The pattern over the last five years has been coherent: The United States withholds military aid from Egypt, citing human rights concerns, only to eventually release the funds before any extensive improvement.
The first time was under President Obama's administration in 2013. The United States suspended aid after Egypt's first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was ousted. Two years later, Obama restored the $ 1.3 billion annual military financing, citing the need to help Egypt defeat Islamic State militants in the province of Sinai.
It happened again more recently under President Trump. After growing concern about the repression under the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi, the Trump administration froze $ 195 million in military aid to Cairo, and then launched it in late July, 11 months later, despite the fact that Egyptian government did not meet the conditions of the United States.
The catastrophe of two administrations to maintain pressure on the Sisi government despite worsening repression in civil society suggests that US national security interests replace human rights concerns, experts said.
"The US cares more about security than about human rights," said Steven Cook, a senior Middle East member of the Council on Foreign Relations. "It also implies that suspending aid has actually done nothing to improve the human rights situation in Egypt."
Since the late 1970s, the US have seen Egypt as an important and powerful ally in the Middle East. Part of upholding that relationship in good faith has been to provide Egypt with military aid.
Egypt is the second largest recipient of foreign military funds after Israel. Each year, the United States provides Egypt with 1.3 billion dollars in military assistance, which it uses to buy equipment and conduct training.
A year ago, then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson froze 15%, or $ 195 million, of the total annual military aid and conditioned his release on three points: Egypt must degrade relations with North Korea, repeal a law that restricts the work of non-governmental organizations and resolve the case of 43 NGO workers who were convicted in 2013 for working illegally.
Egypt and North Korea have had friendly diplomatic and military relations for some time, including arms purchases from each other.
A small number of NGO workers left the country after being convicted, but still face prison terms if they return to Egypt. Egypt's main appellate court ordered new trials for 16 people in April, but the result remains to be seen. The workers were employed by several unregistered NGOs, including US organizations. UU And Germany.
Less than a year after the freeze on military aid, on July 25, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo lifted the restrictions without specifying what progress has been made, if any.
The release of military assistance to Egypt without seeing improvements in human rights tarnishes the perception that the United States is serious in holding Egypt accountable, said Andrew Miller, deputy director of policy in the Project on Democracy in the Middle East.
"Releasing the money removes the pressure on the Egyptian government to comply with the conditions that were originally associated with that financing," Miller said. "The Egyptians will look back and see that this is further proof that Americans do not take human rights concerns seriously, it hurts the idea of using assistance to influence."
The other time the United States froze military aid to Egypt was in 2013 because of the bloody repression and repression of supporters of Morsi, who was affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. He was expelled by the military after mass demonstrations by Egyptians worried that Morsi was taking the country in an Islamist direction and could not solve his many problems.
The Obama administration launched that military aid in 2015 to help Egypt fight the Islamic State militants who had established a foothold in the Sinai.
Since then, the human rights situation in Egypt has worsened. Egyptian officials continue to imprison young activists who demonstrate against the government while tens of thousands of political prisoners sit in jail.
"US The lawmakers look at Sisi and say he can be a dictator, but at least he is dealing with the Islamic State in the Sinai, they are willing to ignore the violation of human rights to maintain security," said Amr Kotb, advocacy director at the Washington-based Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
Reported by Umanga Buddhini Wackista-aratchie.
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