U.S. Waives Human Rights Conditions To Grant Egypt Military Aid

The United States has suspended human rights restrictions on foreign aid in order to send $235 million worth of weaponry to Egypt. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced on September 14th that “it is in the U.S. national security interest to waive certain human rights related conditions” on the package of military aid. A separate tranche of $85 million will be withheld, however, due to Egypt’s failure to meet requisite standards relating to their treatment of political prisoners.

The decision to ignore human rights conditions on the larger portion of military aid has been widely decried by activists in the U.S. and around the world. 11 Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee had previously called for all $315 million to be withheld, citing “reports from both the State Department as well as numerous credible human rights and civil society organizations about the persistent and continued systemic violations of human rights in Egypt.” Nicole Widdersheim, Deputy Washington Director at Human Rights Watch, echoed these concerns following Secretary Blinken’s announcement, saying, “Egypt’s human rights record remains abysmal in all the ways Congress cared about when conditioning U.S. aid.”

By circumventing its own human rights restrictions on military aid, the U.S. has demonstrated that it prioritizes geopolitical strategy over the promotion of freedom and democracy abroad. Egypt’s neglect for its citizens’ wellbeing has further deteriorated over the last year, and the regime falls far short of U.S. Congress human rights standards by Secretary Blinken’s own admission. But Egypt has made progress in its security co-operation with the U.S.: the two states participated in the joint military exercise “Bright Star” together two weeks before the substantial aid package was announced.

The U.S. has provided an average of $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt since the Camp David Accords were signed in 1978. This aid takes the form of U.S.-made military-grade weaponry and strategic security services; $980 million of the aid earmarked for Egypt in this year’s budget is not subject to any human rights conditions. $85 million is subject to conditions which cannot legally be waived, and the State Department has confirmed that this amount will be withheld. The remainder, $235 million, is subject to conditions which may be waived in the interests of national security, which is what happened in this case. This means that the U.S. will send Egypt the maximum amount which its own legal constraints will allow.

The U.S. will redirect the bulk of the withheld funds, $55 million, to Taiwan instead of Egypt. This is a sizable top-up to the $345 million defence package it has already pledged to Taiwan. As important as Egypt is to U.S. interests in the Middle East, boosting Taiwan’s defensive capabilities against a potential Chinese invasion remains a key priority for the U.S.

Matthew Price