The Washington Post reports that the U.S. has decided to “partially resume military aid to Egypt”:
The United States has decided to resume delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt, the Pentagon announced late Tuesday, backtracking on a decision officials made last summer following the country’s military coup and its violent aftermath.
The Obama administration opted to go ahead with the delivery of 10 aircraft to help Egypt combat cells of extremists in the Sinai, even though Washington is unable to meet congressional criteria for the full resumption of aid.
The bottom line is that the Obama administration has decided to defy U.S. laws that prohibit sending military aid to undemocratic coup governments. The human rights situation in Egypt has deteriorated in the lead up to this decision to send the military junta the ten Apache helicopters they’ve been begging for. The Post:
Since the coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi last year, Egypt’s military-backed government has orchestrated a brutal crackdown on the Morsi-allied Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing. Egypt also has imprisoned hundreds of secular activists. And it has detained journalists from Al Jazeera on charges that the television network and press-freedom activists call unfounded.
The Post headline is actually somewhat misleading. It’s not so much that Washington is “partially resuming military aid to Egypt,” but rather that the aid was only partially halted to begin with. Last October, President Obama suspended millions of dollars from the annual U.S. aid package and halted advanced military hardware. But the Egyptian regime still received about $1.6 billion in U.S. aid. The so called “halt” was largely symbolic.
The U.S. has always opposed democracy and supported authoritarianism in Egypt, so this should come as no surprise. The internal Washington logic, however, is that while continuing to support the military junta may not be good for democracy and human rights, it will help secure U.S. interests. These interests supposedly are the following: (1) to help Cairo battle extremists in the Sinai, (2) to maintain control of the Suez Canal, which the U.S. Navy uses to send warships from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf and through which “8 percent of global seaborne trade and 4.5 percent of world oil supplies travel,” and (3) to maintain the peace treaty with Israel.
On the first issue, Cairo has more to fear from extremist groups in the Sinai than Washington does, since they don’t actually threaten America. As for the Suez Canal, again, Cairo has no interest in closing that vital passageway; it would hurt them economically and geopolitically far more than it would hurt the U.S. or world economy. And on the third count, the peace treaty with Israel is maintained because of Israel’s military superiority, not U.S. bribery; Egypt is too unstable for the regime or even some other popularly elected group to risk conflict by rescinding the treaty.
In short, U.S. aid to Egypt works against U.S. interests, not in favor of them. Meanwhile, the military regime continues to brutalize the population and restrict freedom across the board.