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America will withhold $130 million in military aid to Egypt

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

America will withhold $130 million in military aid to Egypt

Source: Reuters

Two informed sources, one of them a US official, said that the administration of President Joe Biden will withhold $130 million in military aid to Egypt in order to pressure its Arab ally to improve its human rights record.

The action, which US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken intends to take, is a departure from his predecessors' policy of ignoring congressional scrutiny of military aid to Egypt. There has been an exception in the past to the release of $300 million in foreign military funding to the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on the grounds that it is in the national security interest of the United States.

Human rights groups, which called on the US administration to withhold aid completely, described this move as a "betrayal" of the United States' commitment to placing human rights at the top of its foreign policy priorities, specifically with Egypt.

A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the administration would agree to $170 million, but would withhold the rest of the amount, which is $130 million, but it would be available in the coming fiscal years if Egypt improved its record.

"What the Biden administration has really done is to waive the minimal human rights conditions that Congress has imposed on a small portion of American aid, while still withholding a small portion of $130 million under relaxed conditions," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy Now for the Arab World. more".

The United States has provided about $1.3 billion in foreign assistance to Egypt annually since fiscal year 2017, according to a congressional research report.

Sisi, who ousted the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, has overseen a crackdown on dissent that has intensified in the past few years, but he denies the existence of political prisoners in Egypt and says stability and security are the top priority.

Biden has vowed to put human rights at the center of his foreign policy and human rights advocates are pressing Washington to be tougher on Sisi despite improved relations with Egypt after Cairo's mediating role to help end hostilities between Israel and Hamas activists in April.

"If the administration's commitment to human rights had been sincere, this decision would have been simple: withhold $300 million in military aid as required by Congress to incentivize Sisi to change the path".

Rights groups' criticism of Biden's commitment to advancing rights and freedoms around the world is not limited to Egypt.

The groups say that although Biden's growing focus on the issue is an improvement over his predecessor Donald Trump, who praised authoritarian leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Biden has so far refrained from effective action.

Sources said that an official announcement regarding the decision on Egypt may be issued this week.

A State Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Politico first reported the move late Monday.

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