Nightly News | August 16, 2013
>> u.s. has a lot riding on a democratic egypt , which it has long seen as a linchpin to its strategy for a secure and stable middle east . so what can the u.s. do to put pressure on the egyptian government to end the violence? a lot, actually, so why won't it? nbc's david gregory tonight on the obama administration caught between a rock and a hard place .
>> reporter: egypt 's bloody crackdown has critics asking whether american taxpayers are footing the bill for all the violen violence. why the blame? follow the money. the amount of u.s. aid to egypt is an estimated $1.5 billion each year, including aircraft and tanks and military training for officers. only four other countries, including israel and iraq, get more. the president may condemn the violence --
>> we deplore violence against civilians.
>> reporter: -- but won't call for an end to the aid. one adviser called that a, quote, knee-jerk move at this point. critics argue the time is now. america 's only leverage to pull egypt back from the brink is the money.
>> at the end of the day , i don't want american dollars to be used by this interim government to basically kill their way into power.
>> reporter: u.s. aid to egypt dates back to the camp david accords of 1979 . it buys the u.s. military 's access to the suez canal which connects the mediterranean to the red sea , ensures peace with israel and the sinai desert and is supposed to provide support for democracy in egypt . what democracy, you might ask, as the military has jailed democratically elected leaders and crushes protests in the street.
>> anybody in egypt looking at the united states would see that we really don't have a game plan. we don't have a strategy. we have not articulated how we want to see this end.
>> reporter: u.s. officials are hopeful egypt will pull back, noting the deep and historic ties between the u.s. and egyptian militaries. what's more, if america cuts off aid now, other countries have promised to fill the void.
>> if we were to cut off aid, we would have no leverage with anybody in egypt , which is really the strategic nerve center of the arab world .
>> that is why the stakes are so high here. but the real question is whether america lacks the influence it once had in the region. with centuries of religious and sectarian scores to settle. lester?