CAIRO (Middle East Eye) – U.S. President Joe Biden has requested that $1.8bn in U.S. military aid go to Egypt next year, despite calls from rights groups to limit military aid to Cairo over human rights violations.
Under Biden’s first budget proposal to Congress, his Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Defense Budget reflects no change at all in Washington’s slated military aid - which has remained the same since 1987 - to the north African country.
For the past several years, Congress has been imposing human rights conditions on parts of the military aid, but the administrations of Barack Obama and Donald Trump both issued national security waivers to bypass the restrictions.
Former President Trump had an unusually close relationship with Egypt’s current president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who he once referred to as his “favorite dictator”.
But Biden had vowed to make serious changes in Washington’s ties to the Sisi government, saying in July that there would be “no more blank checks” to Cairo.
Middle East Eye reached out to the White House to ask why, given past policy pledges, the military aid request remained the same as previous years, but did not receive a response by the time of this article’s publication.
Just after the FY2022 Defense Budget was released on Friday, five leading human rights groups released a statement slamming the administration for submitting a request for “effectively, another blank check”.
Signed and published by Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch (HRW), The Freedom Initiative, Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the statement said that the request for unconditional, unchanged aid “undermines the administration’s stated commitment to put human rights at the center of the U.S.-Egypt relationship”.
“U.S. law prohibits security assistance to countries engaged in a consistent pattern of gross human rights violations that the State Department and UN have documented. By ignoring the law and continuing the decades-long tradition of requesting $1.3 billion in military aid, the administration continues a troubling ‘business as usual’ partnership in direct contradiction to the president’s promise,” the groups said.
The groups then went on to call on Congress “to ignore the administration’s request and take meaningful steps towards rebalancing U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt away from the current lopsided provision of military aid”.
Last month, the groups, along with 11 others, wrote a letter to top Biden aides, urging the administration to allow Congress to condition 30 percent of U.S. military aid to Egypt for FY2020 by choosing not to issue an overriding national security waiver.
Congress has issued conditions on $300m of the aid for the current fiscal year, which ends in October, but is unclear whether the Biden administration plans to allow the conditions.