Obama restores US military aid to Egypt

F-16 aircraft

F-16 aircraft (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

US military aid to Egypt is being restored after a two-year freeze, in response to developments in Libya and Yemen. This will indirectly benefit Israel, which faces many of the same threats as Egypt.

The United States is restoring military assistance to Egypt after having suspended the aid in October 2013.

US President Barack Obama called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday to inform him directly that due to regional developments in Libya and Yemen, he was lifting the holds imposed on military equipment. This is good news for Israel, which relies on the Egyptian military to maintain security in the Sinai and along the Egypt-Gaza border.

According to a White House press release, Egypt will soon receive F-16 fighter jets, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 tank kits. Obama put an executive hold on the delivery of this equipment in October 2013 after al-Sisi overthrew the government of President Mohammed Morsi in what the US strategically declined to call a military coup.

“The President also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, the President noted that we will channel U.S. security assistance for Egypt to four categories – counter-terrorism, border security, Sinai security, and maritime security – and for sustainment of weapons systems already in Egypt’s arsenal,” said the press release.

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The Obama administration’s decision to resume military aid is in response to regional developments. ISIS has gained a foothold in Libya, which the organization announced prominently with the beheading of a score of Coptic Christians from Egypt. In Yemen, Iran has been funding the Shiite rebellion that unseated President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. Egypt is participating in the Saudi-led coalition to restore government control to Yemen.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ( Jihad Watch)

The White House originally indicated in 2013 that aid would be resumed once al-Sisi demonstrated his commitment to democracy and human rights. Instead, “President Obama also reiterated US concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials. He encouraged increased respect for freedom of speech and assembly and emphasized that these issues remain a focus for the United States,” according to the press release.

Egypt is traditionally the second-largest recipient of US military aid, behind Israel. The aid was promised as part of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. Since then, Israel has come to benefit from Egyptian military action against such threats as Islamic militants in the Sinai and Hamas in Gaza.

Egypt has enforced the ongoing siege on Gaza since the 2007 Hamas takeover and has been destroying smuggling tunnels along its Gaza border.

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By: Lauren Calin, World Israel News