President Obama on Wednesday suspended delivery of four fighter jets to Egypt this week, the administration’s most visible response to the turmoil that followed a military coup early this month.
The hold on four F-16s manufactured by Lockheed Martin marks the first interruption in Washington’s robust defense-aid pipeline to Egypt, which has turned the Arab world’s most populous country into a regional military powerhouse.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the United States values its relationship with the Egyptian military and characterized the delay of the F-16s as a cautionary measure.
“We do not believe it would be in the best interest of the United States to immediately change all of our assistance to Egypt,” Little told reporters Wednesday. But “given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe it is appropriate to move forward at this time with the delivery of F-16s.”
The decision was announced shortly after Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel held an hour-long conversation with Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the Egyptian military chief, who this month deposed the country’s first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi, with the backing of a large segment of Egyptian society. A U.S. senior defense official said the move was not intended to be construed as punitive.