Amid Egypt rights abuses, U.S. stalls over more military aid

Amid Egypt rights abuses, U.S. stalls over more military aid

Despite resuming some military aid, the United States appears unlikely to quickly restore the close ties with Egypt that framed U.S. Middle East policy for decades, as concerns persist over the authoritarian crackdown since last year's military takeover, Reuters reported.

Even as Egypt prepares for elections this month that could give new legitimacy to the country's military-backed leaders, many Obama administration officials question the need to restore Egypt to its place as the premier U.S. partner in the Arab world.

Washington's caution reflects a desire to help Egypt nip a mounting insurgency in the bud without being seen as sanctioning the interim government's repression of political opponents and the media.

The focus of bilateral aid, at least for the time being, is on confronting the militant threat and other security issues while U.S. officials assess how the country's next government responds to demands to halt the harsh treatment of dissent.

"Going back to the status quo of the past 30 years is not really an option that's available to us," a senior administration official said on condition of anonymity.

Egypt has been the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid since its landmark peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But the policy was upended by the political transformations triggered by the 2011 popular uprising that toppled President Hosni Mubarak.

After the army last July ousted Mohamed Mursi, the Islamist leader elected after that uprising, Washington responded by freezing much of the annual $1.3 billion in military aid.

On April 22, the U.S. government relaxed its position and said it would provide $650 million in military financing, a move which required Secretary of State John Kerry to certify Egypt was maintaining its peace treaty with Israel. It also announced that it separately would send Egypt 10 U.S. Apache helicopters to help it fight insurgents.

Washington continues to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars more in aid, along with other hardware that Egypt had requested, including Harpoon missiles and fighter jets.

"Egypt is a very hard country to support right now, even in Washington among those who are strong defenders of the relationship," said Amy Hawthorne, a former State Department official now with the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank.

"This recent aid decision is about getting parts of our relationship back on track - but it's far from a warm embrace."

Egypt has pursued a campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist party that propelled Mursi to power. Western officials have condemned mass death sentences for Muslim Brotherhood supporters as well as repression of other opposition parties and imprisonment of some journalists.

"The Obama administration wants to keep working with Egypt on regional security and counterterrorism - but at the same time it wants to send a message about the political transition and the need for greater respect for basic human rights," said Brian Katulis, an analyst at the Center for American Progress.

"In trying to split the difference between these two goals, the United States has sent an unclear message to Egyptians."

David Schenker, a former Pentagon official now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think-tank, said the Defense Department was eager to move America's strategic relationship with Egypt back to a more normal footing.

Egypt has been key to U.S. military activity in the region, allowing U.S. aircraft to fly over Egypt and facilitating U.S. ships' transit in the Suez Canal.

The timing of the decision last month to resume the $650 million in military financing was driven mainly by the U.S. government's need to make payments at the end of April to defense contractors who deliver military assistance to Egypt, U.S. officials said. The move was made in spite of worries about the direction the military-backed government has taken.

"They've taken steps whenever they've been forced to act for budget or programmatic reasons - but they really haven't taken any fundamental decisions about what U.S. policy on Egypt should be in the long-term," Katulis said.

U.S. officials hope that the Apaches will help Egypt fight militant groups based in Egypt's Sinai peninsula, including Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. Egyptian officials say the groups have killed about 500 people in recent months.

General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Mursi and is widely expected to win next week's presidential vote, said in an interview with Reuters last week that the West risked letting militant groups in places like Egypt, Libya and Syria metastasize if it didn't act decisively to help fight them.

Last month, the White House announced it would designate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as a terrorist group, another move welcomed by Egypt's military-backed government.

Robert Springborg, an Egypt expert at the department of war studies at King's College in London, said that a U.S. focus on counterterrorism could suit Sisi.

He had signaled since becoming defense minister in 2012 that Egypt needed weaponry suited for fighting insurgents rather than high-end arms like jets, which are more useful in a ground war and which had been sought for decades by Mubarak.

State Department officials, including Secretary of State Kerry, appear to view U.S. ties to Egypt as increasingly important given the turmoil throughout the region, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Libya, Schenker said.

But Egypt's fierce crackdown on dissent is still impeding closer ties. "The White House is looking at this saying there are legitimate human rights concerns," Schenker said.

Where U.S. policy on Egypt is heading is "still being written," a senior U.S. military official said.

Even recently restored aid could ultimately be held up in Congress. On April 29, influential Senator Patrick Leahy said he would not approve the aid, denouncing death sentences that Egyptian courts have handed down for hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood supporters or other government opponents.

Turkey's export to OIC member states shrinks
Turkey's export to OIC member states shrinks
Industrial products prices drop in Kazakhstan
Industrial products prices drop in Kazakhstan
Data on payment cards issuance in Kazakhstan revealed
Data on payment cards issuance in Kazakhstan revealed
Loading Bars
Latest
At least 5 soldiers killed in ambush in Cameroon's restive Anglophone region
Sign here first: U.S. salons, gyms, offices require coronavirus waivers
Embraer says China, India are potential partners after failed Boeing deal
Dmitry Pankin: BSTDB is able to redirect additional funds to help SMEs amid COVID-19
Azerbaijan's Azercosmos expands satellite services export
Turkey's export to OIC member states shrinks
Turkish BOTAS discloses volume of oil shipment from Ceyhan terminal
Volume of cargo transshipment from Portugal via Turkish ports disclosed
Turkey's export to BSEC countries from Jan. through Apr. 2020 slips
National Bank of Georgia talks decrease in export of goods
Turkish Petroleum Corporation appeals to ministry to extend license
Turkmenistan launches new project to support startups
Industrial products prices drop in Kazakhstan
Azerbaijan reports 168 new COVID-19 cases
Gas production by Shah Deniz since 2006 disclosed
Cargo transshipment data via Turkey's BOTAS port revealed
Georgia's international reserves up
Uzbekistan eyes setting up national freelancer center
Central Bank: Azerbaijan expects further decrease in inflation
Turkish ministry discloses data on cargo transshipment via Izmir port
Cargo transshipment via Turkish Ambarli port from Jan. through Apr. 2020 disclosed
Data on payment cards issuance in Kazakhstan revealed
Value of insurance fees in Azerbaijani market from Jan. through Apr. 2020 disclosed
Food safety certificates turn to electronic format in Azerbaijan
Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli: BP reveals oil output volume since 1997
Azerbaijan discloses data on payments in insurance market from Jan. through Apr. 2020
Georgia supports people losing jobs amid COVID-19 crisis
Uzbekistan organizes more charter flights to bring citizens back
Kaspersky providing advanced cybersecurity to Azerbaijani companies amid COVID-19
Iran resumes fuel shipment to Venezuela
Dutch bar terraces fill quickly as lockdown ends
Nasdaq postpones Philadelphia trading floor reopening due to protests
Shipping locks overhaul underway in Kazakhstan to minimize accidents risks
Azerbaijani Central Bank discloses volume of restructured loans
Central Bank: Situation in Azerbaijan's financial sector is satisfactory
Iran's Fars Province to increase wheat production
South Korean Samdong plans to create solid waste recycling cluster in Uzbekistan
JP Morgan: Minimal oil production shut-ins to remain in place through September
Restaurants, malls reopen in Georgia
Uzbekistan supports non-governmental medical organizations
Switzerland’s EuroChem Group AG increases ore output in Kazakhstan
Uzbekistan prepares to launch new resort zone
National Statistics Office of Georgia changes unemployment measurement methodology
Fiat ahead of Volkswagen, Renault in sales on Turkey's car market
Azerbaijan's State Oil Fund discloses amount of funds sold at foreign exchange auctions
Azerbaijan Micro-finance Association talks supporting women's entrepreneurship
Turkey-Turkmenistan trade turnover grows
Imports of goods from China to Georgia down
Spring field work completed in some Kazakh regions
Uzbekistan takes additional steps to join World Trade Organization
Bulgaria updates on construction of Balkan Stream
Turkmenistan, Iran review construction of disinfection facilities on border
Cargo transshipment through Turkish Tekirdagh port revealed
One of Uzbekistan's biggest refineries eyes to halt RON-80 fuel production
Kazakhstan reconsiders recommended rates on deposits in national currency
Azerbaijan discloses amount of debts due from liquidated banks
Weekly review of Azerbaijan's precious metals market (May 22-29)
UNDP in Turkmenistan opens tender for lab equipment procurement
Belarus raises export duties for oil, oil products
Azerbaijani PMD Group's major construction project nearing completion
Weekly review of Azerbaijani currency market (May 22-29)
Another company gets geological exploration license in Kazakhstan
Georgian wine export to China declines
Azerbaijan to apply new transport rules for intercity buses
UNICEF Uzbekistan opens tender for development of intranet
Kazakhstan's economy slowdown to significantly weaken banks' asset quality, performance
Iran reveals fuel production by IRGC-owned refineries
Black boxes from crashed Pakistan jet head to France for analysis
Buffett-backed BYD to supply EV batteries to Ford
Right to learn for every child (PHOTO/VIDEO)
Iran's Khatam Al-Anbiya construction headquarters talks its railway projects
Refinery operators need three steps to stay alive amid COVID-19
Iran to implement more control over car sales and production
Iran likely to begin paying loans to businesses
TOP-8 Turkish LPG importing companies disclosed
Turkey's import of LPG from US nearly doubles
UNDP in Turkmenistan to buy chemicals via tender
UNDP in Turkmenistan opens tender for website design
Uzbekistan slows down inflation
New bus terminal to be built in Turkmenistan’s Dashoguz region
Kazakhstan’s KazMunayGas reduces expenditures within anticrisis measures
Iran reveals its COVID-19 data for June 1
Kazakhstan Aviation Industry to launch unmanned aerial vehicles production
Emirates could take four years to resume flying to entire network
OPEC, Russia discuss extending oil cuts for 1-2 months
Britain reopens markets and some schools as lockdown eases
Azerbaijani Bank Respublika's shareholder composition changes (PHOTO)
Georgia's foreign exchange reserves decline
Trade turnover between Turkey, France declines
Baku's industrial production volume from Jan. through Apr. 2020 disclosed
ADB study maps supply chains for key products in COVID-19 response
SOCAR's Turkish subsidiary discloses sales volume
Geostat reveals TOP 10 goods exported from Georgia to Azerbaijan
Videoconference initiated by ADB held between Azerbaijani president and bank’s senior executives PHOTO)
Georgia implements new hotel complex project
Azerbaijan reveals data on Baku's trade turnover for 1Q2020
Uzbekistan holds talks with European media platform to promote its goods
Azerbaijan sees growth in electrical equipment production
Georgian flour producer to export its products to Greece, other Balkan states
Review of data on construction work in Baku from Jan. through Apr. 2020
All news