American Army Chief Suggests Egypt Aid Could Be Cut

General Martin Dempsey warns that the Egyptian army’s coup will have “consequences”.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington DC, November 15, 2011
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, answers questions from the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington DC, November 15, 2011 (Department of Defense/Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)

America’s top military officer warned in an interview that was broadcast on Sunday that “there will be consequences” to the Egyptian army’s removal of President Mohamed Morsi from office.

In the interview with CNN’s State of the Union that was taped on Wednesday, a day before the Egyptian army deposed the elected Islamist leader, General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned, “If this were to be seen as a coup, that would limit our ability to have the kind of relationship we think we need with the Egyptian armed forces.”

American law prohibits the continuation of $1.3 billion in annual aid for Egypt’s military if it’s deemed to have participated in a coup d’état — which is probably why administration officials have avoided using the word “coup” to describe what has happened in the Arab nation.

However, the army also played an instrumental role in forcing Hosni Mubarak, a former air force commander himself, to leave office more than two years amid nationwide protests and subsequently assumed power on an interim basis. That didn’t have an effect on American financial support.

Indeed, Dempsey admitted earlier in the interview that the generals had run “the country for several decades” and were only now “transitioning themselves to their role in a democracy.” He urged his Egyptian counterparts to play their “proper role” as an army — “which is to ensure stability but not try to influence the outcome.”

The army claims it won’t. In their ultimatum to Morsi on Monday, which gave the president 48 hours to meet the “people’s demands” as the streets of Alexandria, Cairo and Egypt’s other major cities filled with protesters, the military leadership said it refused to become “a party to the circle of politics or rule.” In a statement on Wednesday night, defense chief Abdul Fatah Sisi reiterated that the army needed to “remain distant from political action,” even as it had just overthrown the elected government of Egypt and suspended its constitution.