Egypt: Six years after the coup, what has US military assistance bought us?

July 3rd marked the sixth anniversary of the 2013 coup in Egypt, which ousted the now deceased President Mohammed Morsi. Despite years of upheaval and multiple regime changes, U.S. military assistance to Egypt has continued mostly uninterrupted. In a recent piece by SAM’s Ian Wallace critically examines the $83 billion in bilateral foreign aid the United States has provided Egypt between 1946 and 2019, and the political paradox it has posed to U.S. policymakers.

After a military takeover of the Egyptian government on July 3, 2013, President Obama refrained from referring to the event as a “coup,” which would have legally required the United States to cut all assistance. A few months later, President Obama suspended only a couple hundred million dollars in U.S. military aid. The freeze was largely symbolic as Egypt still received over $1.2 billion in U.S. military aid in 2013 and over $1.3 billion in 2014. Despite a lack of progress on human rights or democratization, U.S. military aid to Egypt resumed in 2015. As evidenced by Secretary of State Pompeo’s similar temporary freeze, withholding assistance to Egypt has essentially become part of a regular pattern. In total, Egypt received over $9 billion in military assistance between 2013 and 2019.

Cpl. Theodore W. Ritchie, U.S. Marine Corps.

Under El Sisi’s leadership, what progress had been made following Egypt’s first democratic election has been more than reversed. Between the targeting of Copts, journalists, Islamists, and LGBT Egyptians, human rights practices in Egypt have deteriorated, though U.S. security assistance policy has remained mostly unchanged.

As noted in Wallace’s article, it is incumbent on members of Congress to question the merits of this relationship. One option would be for Congress or the President to apply conditions on assistance in hopes of influencing the Egyptian regime’s conduct. A link to the full article can be found here.