Benghazi aftershocks affecting US policy in Egypt

By Bradley Klapper

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Aug. 19 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Monday the U.S. was still reviewing what economic programs could lose funding. She said most of the $250 million package would be unaffected because U.S. law allows for the continuation of aid related to elections, the environment and good governance. She didn't specify what law she was talking about; the U.S. law concerning a coup exempts money for democracy promotion from cuts.

The protection of American diplomatic assets has been another major, if up to now, unspoken element in U.S. policy considerations, officials said.

The administration doesn't worry that cutting aid would spark an attack on U.S. interests by Egypt's military-led interim authorities. But it does fear that an army already besieged by internal disorder from the deadly standoff in Cairo's streets to the increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula bordering Israel, could easily turn its cheek to threats against the United States if it is openly — and financially — expressing its opposition to Egyptian government policies.

Such a scenario would put Americans serving in an already dangerous environment in even greater peril, given Egypt's history of embassy breaches. Beside the U.S., demonstrators penetrated Israel's embassy in 2011 and damaged the facility before a late-night call from Obama spurred Egypt's military into restoring order.

Any attack targeting the U.S. overseas would be a political disaster for Obama, given the continued criticism over his administration's handling of the Sept. 11 attack in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. Congressional investigations continue almost a year later, and the United States has yet to bring a single perpetrator to justice — even if the Justice Department has filed sealed charges against several individuals for alleged involvement in the attack.

A repeat attack would be major blow to Obama as he tries to work with Congress on a domestic agenda including immigration, debt reduction and making his health care overhaul fully operational.

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