- According to a congressional notification obtained by US Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), the US plans to withhold $85M in military aid to Egypt due to its failure to meet US conditions on freeing political prisoners. The US Dept. of State letter set out that the funds will instead go to Taiwan and Lebanon, which will respectively receive $55M and $30M.1
- Sen. Murphy welcomed the move from the Biden admin. but called on the government to 'withhold the full $320m...until Egypt's human rights and democracy record improves.'2
- Largely as a result of the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, the US has given Egypt roughly $1.3B a year to buy US weapons systems and services. However, in the last two years, the US withheld $130M each year over similar concerns.1
- Critics argued that unless more money is withheld compared to previous years, the Egyptian government will get the sense that its human rights record has improved. Seth Binder, from the Project on Middle East Democracy, told Reuters this is 'just not true.'1
- According to a 2022 New York Times report, Egypt had some 60K political prisoners at the time, though several thousand were reportedly released after Pres. Biden met with Egyptian Pres. Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi that July. However, recent reports suggest that a crackdown on speech is continuing and that new arrests outnumber releases from prison.3
- Narrative A, as provided by Murphy. Egypt under Sisi continues its crackdown on free speech and dissent, jailing thousands more people compared to the number of those released. If Cairo wants to continue receiving US tax dollars, it must respect American values of democracy and free speech. This authoritarian regime has received hundreds of millions of dollars despite its crimes, and US law requires the White House to stop rewarding this behavior.
- Narrative B, as provided by Responsible statecraft. It's not clear that withholding money from Egypt has had any noticeable effect on its human rights record. And while this money is going to Egypt, most of it benefits US national security such as fighting against terrorism in the vital shipping lanes of the Suez Canal. A better approach would be to maintain high levels of diplomacy.