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Should US suspend military aid to Egypt, to try to speed new elections?

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One explanation for this lack of US influence, some regional experts and critics of US policy say, is that the US has been reluctant to use its main leverage with Egypt – the $1.6 billion in annual aid (most of it military assistance) that makes Egypt the second-largest recipient of US aid, after Israel – to pressure leaders in their actions. The US should suspend that aid now, they say, to make clear to Egypt’s new military-backed powers that the US and the international community are demanding that certain steps – new elections, delivery of a new constitution – occur quickly. 

But for others, America's lack of influence is primarily a result of the little attention the US has paid to Egypt – even as this key Arab ally underwent a tumultuous and region-influencing revolution.

“We’ve been highly disengaged from Egypt over the past few years, and we’ve not built much of a relationship, haven’t been very active with the broad range of actors playing a role in Egypt today,” says Robert Danin, a former deputy assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern affairs who is now a Middle East senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington. “To the extent that we seem powerless now,” he adds, “it’s in part because we’ve not been clear about what we’ve wanted and the seriousness we attribute to it.”

The US ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, became a stand-out target of anti-Morsi demonstrators in the days preceding the president’s ouster. But if Ambassador Patterson came to symbolize a perceived US acquiescence to Morsi’s accumulation of powers and trampling of basic freedoms, it’s because neither the White House nor the State Department had been very public about US concerns over Morsi’s drift, some analysts say.

Now the US has something of a “second chance,” Mr. Danin says – but he cautions that, especially where the US is starting from, it can’t expect to simply order the results it wishes to see.

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