WASHINGTON — The U.S. decision to suspend delivery of tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to Egypt is more of a symbolic slap than a punishing wound to the military-backed government for its slog toward a return to democratic rule.
Egypt is awash in the tanks and planes it would need to fight a conventional war, and spare parts from U.S. manufacturers will continue to be delivered.
The Obama administration’s announcement Wednesday did sound a warning that it no longer can be “business as usual” with Cairo, as President Barack Obama put, after the July 3 military coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected president, and led to the deaths of hundreds in police crackdowns on demonstrators.
In the short run, the suspension of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid will have little effect on Egypt’s military and its ability to defend itself. The cutoff probably will not do much damage to most of the companies with contracts to build such weapons
The State Department did not say how much of the $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to Egypt was affected. It held up the delivery of Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tank kits, which are put together in Egyptian factories, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.