Human Rights Concerns Prompt US to Pause Egypt’s $235mn Military Aid
A range of critical human rights issues has pushed the US to pause Egypt’s military financing. Ben Cardin, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, said he will block future foreign military funds as well as sale of arms to the government of Egypt if it fails to take meaningful and sustainable steps to improve the country’s human rights conditions.
This comes after the US State Department was criticized over its decision to use a national security waiver to bypass human rights-related restrictions imposed on $235 million for military aid. Washington has withheld the aid for the past two years because of Egypt’s repressive policies.
Critics lashed out at the Biden administration saying US’s relationship with the most populous country in the region is too important to risk fracturing despite human rights activists demanding a much harder stance.
State Department officials argued that the US has serious concerns about the human rights situation in Egypt. They said $235 million does not reflect any less emphasis on Egypt’s human rights.
US is Not Doing Enough
Mai El-Sadany, the executive director of Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, welcomed the Biden administration’s decision to withhold the funding, but believes more needs to be done. She said there has been no meaningful progress on Egypt’s human rights.
“Failing to condition the full amount allowed under the law will provide cover to Egyptian authorities which they will weaponize to justify and intensify this continued repression mere months ahead of scheduled presidential elections.”
In August, the Foreign Affairs Committee wrote to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging that Egypt be denied foreign military funding. The letter highlighted persistent and continued systemic violations of human rights, including detention and abuse of thousands of journalists, peaceful civil society activists, human rights defenders and political figures.
Egypt Top Beneficiary of US Military Aid
Reports say Egypt was a top recipient of the US military aid since the two countries brokered the 1979 peace deal with Israel. But in recent years, because of the human rights situation in Egypt the Congress has been forced to restrict aid.
The US lawmakers are divided about taking a hard line approach because of strategic interests in Egypt. International human rights advocates believe the US presidents back oppressive leaders in the Middle East in the name of stability.