When Egypt's first democratically elected president was tossed out this year, the White House stopped short of calling it a coup.
Doing so would have forced an end to the $1.23 billion that the United States sends in military aid a year -- and changed the course of its relationship with its strongest Arab ally in the region.
But that was before Wednesday, when the military-led interim government stormed two camps full of former President Mohamed Morsy's supporters. More than 525 people were killed and 3,717 wounded in the bloodiest day in Egypt's recent history, officials there said.
On Thursday, President Barack Obama condemned the violence against civilians and announced the United States is canceling next month's joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercises.
But will the carnage in Egypt spur more changes in U.S. policy toward the most populous Arab country? And might the hardening U.S. stance affect Egypt's own approach?
The short answer: We'll have to wait and see.
'A hornets' nest'
The United States helps Egypt in part because it's one of only two Arab countries -- along with Jordan -- that made peace with Israel.
In return, Egypt gets more than $1 billion each year in U.S. taxpayer money for military and civilian programs. No other country except Israel gets more.
That aid buys Washington an ally to depend on in a turbulent region.
The U.S. doesn't want to upset that balance. And pulling aid might do so.
"It's a hornets' nest. And that's why the administration is trying not to stir it too much," CNN's Fareed Zakaria said.
Give up some to get some
But it's not just the peace process and regional stability that the United States is interested in.
Egypt controls the Suez Canal, a crucial sea route used by more than 4% of the world's oil traffic and 8% of all seaborne trade. So far, the canal is running smoothly. But a disruption there could end up hitting Americans in the pocketbook, not to mention affect the safe passage of U.S. military ships and equipment.
Then there's business for American companies, intelligence cooperation -- and the military relationship.
"The reality is that the Egyptian military has not only been a source of stability for the United States in an otherwise turbulent Middle East, but it has also been a cash cow," said Khairi Abaza, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"Currently, the Egyptian military relies on U.S. military equipment, training and services. This reliance means that Egypt is essentially a client of the U.S. military complex, and aid money is in fact re-injected back into the U.S. economy."
All of the factors are enough to give the U.S. pause.
"We need to have a discussion about the costs and benefits of different relationships with the Egyptians, and the Egyptians need to have the same about their relationship with us," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"If you want a different relationship, you have to articulate what that looks like, and accept you are going to have to give up some things to get other things."
'A really tough dilemma'
From the Obama administration's side, it's an "incredibly complex and difficult situation" that will require more time to figure out.
That's what White House spokesman Jay Carney said in July soon after Morsy was ousted, and reporters pressed him as to why the administration wasn't calling it a coup.
"It would not be in the best interests of the United States to immediately change our assistance programs" to Egypt, Carney said at the time.