White House Seeks $200 Million Arms Sale to Egypt

The request to Congress comes days after relatives of a prominent Egyptian American activist were arrested and jailed.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Feb. 4. (State Department, Freddie Everett)

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

On the same day that the Biden administration published a statement supporting a declaration against arbitrary detention — and days after relatives of a prominent Egyptian American activist were arrested and jailed — the U.S. State Department on Wednesday announced the proposed sale of nearly $200 million worth of shipborne surface-to-air missiles to Egypt’s authoritarian regime. 

In boilerplate language, the State Department said the $197 million sale of up to 168 Raytheon Rolling Airframe missiles “will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a major non-NATO ally country that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East.”

The State Department further explained that the sale, which is subject to congressional approval, “will support the Egyptian Navy’s Fast Missile Craft ships and provide significantly enhanced area defense capabilities over Egypt’s coastal areas and approaches to the Suez Canal.”

For decades, successive U.S. administrations have supported authoritarian governments in Cairo. Former President Donald Trump reportedly called the country’s current leader, former army general Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, “my favorite dictator.”

President Joe Biden, however, has vowed to hold Egypt’s rulers accountable for their security forces’ human rights violations — which, according to a 2019 State Department report, include arbitrary extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture and arbitrary detention.

Surface-to-air firing from USS Green Bay during tests off Hawaii, 2009. (U.S. Navy, Larry S. Carlson)

After relatives of Virginia-based Egyptian American human rights activist and regime critic Mohamed Soltan were arrested last year, then-candidate Biden called the move “unacceptable” and vowed, “no more blank checks for Trump’s ‘favorite dictator.'”

Days after Biden’s election, Egyptian authorities released five of Soltan’s relatives who were imprisoned when the exiled dissident — who is a former prisoner of the Egyptian regime —sued former Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi in a U.S. court. However, on Sunday, security forces raided the homes of six of Soltan’s family members, arresting two cousins in what critics of Egypt’s regime are calling an act of open defiance of Biden’s calls to respect human rights. 

The arrests of Soltan’s cousins are part of a wider pattern of Egyptian authorities targeting relatives of exiled regime critics. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that at least three family members of Chicago-based activist Aly Mahdy were arrested after he tweeted support for the 2011 Arab Spring revolution that ousted longtime former Egyptian military dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Security forces also recently raided the home of Taqadum al-Khatib’s parents after the academic — who now lives in Germany — tweeted that el-Sisi’s regime “will be seen on the wrong side of history.” 

President Donald Trump greets Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, 2017. (White House/Shealah Craighead)

At a Tuesday press briefing, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the administration was “looking into” the arrests and that it takes “seriously all allegations of arbitrary arrest or detention.”

“We will bring our values with us into every relationship that we have across the globe,” Price said, according to Al Jazeera. “That includes with our close security partners. That includes with Egypt.”

Underscoring its claimed commitment to human rights — and what critics call its hypocrisy — the State Department on Tuesday published a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken applauding a Canadian-led declaration against the use of arbitrary detention and condemning the practice as “a heinous act against… human rights.”

Citing rights violations committed in the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war in Yemen, the Biden administration — which announced last week that it was ending support for “offensive operations” in the conflict — said last month that it would temporarily suspend the sale of billions of dollars worth of arms to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, including nearly half a billion dollars worth of Raytheon bombs.

Greg Hayes, the CEO of Raytheon — on whose board Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III sat until his nomination — shrugged off the suspension, telling investors that “peace is not going to break out in the Middle East anytime soon,” and that the region — which includes Egypt as a key arms importer—”remains an area where we’ll continue to see solid growth.”

This article is from Common Dreams.

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2 comments for “White House Seeks $200 Million Arms Sale to Egypt

  1. James Simpson
    February 19, 2021 at 02:43

    As someone else wrote recently, no democratic and truly peace-loving society can tolerate the presence of privately-owned weapons manufacturers or dealers within its borders. Under capitalism, such entities have no function other than delivering increased profits to shareholders and owners, and that can be achieved only by supporting armed conflicts around the planet. The appalling, lethal consequences to people and the rest of the natural world are ignored, as they must be.

    • Anne
      February 19, 2021 at 12:02

      James – Absolutely True. Make War Materiel for profit (which at least six companies in the US do) and yeah…you (the companies) will stump up from your rainy day fund oodles of blood soaked boodle to gently (corruptly) direct Congress into always, but always giving the go-ahead for: a) obscene sums of $$$ for the MIC (and what learn about is not all that moves their way); and b)yet another invasion, war, bombing (for weeks often as on Serbia), devastation, destruction, slaughter of other peoples, cultures, societies. Most particularly of course those which will not bend the knee, do as we tell them. And always they are of darker hue, thousands of miles from our shores (or hundreds anyway) and they never really, factually pose us any threat at all…But gotta keep those gazillions flowing to such as Raytheon, Boeing and so on…If this is not distorted, malign, barbaric thinking, I cannot conceive what is..

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