US suspends military, financial assistance to Egypt

After months of foot-dragging, the United States on Wednesday suspended deliveries of major military hardware and cash assistance to Egypt to signal deep concern over the mounting bloodshed and the lack of a democratic transition.

Washington said it had stopped shipments of some large-scale military systems as well as halting $260-million in cash aid to Egyptian military leaders, who are currently running the country after ousting its first democratically elected president.

Although the US review of its decades-old policy would not be permanent, it would remain in place "pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically-elected civilian government through free and fair elections", state department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Marking a dramatic break with years of unqualified support to Cairo, the decision will prevent deliveries of big-ticket items, including Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tank parts and Harpoon missiles, officials told reporters.

They would not give specific figures, but said the value of the frozen contracts would run into "hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance".


Egyptian authorities on Wednesday announced that former president Mohamed Morsi, who was toppled from office on July 3, would now stand trial on November 4 on charges of inciting the murder of demonstrators protesting against his one-year rule.

Shelving deliveries of military hardware
Washington had already effectively shelved deliveries of expensive military hardware since the coup, with Morsi held incommunicado for months amid a tough crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters which has seen the party once again banned, and its assets seized.

In the wake of the events, US President Barack Obama ordered his national security team to review the total $1.5-billion in annual aid to Egypt.

The decision to freeze major arms contracts was outlined on Wednesday in a 40-minute phone call between US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and Egypt's military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The US, however, will keep up assistance "to help secure Egypt's borders" and bolster "counterterrorism and proliferation, and ensure security in the Sinai", Psaki said.

Washington will also continue "to provide parts for US-origin military equipment as well as military training and education", along with aid for health programmes, education, and private sector development, she added.

Officials stressed the US government valued its longstanding ties with Egypt and would not be cutting off all aid – of which $1.3-billion has been devoted to military hardware and training.

It was however "recalibrating our assistance to Egypt to best advance our interests", Psaki said.

Restore democratic rule
Obama and his aides have repeatedly appealed to Egypt's military-backed government to hold fresh elections to restore democratic rule.

"This decision just underscores that the United States will not support actions that run contrary to our interests and our principles, and it is important to be clear about those things," a senior administration official told reporters.

"We've conveyed that very clearly and consistently to the Egyptian government."

Washington has repeatedly called for Morsi's release, and his trial is likely to inflame further protests by his backers, who clashed with security forces on Sunday in unrest that left 57 people dead.

Prosecutors have charged Morsi with "inciting his supporters to commit premeditated murder" during December 5 clashes outside his then presidential palace when seven people were killed.

Fourteen others, including several of his former aides, have also been charged, the official MENA news agency reported.

Washington will now work with the Egypt to "reshape and restructure" current economic assistance programmes to "directly focus more on benefiting the Egyptian people", another senior administration official said.

Israel, anxious about maintaining its 1979 peace accord with Egypt, had reportedly asked Washington to maintain aid to Cairo's military-led interim government.

'Non-violent transition to democracy'
In drawing up the list of hardware to scrub, the administration paid special attention to counterterrorism efforts, especially in the Sinai peninsula, and border security.

"There will be no diminution in Egypt's ability to be a strong security partner to the United States," a third administration official added.

Democratic senator Bob Menendez, chairperson of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations committee, welcomed the administration's decision.

"Ongoing violence in Egypt is troubling, shows no signs of abating, and given these worrisome developments, a pause in assistance is appropriate until the Egyptian government demonstrates a willingness and capability to follow the roadmap toward a sustainable, inclusive and non-violent transition to democracy," he said in a statement – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

US foreign policy may be creating instability in Africa

Sometimes, the best foreign policy might be not to get involved at all

An Ethiopian perspective: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

Striving to redress the injustice of the past on the Nile river

Bank guarantees foil Denel’s R4.5-bn Egypt contract

Loss of work is the last thing the beleaguered state enterprise needs

A quick trek to ancient Egypt during lockdown

Well, the pharaonic Voortrekker Monument to be precise for John Davenport

Time is not on our side in Libya

Simmering tensions could see the country partitioned between east and west

Damming the Nile

In a few weeks, when the rainy season arrives, water will finally begin to flow into the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. Expect regional tensions to rise along with the water level
Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

See people as individual humans, not as a race

We need to ingrain values of equality in education, businesses, society broadly and religious groups to see people

JJ Rawlings left an indelible mark on Ghana’s history

The air force pilot and former president used extreme measures, including a coup, enforced ‘discipline’ through executions, ‘disappearances’ and floggings, but reintroduced democracy

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay...

Economists question the manner in which the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies

Traditional healers need new spaces

Proper facilities supported by well-researched cultural principles will go a long way to improving the image and perception of the practice of traditional medicine
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…