1. Before this coup, there was another coup — and I’m not referring to the events that brought about the downfall of the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011. In November, Mursi initiated an internal coup, placing himself, by decree, above the law to make sure that his Islamist constitution would be approved.
It was at this moment that the Obama administration should have considered suspending aid. As we now know, the White House didn’t consider doing very much at all. It maintained its close relations with Mursi, and mostly ignored the intense anger his actions sparked among Egyptians, anger that eventually exploded last week in mass demonstrations against his rule.
If the U.S. cuts aid now when it refused to do so after Mursi’s grab for absolute power, it will permanently alienate the millions of Egyptians who believed, with good reason, that Mursi was attempting to turn himself into an Islamist Mubarak. And these Egyptians — the ones who demonstrated against Mursi last week — are precisely the sort of liberals (or, at least, anti-fundamentalists) the U.S. should be cultivating.
2. Egypt’s military is preventing the Sinai Peninsula from becoming a haven for al-Qaeda and similar groups. If terrorists take over stretches of Sinai, they will launch attacks on Israel. Israel will respond by invading Sinai (again). This is not something the U.S. wants. What the U.S. wants is to maintain leverage over the Egyptian military in order to encourage it, and equip it, to prevent the spread of al-Qaeda-like extremism. Chaos in Sinai is not only a threat to Israel, but also to Jordan and the U.S. Chaos in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria isn’t in the best interests of the U.S. either, and that appears to have been where Egypt was heading last week.