WASHINGTON — President Obama, in his first punitive response to the ouster of Mohammed Morsi as president of Egypt, has halted the delivery of four F-16 jets to the Egyptian air force.
Obama, administration officials said, wanted to send Egypt’s military-led government a signal of US displeasure with the chaotic situation there, marked by continued violence, the detention of Morsi and other leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, and a transition that has not included the Brotherhood.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel relayed the decision to General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the head of Egypt’s military, a senior official said, and did not say when the Pentagon might reschedule the delivery.
“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 Pentagon press secretary, George Little, said Wednesday.
The White House emphasized that the decision did not have implications for $1.5 billion in US aid to Egypt, which it has said it does not want to cut off for now. The administration is reviewing that aid but has scrupulously avoided referring to Morsi’s ouster as a coup, which could force its suspension on legal grounds.