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“By doing that, the message is muddled,” he said.

The U.S. provides Egypt with about $1.5 billion in annual aid, $1.3 billion of which is for the military. This aid helps secure U.S. strategic interests in the region, particularly priority access to the Suez Canal for the U.S. military and Egypt’s compliance with its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

“The Egyptian generals probably will pull back some of those privileges at least temporarily in response to a partial suspension of U.S. aid,” said Paul Pillar, a CIA veteran and former national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia.

Much of the $1.3 billion in aid to the Egyptian military is used to purchase defense equipment from U.S. firms.

“The U.S. needed to send a strong signal to Egypt because of the levels of violence in that country,” said William Lawrence, a visiting professor at George Washington University. “I question how practical this is to do because a lot of these are multiyear contracts on the military side that are hard to turn off and hurt U.S. business as much as they hurt the Egyptians.”