Obama Cancels US-Egypt Military Exercises but Not Foreign Aid

PHOTO: President Barack Obama makes a statement to the media regarding events in Egypt, from his rental vacation home in Chilmark Mass., on the island of Marthas Vineyard, on Aug. 15, 2013.

In a widely expected move, President Obama today canceled next month's joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercises, saying "our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back."

More significant, however, is what the president is not doing, despite the interim government's crackdown on Egyptian protesters that has left hundreds dead and thousands injured.

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The Obama administration is not pulling the $1.3 billion in annual foreign aid the U.S. provides to Egypt and the military-backed interim government responsible for the violence, which the president described as "deplorable."

"This morning, we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our bi-annual joint military exercise which was scheduled for next month," Obama said in his first public comments on the escalating crisis in Egypt.

"Going forward, I've asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we make take as necessary with respect to the U.S., Egyptian relationship."

Canceling the Bright Star joint military exercises, a longstanding sign of the cooperation between the United State and Egypt, is a public attempt by the Obama administration to voice its displeasure with the interim government in Egypt for its crackdown against supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.

"The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces," Obama said in brief remarks in Martha's Vineyard, where he is vacationing with his family in Massachusetts.

"We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom or that might makes right," Obama added.

"And today the United States extends its condolences to the families or those who were killed and those who were wounded."

At least 700 people have died and more than 3,000 injured during the violent clashes that swept throughout Egypt Wednesday, according to the health ministry.

The Obama administration fears that cutting off financial and military aid to Egypt, the United States' closest ally in the Arab World, could destabilize the region and jeopardize Israel's security.

"America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That's a task for the Egyptian people," Obama said. "We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure. I know it's tempting inside of Egypt to blame the United States or the West or some other outside actor for what's gone wrong.

"That kind of approach will do nothing to help Egyptians achieve the future that they deserve. We want Egypt to succeed. We want a peaceful, democratic, prosperous Egypt. That's our interest. But to achieve that, the Egyptians are going to have to do the work," he said.

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