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Arms deals: Al-Sisi's key to circumventing criticism of repression

February 2, 2022 at 6:40 pm

Egyptian army tank, 10 July 2017 [SSGT Jeffrey T. Brady, USAF/Wikipedia]

Last Tuesday, the US government approved a $2.5 billion arms sale to Egypt, despite US President Joe Biden’s pledge not to be lenient with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s regime over its poor human rights record.

The US approval comes days after an Egyptian resident in the United States was charged with conspiring to act as a spy for the Egyptian regime by collecting information about political opponents of the Sisi regime, using his relationship with some US law enforcement officials to gain access to non-public information to pass on to Egyptian officials.

The Biden administration’s approval to sell arms to Egypt of such a vast value confirms that the Sisi regime is making the best use of the arms file, as it is being used as a trump card in strengthening its relations with Western countries that criticise its bad internal policies, which leads to the withdrawal of criticism and, consequently, strengthening its position and increasing its repression.

Details of the transaction

The US approval includes two arms deals: the first, worth $2.2 billion, for 12 C-130J Super Hercules and aircraft equipment, and the second, worth $355 million, for air defence radar systems and related equipment.

In two statements about the two deals, the State Department said they support “the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally that remains an important strategic partner in the Middle East.” She explained that the two deals would “improve Egypt’s ability to confront current and future threats by providing air support to its forces through the transfer of supplies, equipment and personnel, and thus enhancing its capacity in the security and humanitarian field.”

The irony is that these two deals come about four months after the United States deducted $130 million in American military aid provided to Egypt to pressure it to improve human rights conditions!

State Department spokesman, Ned Price, avoided answering press questions about the two deals because of this apparent duplicity. One journalist asked, “What is the point of withholding $130 million in foreign military funding when you sell (to Egypt) $2.5 billion in arms?” Price tried to get around by saying, “If we have anything to add to that … We’ll let you know.”

READ: Egypt signs $1.7bn deal to buy arms from South Korea

Another paradox is also no less strange, as the announcement of the two deals came on the same day that six Democrat members of Congress urged the Biden administration not to release the $130 million withheld from aid to Egypt, before the deadline at the end of January, if Cairo failed in “compliance with the full range of specific human rights standards that the US State Department has communicated to the Egyptian authorities.”

At the same time, Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Tom Malinowski (D-NJ),  co-chairs of Congress’  Egypt Human Rights Caucus, stated that “It is disheartening that it took the United States withholding US taxpayer-gifted weaponry to secure the release of a mere handful of the tens of thousands of political prisoners that remain in Egyptian prisons, and that the President’s conditions still appear not to have been met in full.” The statement linked the release of some political detainees in Egypt to the arrest of an Egyptian spy who was trying to spy on opponents of the Sisi regime residing in the States, considering that “This case is just another example of the transnational repression carried out by the Egyptian regime that puts Americans and American national security at risk.”

America is not alone

The US deal comes a few weeks after Germany agreed, in the late days of the government of former Chancellor Angela Merkel, to sell arms to Egypt worth 4.3 billion Euros, including 3 Miko A-200 multirole frigates, as well as 16 air defence systems.

Before that, France sold planes and weapons worth billions of Euros to the Sisi regime, and it is still selling weapons, to this day. However, it has been proven that President Sisi’s regime exploited intelligence information provided to it by France to target civilian smugglers on the Egyptian-Libyan border and not terrorist militants, contrary to what was agreed upon;  in a campaign of arbitrary executions, it can be categorised as involving state crimes.

All these billion-dollar deals confirm that the Sisi regime increases pressure on Western countries with the file of armaments in exchange for mitigating criticism directed against it and that there is Western hypocrisy in dealing with the Sisi regime, as they provide it with weapons, some of which are used to suppress the people who criticise it because of the human rights situation.

All of this contributes to strengthening Sisi’s iron grip on the Egyptian people, giving him confidence in himself to continue committing violations without fear or apprehension, and prolonging his rule for years, the number of which only God knows.

READ: Egypt borrows $368m more from Arab Monetary Fund