Why the secrecy? The administration wants to maintain "flexibility." The aid in question won't be delivered until the end of September which gives the administration time to try to wiggle out from under the requirements of the law that stipulate a cutoff if there is a military coup.
The administration's public message is that $585 million of promised aid to the Egyptian military in fiscal 2013 is not officially on hold, as technically it is not due until September 30, the end of the fiscal year, and no final decisions have been made.
"After sequestration withholding, approximately $585 million remains unobligated. So, that is the amount that is unobligated," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday. "But it would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made with respect to the remaining assistance funding."
But two administration officials told The Daily Beast that administration lawyers decided it was best to observe the law restricting military aid on a temporary basis, as if there had been a coup designation, while at the same time deciding that the law did not require a public announcement on whether a coup took place.
"The decision was we're going to avoid saying it was a coup, but to stay on the safe side of the law, we are going to act as if the designation has been made for now," said one administration official. "By not announcing the decision, it gives the administration the flexibility to reverse it."
Several parts of the aid are now temporarily on hold, including the disbursement of the $585 million of $1.3 billion in fiscal 2013 foreign military financing still not delivered to the Egyptian military, the delivery of Apache helicopters that the Egyptian government has already paid for, and the depositing of economic support funds for programs that would directly benefit the Egyptian government, despite official administration denials, the administration officials said.
You would hope that between now and September that the administration would wake up and realize that Egypt simply isn't that important anymore. What was once the cultural and economic center of the Arab world is now a basket case, in full societal meltdown:
After decades of mismanagement by corrupt generals and bureaucrats, Egypt is an economic basket case. It has few valuable resources to sell the world, and its mostly impoverished people don't have the money to buy anything from the world, either. Even the Chinese, who aren't deterred by political instability or violence, aren't exactly queuing up to invest in Egypt.
While Egypt has weakened over the past four decades, several other regional players have grown stronger and more ambitious. Some of these - Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey - are American allies (much of the time, anyway), which means Egypt's utility to the U.S. as an interlocutor to the Arab world is greatly diminished. Washington might have valued Egypt's support for its efforts in Syria, but an Egypt run by brute generals presiding over the slaughter of their own civilians is hardly a credible partner in dealing with Bashar Assad.
As for that other crucial American concern, Egypt is no longer a serious threat to Israel: the balance of military power is entirely lopsided in Israel's favor. It was remarkable how quickly Morsi, when he was elected President last year, moved to reassure everyone that he would adhere to the peace treaty between the two countries. All the main constituencies in Egypt (Islamists, liberals and the military) know if they went to war with Israel, their country would be reduced to rubble.
Nor is there a great risk that Egypt may endanger Israel by arming - or allowing others to arm - Hamas in Gaza. For one thing, most Egyptians (the Islamists included) fear and distrust the Palestinian militants. For another, Israel has demonstrated repeatedly that it is perfectly capable of choking off Hamas' supply lines.
The point is simple; we can safely discard Egypt as a putative ally, save ourselves about $3 billion a year, and not threaten the safety and security of the Israelis.
The administration should go ahead and declare that the change in government was a military coup - which everyone knows it is - and permanently suspend aid. Even if secularlists take control, the military isn't going anywhere. Propping up this corrupt regime should end.