Soon after President Barack Obama has lifted a weapons ban on Egypt, some groups concerned about rights abuses committed by the longtime Washington ally have raised their concerns.
After Washington lifted the 18-months ban on weapons, Egypt can now look forward to the delivery of 12 F-16 aircraft, 125 M1A1 Abrams tanks and 20 Harpoon missiles, which had been upheld from the Egyptian army following a popularly backed coup.
President Obama assured Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi he also backs the entire $1.3 billion U.S. military assistance to Egypt, which is offered annually, according to a White House statement.
The aid was dropped in October 2013, after the Egyptian military overthrew the country’s first freely-elected civilian President Mohamed Morsi. After that, the army had targeted his Islamist allies. Morsi has been in prison since the Egyptian miltary ousted him, 18 months ago.
Egyptian officials said the weapons ban was hindering the country’s battle against Islamic fighters in the Sinai Peninsula, but also in neighboring Libya. Before lifting the freeze, the White House analyzed the situation in order to determine if the aid was either a U.S. defense urgency or if Egypt had made significant democratic reforms.
White House officials explained in the statement that U.S. national security interests was behind restoring the aid, but added that it will continue to raise rights concerns with Egypt.
The measure was highly criticized by human rights activists.
“Obama’s signaling military support for such a regime is business as usual in regard to the U.S. posture in the region, but it is wrong on principle and stores up trouble for the future,” said John Chalcraft, Associate Professor in the History and Politics of Empire and Imperialism at the London School of Economics.
“Egypt has set about crushing all forms of opposition, like liberals and human rights campaigners,” he added, explaining that the regime is manipulating through counter terror discourses.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians have been arrested and hundreds died, after the military attacked Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which is considered a terrorist organization in the country. Non-Islamist activists and journalists have also been targeted by attacks.
“Historically the United States has offered support to Egypt, both military and financial, despite human rights violations and a pretty dubious commitment to democracy,” explained Timothy Kaldas, Non-Resident Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy and Professor of Politics at Nile University.
New restrictions will limit, from 2018, the kind of military equipment Egypt can buy as part of the annual aid programme.
Image Source: Huffington Post