U.S. cuts military aid to Egypt, sends money instead to Taiwan

The Biden administration this week informed Congress that it intends to withhold $85 million designated for U.S. safety help to Egypt this 12 months, and instead present the majority of the money to Taiwan.

The choice introduced rapid criticism from lawmakers that the reprogrammed quantity both wasn’t sufficient to punish Egypt for ongoing detentions of political prisoners and different human rights abuses, or that it was a paltry providing to Taiwan given the urgency of China’s aggressive conduct.

The choice to redirect $55 million from Egypt to “strengthen Taiwan’s defense capabilities” is the second time in current weeks the administration has licensed money to Taipei underneath the Foreign Military Financing program that beforehand was reserved for sovereign nations.

In late August, the State Department notified Congress of plans to provide $80 million in the form of aid, slightly than gross sales, of military tools to Taiwan. China instantly charged it was a violation of U.S. recognition of the “One China” coverage and Beijing’s claimed sovereignty over the self-governing island.

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the highest Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, stated in a press release that the reprogrammed money was “a pittance compared to Taiwan’s enormous needs for self-defense” towards the risk from China.

The remaining $30 million in FMF money is slated for Lebanon, in accordance to a notification despatched to Congress late Monday. Plans to reallocate the funds to Taiwan and Lebanon had been first reported Thursday by the Wall Street Journal.

Wicker additionally lambasted the administration for taking the money from “a different security partner,” calling it “especially counterproductive since Egypt has proven receptive to this administration’s human rights concerns.”

The United States considers Egypt an important companion for Middle East safety, and a pillar of regional stability. Both as an incentive, then a reward, for the Camp David Accords that introduced peace between Israel and Egypt in 1978, the 2 nations shortly turned the biggest recipients of U.S. safety help. Since then, the United States has supplied Egypt with greater than $50 billion in military aid and $30 billion in financial help, in accordance to the State Department.

Through most of that interval, democracy in Egypt has been underneath fixed risk, typically disappearing altogether and changed with harsh military rule, most not too long ago throughout the tenure of present President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi. As commander of Egypt’s military forces, he led the coup that overthrew the final elected president, Mohamed Morsi, in 2013. In an election the next 12 months, he received the presidency with 97 % of the vote.

In its State Department appropriations invoice final 12 months, Congress directed the administration to maintain again $320 million of the $1.3 billion in annual military aid the United States gave Egypt, absent human rights enhancements. While the State Department canceled $130 million in military help in 2022, the administration additionally accredited a $2.5 billion arms sales package to Cairo.

In late July, 11 Democratic senators, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) wrote to Secretary of State Antony Blinken to urge that the total $320 million be withheld this 12 months. “Over the last year, Egypt’s human rights record has continued to deteriorate, despite the Egyptian government’s claims to the contrary,” the letter stated.

Al-Sisi’s authorities has lengthy been accused of abuses towards political opponents, the media and others. Over the previous 12 months, the senators wrote, “the government has not only failed to investigate allegations of human rights abuses, it has also continued to commit ‘significant human rights’ violations such as extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture and life-threatening prison conditions, and severe restrictions on freedoms of expressions, assembly and association, as documented in the State Department’s latest human rights report.”

In a Senate flooring speech Tuesday, Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Near East and sits on the Appropriations Committee, famous that “Egypt has released more than 1,600 political prisoners since early 2022. That’s good news. During that same time, they have jailed 5,000 more.”

“That’s not the kind of ‘clear and consistent progress’ in releasing political prisoners that the law requires,” Murphy stated whereas once more urging that your entire $320 million lined by the regulation be withheld.

The State Department and the Pentagon didn’t instantly reply to questions in regards to the redirected funds.

Abigail Hauslohner contributed to this report.

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