President Obama on Thursday offered tough talk and a small — and perhaps symbolic — action to condemn the bloodshed in the streets of Cairo, keeping strategic aid in place while canceling a long-standing military exercise with Egypt.
"Our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual as civilians are being killed in the streets, rights are being rolled back," the president said in a statement while on vacation in Martha's Vineyard. But don't mistake these words for the president completely cutting off ties with the region. He made no mention of the contested $1.3 billion that the U.S. sends in aid to the Egyptian government, which includes such items as jet fighters. Instead, the president announced he will cancel a joint military exercise between the U.S. and Egypt called Bright Star, a tradition stemming from the 1978 Camp David Accords.
Obama also stressed that the United States will not be taking political sides in Egypt. "America cannot determine the future of Egypt," he said. "That is a task for the Egyptian people. We don't take sides for any particular party or political movement."
Yet he had some harsh words for the now-defunct Morsi government. "His government wasn't inclusive and didn't respect the views of all Egyptians," Obama said. But the current power structure in place is objectively no better. The latest reports say more than 520 are dead in Egypt after Wednesday's violence in Cairo. "We've seen a more dangerous path taken," the president said. "The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians."