The United States has decided to resume its military assistance to Egypt despite the continued tyrannical state of affairs that first prompted President Barack Obama to halt sending weapons to the Middle Eastern country.
Obama even personally called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to inform him of the decision to resume $1.3 billion in annual arms assistance to a country that has been without a parliament for nearly three years.
In addition to Sisi ruling without a legislative body, or any scheduled upcoming elections, Egypt has imprisoned journalists, prosecuted gays and lesbians, and carried out mass executions of protesters.
Obama had imposed the arms freeze after Egypt’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government in 2013. Sisi helped lead the coup that removed President Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood from power. More than 40,000 people were arrested in the immediate aftermath of Sisi’s takeover, none of whom have ever been accounted for.
Obama’s concerns over the ongoing human rights situation were finally trumped by national security matters, according to The New York Times.
“The decision signaled a trade-off for a president who has spoken in support of democracy and human rights but finds himself in need of friends at a volatile time in a bloody part of the world,” the Times’ Peter Baker wrote. “The White House made no effort to assert that Egypt had made the ‘credible progress’ toward democracy that Mr. Obama demanded when he halted the arms deliveries in October 2013. Instead, the decision was justified as being ‘in the interest of U.S. national security,’ as the White House put it in a statement.”
Obama’s turnabout will result in Egypt receiving 12 F-16 fighter jets and 20 Harpoon missiles, plus equipment and ordinance for 125 M1A1 Abrams tanks.
“This isn’t their intention, but it will be read by Sisi as acceptance of his legitimacy and a desire to satisfy his demands in their relationship,” Amy Hawthorne, a senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told theTimes.
Administration officials cited insurgent attacks in Egypt’s Sinai among the reasons for restoring the military relationship between Washington and Cairo. Egypt has agreed to help Saudia Arabia’s intervention in Yemen and be a part of a new combined military force with other Arab states. In February, Egypt engaged in a retaliatory airstrike against Islamic militants in Libya who had beheaded Egyptian Christians.
Only last year, Human Rights Watch reported that Sisi’s “security forces have carried out mass arrests and torture that harken back to the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak’s rule.”
“Obama’s move is as unsurprising as it is noxious,” wrote The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, “as American political elites — from Bill and Hillary Clinton to Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright — along with the Israeli Right have been heaping praise on Sisi the way they did for decades on Mubarak.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman
To Learn More:
Obama Removes Weapons Freeze Against Egypt (by Peter Baker, New York Times)
Obama Personally Tells the Egyptian Dictator that U.S. Will Again Send Weapons (and Cash) to His Regime (by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept)
Why Is Egypt Prosecuting Human Rights Defenders? (by Francoise Girard, World Post)
Egypt Court Defers Parliamentary Election: Judicial Sources (Reuters)
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