A pair of Republican senators on Friday urged the Obama administration to suspend U.S. aid to Egypt amid growing violence in the north African nation.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said continuing aid programs that benefit Egypt’s interim government and military are “neither in our long-term national interest nor consistent with our values and laws.”
“The massacre of civilians this week in Egypt has brought our longstanding relationship with that country to a fork in the road,” the senators said in a prepared statement. “The interim civilian government and security forces – backed up, unfortunately, by the military — are taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them.”
Their statement comes after hundreds died this week in Egypt as supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi launched demonstrations in defiance of a military-imposed state of emergency.
President Obama on Thursday halted plans for joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises, but stopped short of withholding $1.5 billion in annual U.S. military aid.
The senators blamed the president for not doing enough to curb the violence, saying that while American influence in Egypt and the Middle East is limited, “the failure of the Obama administration to use our influence to shape events in this critical part of the world has only diminished our credibility, limited our influence and constrained our policy options.”
“The events now unfolding in Egypt and the Middle East will directly impact the national security interests of the United States, and we cannot remain disengaged,” they said.
McCain has hardened his stance toward Egypt in recent weeks. Last month, he said while he would prefer U.S. aid to Egypt continue, U.S. law mandates that foreign assistance be cut off after a military coup against an elected government.
“I do not want to suspend our critical assistance to Egypt, but I believe that is the right thing to do at this time,” he said at the time.
But on Friday, McCain said this week’s “horrific violence has only made the difficult goal of national reconciliation in Egypt even harder to achieve, but there is no decent or effective alternative to that process.”
McCain and Graham called on the Egyptian people themselves to take steps necessary to restore calm and “save Egypt from a future of protracted instability and stagnation.”