The United States is deliberating to hold back military aid of $85 million to Egypt due to various reasons. Egypt has not met US’ conditions to free political prisoners and the two countries are clashing on other issues as well, according to a congressional notification.
A Democrat Senator Chris Murphy requested the Biden government to hold $235 million more. Some sources said a final call on the other funds was expected soon. He said, “The administration rightly decided to withhold that first tranche – $85 million tied to the release of political prisoners – because there’s just no question there has not been enough progress. I would urge the administration to finish the job and withhold the full $320 million … until Egypt’s human rights and democracy record improve.
When questioned about Murphy’s remarks on the Senate floor, a State Department official responded, “We are engaging with Congress as we finalise our actions.
A State Department letter to congressional committees outlining the foreign military financing revealed that of the $85 million being withheld, $55 million will be sent to Taiwan and the remaining $30 million to Lebanon.
Rights organisations have long charged Egypt’s administration, led by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with extensive violations of human rights, including torture and enforced disappearances.
Since late 2021, the Egyptian government has taken several actions that it claims are aimed at addressing rights issues, including the introduction of a human rights policy and the lifting of the state of emergency. However, many have regarded these actions as mostly symbolic.
A few well-known inmates have received pardons or have been freed, but activists claim that fresh arrests have outpaced releases and that hundreds of political prisoners are still behind bars with the same draconian limitations on free expression. The US Congress has recently added requirements pertaining to human rights to certain funding.
Egypt has received roughly $1.3 billion in funding annually for many years in order to purchase American weaponry equipment and services. The 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel is primarily responsible for this help.
An $85 million grant from the United States is subject on Egypt “making clear and consistent progress in releasing political prisoners, providing detainees with due process of law, and preventing the intimidation and harassment of American citizens.” The executive branch is not permitted to waive these requirements.
If Egypt complies with the standards for democracy and human rights, another $235 million will be made available. However, if the executive branch certifies that doing so will advance US national security, these requirements may be disregarded.
There is still a way to provide Egypt the $235 million regardless of whether it is for “counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation programmes for Egypt.” Washington granted Egypt an additional $95 million last year under the counterterrorism, border security, and non-proliferation exemption in addition to the entire $75 million that was previously predicated on progress on political detentions.
In essence, $130 million was decided to be withheld, which is the same amount as the previous year.
Seth Binder of the Project on Middle East Democracy rights group said, that the withheld amount “is an important reversal from last year. But if the administration withholds less than it has the last two years it would in essence be saying to al-Sisi that it believe the Egyptian government has improved its rights record, which is just not true.”