CAIRO (Middle East Eye) – The United States is planning on approving a sale of F-15 fighter jets to Egypt, according to a top U.S. general for forces in the Middle East, a move that is likely to spark anger on Capitol Hill over Cairo’s dismal human rights record.
General Frank McKenzie told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that the sale was likely to be greenlit following a long and drawn-out process.
The official did not specify when the U.S. is expected to deliver the jets or the number of aircraft to be provided. Congress has yet to be officially notified of the deal and could still block the sale.
During the hearing, McKenzie was asked what weapons Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates had requested that Washington had yet to provide.
McKenzie said the U.S. remained “the partner of choice” for the three countries, but added that they found the lengthy process “frustrating”.
“That’s the basic criticism of our ability to provide weapons to our friends and partners. It takes too long to actually get them. It moves in fits and starts. And of course, with our weapons come our values,” McKenzie said. “They’re not going to be able to do anything they want with those weapons.”
McKenzie’s comments come days after the Senate voted down a resolution proposed by Republican Senator Rand Paul, which sought to block the sale of a dozen 130J cargo planes, radar systems and related equipment to Egypt.
The Biden administration has tried to strike a balance between domestic concerns over Egypt’s human rights record and its position as a long-standing U.S. ally.
Recently, as part of efforts to shore up partnerships in the face of Russia’s operation in Ukraine, the administration has sought to mend fences with Middle Eastern allies that have seen ties with the U.S. fray, in part over criticism of their human rights policies and perception of U.S. disengagement from the region.
Last year, the Biden administration froze $130mn in military aid amid concerns over Egypt’s human rights record.
Egypt is considered to be the world’s third-worst jailer of journalists, with an estimated 60,000 political prisoners being held in jails in the country, according to rights groups.
President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has consistently denied this and framed his crackdown as part of a fight against terrorism.