptian government a coup in the future, but that would probably happen only if the U.S. loosened a restriction requiring the government to cut off all foreign aid to a country in the event of a coup. There are already a few members of Congress interested in pursuing those changes, including Republican senators Jim Inhofe and Bob Corker. 

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But the Egyptian military's decision to overthrow the democratically-elected, Muslim Brotherhood-led government of the country hasn't been without consequence from the U.S., albeit relatively small. The U.S.'s eventual decision to slow down a plan to provide Egypt with four F-16 fighter jets indicates their displeasure with the manner in which the military has handled the removal of the elected government from power. Meanwhile, the army is calling for mass rallies on Friday in order to grant them a "mandate" to crack down on pro-Morsi protests across the country. That's ahead of a Saturday deadline, set by the military, for Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood to stop rallying against them. 

The administration's refusal to call the events a coup puts them at odds with the AP's go-ahead earlier this month for their journalists (and the many, many journalists outside of the AP who follow their style guide) to use the word "coup" to describe the governmental overthrow in Egypt, so long as reporters specify that the military takeover occurred in the midst of a popular uprising against the government. The AP's decision was prompted by the military's crackdown on Morsi supporters in the wake of the takeover, and the dissolution of its elected parliament. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.