Two Egyptian government officials are telling Reuters that the standoff between the US and Egypt over their proseuction of 19 Americans who work for NGO's is likely to end soon because Egypt can't afford to lose the $1.3 billion in aid we give them every year.
Some of the U.S. citizens, belonging to the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute (NDI) and International Republican Institute (IRI), sought refuge in the American Embassy.
Washington has asked Egypt to drop the travel bans and allow the groups targeted in the investigation to resume their work. Both Congress and the White House have warned that the crackdown could threaten its yearly $1.3 billion U.S. military support.
Egypt's government has thrown up its hands, saying it cannot interfere in judicial business, and reacted with indignation to U.S. criticism of the crackdown. One minister said Egypt does "not accept threats from the United States."
Washington is unlikely to accept the government's claim of impartiality in the case, which underscores tensions between the two long-standing allies since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February.
But two officials involved in Egypt's diplomatic strategy said the army rulers want to ease the tension to ensure the aid keeps flowing and get American help to ensure favorable terms for an International Monetary Fund support package for Egypt.
"The travel ban will be lifted and the escalation will cease," one of the officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "Egypt needs the loans and the IMF funds to come through, but better terms are needed."
He said army leaders believed the U.S. government can help Egypt secure the IMF money on favorable terms.
The second official said: "A more manageable IMF deal and maintaining the military aid are high priorities for the generals."
The problem appears to be that the Egyptian government is riven by factions and that the faction pushing the prosecution of the Americans doesn't care about the aid or the IMF loan.
Do the factions who realize Egypt would be in serious trouble without US help have the juice to end the standoff? The Muslim Brotherhood is supporting the prosecutions, although it is unclear how much influence they carry at this point with the military who still rule the country with an iron fist.
This is the military's problem, not the MB's. It will need a solution that comes solely from the military, hopefully sooner rather than later.