Sen. Deb Fischer says it’s unclear how the United States should react to the violence that has erupted in Egypt.
Or, in Syria for that matter.
Fischer, who just returned from a trip to the Middle East, stops short of stating that a military coup removed President Mohammed Morsi from power in Egypt.
“I always have concerns when you have a democratically elected president who’s removed from office,” Fischer tells reporters during her weekly conference call.
Fischer, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is following diplomatic protocol in shying from the word “coup”.
Large sums of money hang on that small word.
If the United States were to declare the action in Egypt a coup, more than one billion dollars a year in aid to Egypt would end. The U.S. relies on that aid to keep the Suez Canal open and to provide it access to Egyptian air space.
Fischer says though the forced ouster of Morsi bothers her, she acknowledges American allies in the Middle East have expressed some relief that Morsi has been removed. A past leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi allowed little freedom in Egypt. The military has promised to schedule elections to find a new democratically elected leader.
Both Egypt and Syria, embroiled in civil war, present difficult foreign relations challenges to the United States.
Recent events raise more questions than answers for the United States, according to Fischer.
“Who do we back? Who are the players there? Who are we going to arm? How are we going to arm them? What kind of arms are we going to give them?” Fischer asks. “There’s a lot that we haven’t heard from the administration on.”
Fischer says America’s allies in the region want leadership from the United States.
Fischer says the Middle East has become a tough neighborhood.
“But this is also a neighborhood where the fight just isn’t in the neighborhood. It’s not just in the region. This influences the United States. It has a tremendous impact on our homeland as well.”
Fischer says America must maintain allies in the region, especially with reports that disclose Iran might soon have nuclear weapons capable of reaching the United States.
AUDIO: Sen. Fischer discusses unrest in Egypt and Syria during conference call with reporters. [5:30]