Hagel: US has 'limited' influence over Egypt

The United States has limited influence on the unfolding violence in Egypt, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday.

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“Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is limited,” Hagel told reporters Monday at a joint press conference with Chinese Defense Minister Gen. Chang Wanquan. “It’s up to the Egyptian people. They are a large, great sovereign nation. And it will be their responsibility to sort this out.”

Hagel added that all countries have limited ability to influence another nation's "internal issues" and that he didn’t believe the United States “is without influence” in Egypt.

"I don't think the United States is without influence, but that has to be a collaborative effort focused on what the Egyptian people want, supporting the Egyptian people," he said.

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Hagel’s remarks come amid growing pressure from lawmakers for the United States to suspend $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt after the violent crackdown on Egyptian protestors that left hundreds dead.

The Obama administration has canceled a bilateral military exercise and delayed the delivery of four F-16s to Egypt, but it has opted not to suspend military aid.

An important part of the debate is over how much leverage the aid gives U.S. leaders to convince the Egyptian military to lift the national emergency and hold new elections.

Republicans have criticized the way the administration has responded to the conflict, arguing that Obama hasn’t wielded enough power to influence events.

“Whether it is Egypt, Syria, Iraq, or the wider region, the failure of the Obama Administration to use our influence to shape events in this critical part of the world has only diminished our credibility, limited our influence, and constrained our policy options,” Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Friday in a joint statement.

Hagel has been in frequent contact with the leader of the Egyptian military, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, after the military ousted former President Mohamed Morsi last month.

The Defense secretary said that he and other U.S. officials have had a “consistent” message to Sisi, urging an end to the violence and political reconciliation.

Hagel did not comment on a report that the Obama administration was considering stopping a delivery new Apache helicopters to Egypt, saying the U.S. is constantly reviewing “all aspects” of the U.S.-Egypt relationship.

He also didn’t weigh in on comments from the Saudi Arabian foreign minister who said Arab nations would step in to provide any aid to Egypt that was cut.