Congress has withheld the annual $1.5 billion aid since the crisis with the American NGO workers began. In addition, a law passed by the U.S. Congress in December prohibits sending the aid unless the U.S. State Department can avow that Egypt is beginning to give basic freedoms and human rights to its citizens.
News outlets across America are reporting that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are planning to circumvent that law on national security grounds. The sources cited in the reports are senior administration officials and others who have been privy to this information but who are not at liberty to speak publicly.
Administration sources explained that ?national security grounds? means that withholding the aid will worsen America?s ties with Egyptians leaders, including the military, which still holds the power over the government.
Under the plan, as reported by The New York Times, Egypt would receive incremental amounts of the aid money, not in a lump sum as has always been the practice. The idea of the smaller sums would be so that the U.S. could maintain at least a modicum of pressure on Egypt.
Obama is also wary of creating mass unemployment among the many U.S. defense contractors that benefit from the Egyptian aid money during an election year. Human rights organizations have commented on the pressure exerted by the Pentagon to release the funds.
?That?s not a negligible factor. If contracts can?t be paid, production lines will shut down and jobs will be lost,? acknowledged one senior administration official. ?But those aspects have to be balanced against other factors such as our ability to work with the new government, how much democratic progress has been made and where we still have concerns.?
At the same time, the U.S. would like to see who will win the Egyptian presidential elections, although with an Islamist majority recently elected to the Egyptian parliament, there is no reason to believe the presidential election will not go the same way.