Human rights

Washington increases pressure on Cairo to respect human rights

But strategic considerations and Egypt’s stability come first, analysts say

[Cairo] The United States has warned Egypt that it will not receive a third of its annual aid unless it improves human rights in the country.

On March 15, US President Joe Biden signed into law a 2,741-page, $1.5 trillion appropriations bill. The 2022 spending program allocates $1.3 billion in aid to Egypt, including $320 million conditional on improving specific human rights situations. The total aid that could be confiscated is up $20 million from the human rights amount that could be withheld in last year’s bill.

“Basically, nothing has changed in the American position. Rather, it is to reiterate conditions that Egypt has so far failed to implement. So there is no change in the quality of the policy, but rather a change in the amount,” Kamal el-Sawi, a Middle East and Egyptian affairs expert and senior analyst at The Media Line, told The Media Line. retirement from the US Department of Defense. .

“It gives an indication that the American administration is serious. In other words, last year the American administration threatened to cut off part of the aid, and the Egyptian administration did not take this threat seriously. They believed that the US administration and Congress would waive the conditions. This is a slight escalation in the amount to affirm the fact that they are serious about linking the release of funds to US demands,” Sawi said.

Also on March 15, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr., head of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States would likely sell F-15 fighter jets to the United States. ‘Egypt. “In the case of Egypt, I think we have good news in that we are going to provide them with F-15s, which has been a long and difficult job,” he told the committee.

Sawi noted that: “It is in the interests of the United States, not only from an economic point of view, to support the aviation industry, but also to expand and strengthen the capacity of the Egyptian armed forces to provide logistical support, supplies and services.”

“The Egyptian Air Force is meant to bolster the U.S. Air Force as the reserve of the U.S. strategic military effort in the region, particularly with Egyptian airport facilities to support U.S. transport operations. This is in preparation for the conduct of Bright Star exercises, joint operations in the region, and any military build-up that may be needed to support U.S. military operations in the region and beyond. This helps support U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East. East,” Sawi said.

Exercise Bright Star, combined and joint training exercises led by U.S. and Egyptian forces and involving up to 11 allied nations and 70,000 personnel, takes place in Egypt every two years.

This gives an indication that the American administration is serious. In other words, last year the American administration threatened to cut off part of the aid, and the Egyptian administration did not take this threat seriously. They believed that the US administration and Congress would waive the conditions. This is a slight escalation of the amount to affirm the fact that they are serious about linking the release of funds to US demands.

Conditions for aid to Egypt typically include a waiver allowing the US administration to release funds by signaling to Congress that it is vital to “the national security interest of the United States”.

Last year, for the first time, Congress removed the administration’s ability to forgo $75 million of a total of $1.3 billion in aid, forcing Egypt to make clear progress and consistent in the release of political prisoners and in providing detainees with due process. This year, Congress increased that amount to $85 million. In the 2021 bill, another $225 million depended on Egypt’s progress on human rights and democracy. This year, that figure was increased to $235 million.

In July 2020, then-candidate Biden slammed Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi for human rights abuses, saying in a tweet about a political dissident: “No more blank checks for the ‘dictator Trump’s favourite”.

Amr Bakly, a democracy and peace activist, told The Media Line: “I think the United States is more interested in stability in Egypt than democratization, but at the same time the United States thinks that democratic and economic reforms lead to a more stable situation. situation, and in the long term, it ensures strong transformations of the political system, as happened in Iran after the 1979 revolution, when the political system changed from an allied regime to a totally hostile regime led by [Ruhollah] Khomeini, because the United States has always feared that the Egyptian army, with its strength and equipment, could fall under the control of an extremist government.

On March 10, Rep. Ted Lieu, D-California, said in a tweet that “the UN must do more to address the human rights crisis in #Egypt.” In a letter to the US Ambassador to the UN, Lieu and 14 other members of the Egyptian Congressional Human Rights Caucus called for the creation of a monitoring and reporting mechanism on the Egypt on the UN Human Rights Council.

After a call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on January 27, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted, “The United States is committed to strengthening our partnership with Egypt to strengthen regional stability and respect for human rights. human rights”.

In an interview with Al-Ahram Weekly and Ahram Online on February 10, McKenzie said that “Egypt has also taken strong action in the Sinai to prevent the resurgence of ISIS. We will continue to work with Egypt and all other like-minded countries in the region to prevent ISIS from gathering and carrying[ing] high-profile attacks in all our homelands, whether in Egypt, the United States or other countries, and it is in our interests to do so.

The Egyptian experience between 2011 and 2013 “may have worried the United States because it had negative results for the United States at three levels,” Bakly also noted.

The first level, he said, was that “the Egyptian situation was unstable internally and threatened its neighboring countries, mainly Israel.” The second level is the “skyrocketing of a political Islam hostile to modern values, which is worrying”. Finally, he said, there has been “a complete suppression of political Islam,” which Bakly said “is also troubling because the United States tends to contain political Islam in the ‘opening up of political space’, as in Egypt before 2011 and in Jordan and Morocco. political systems.

Bakly also points to the rise of direct military rule, “which the United States says is always short-sighted, as excessive use of force typically provokes popular anger against [the military ruler] long-term.”

“That’s why the United States may be interested in democracy, but now they’re more interested in stability,” Bakly said.

“The United States of America is very interested in stabilizing military relations between the Egyptian military and the United States military, regardless of the human rights policy of the Egyptian government, because the strategic considerations at this respect outweigh humanitarian considerations,” said Sawi.