Issue Brief: Business as Usual – U.S. Arms Sales To Egypt

Business as Usual for Arms Sales to Egypt, Expanded NATO Training Mission in Iraq, Turkey Hires Lobbyists for F35 Membership & more



February 22, 2021

Issue Brief: Business as Usual – U.S. Arms Sales To Egypt

Security Assistance Monitor, February 2021

A new issue brief by Security Assistance Monitor (SAM) looks at U.S. arms sales and security assistance to Egypt in the context of the Biden administration’s February 16 notification of its intent to sell $197 million worth of missiles to the Sisi government. 
On February 16, 2021, the Biden Administration notified Congress of a proposed sale of 168 Rolling Airframe Missiles to Egypt worth $197 million. The U.S. government has said the sale is a routine replenishment of Cairo’s naval defense systems, but it comes amidst deteriorating human rights conditions in the country, including the arrest of relatives of Egyptian-American activist Mohamed Soltan the same day the sale was announced.

The sale is the first proposed for Egypt under President Biden, despite his promises to recalibrate arms transfers to authoritarian governments. And though the sale may be business as usual, the enduring security partnership with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s increasingly repressive government has raised serious ethical and practical concerns, in terms of human rights and broader U.S. interests. 

The Sisi government has presided over over a sweeping crackdown and a massive expansion of executive powers that some experts have called “most repressive Egyptian state in modern history.” 

The Brief provides an overview of U.S. arms sales and security assistance to Egypt, with detailed figures and analysis. To read the full brief, click here

Security Assistance News & Research Roundup

News & Blog Posts


Saudi Arabia arms sales: Which countries are still exporting?

Middle East Eye, February 19

Following the US pause on weapons deals to Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, Middle East Eye breaks down which major military exporters continue to arm the Saudi-led coalition, which countries have canceled contracts, and what action is being taken by campaigners across the globe.

US signals it is open to sending more troops to support NATO’s mission in Iraq

CNN, February 18

The Pentagon opened the door to the possibility of sending more American troops to the Middle East as part of a newly expanded NATO training mission to support Iraqi forces. 

Turkey hires U.S. lobbying firm to return to F-35 jet program

Reuters, February 18

Turkey has hired a Washington-based law firm to lobby for its readmission to the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program after it was suspended over its purchase of Russian air defenses, a contract filed with the U.S. Department of Justice showed.

Iraqis, Syrians still rely on coalition airpower as troop levels wane

Air Force Times, February 13

According to a new Pentagon Inspector General report, Iraqi and Syrian forces still depend on aerial intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from the US-led coalition. The report adds that the US-led coalition has shifted away from hands-on training and towards remote advising out of a few consolidated bases.

NATO chief says alliance won’t remove troops from Afghanistan ‘before the time is right’

CNN, February 15

Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says NATO will not pull its forces out of Afghanistan “before the time is right,” leaving open the possibility that the alliance’s troops will stay beyond the May 1 deadline for US withdrawal of service members.


Research, Analysis, and Opinion  


Why the US’s counterterrorism strategy in the Sahel keeps failing

Mail and Guardian, February 16

A new long-form piece examines the decades of US foreign military training in the Sahel and the “pattern of calamity” that has continued to plague the enterprise, suggesting an urgent need for the U.S. government to re-evaluate its military assistance practices. 

If The U.S. Wants To Promote Human Rights In Egypt, It Should Link Military Aid To Real Reform

Forbes Magazine, February 19

“Over the last 40 years, the U.S. has provided more than $50 billion in military and economic aid to Egyptian governments — money that has delivered few benefits to most Egyptians, while propping up despotic leaders,” writes Forbes Senior Contributor Michael Posner, “It is time to alter the formula that grants the Egyptian government an almost-automatic yearly extension of funding without conditioning aid on tangible progress on human rights. This formula no longer makes sense.”

Weapons biz bankrolls experts pushing to extend Afghan War

Responsible Statecraft, February 16 

Senior advisor at the Quincy Institute Eli Clifton warns that this foreign policy advice is heavily dominated by people with financial stakes in continuing war. Many of the group’s “senior advisers” and plenary members maintain deep ties to the weapons industry, and have received millions of dollars in compensation for their work on the boards of defense contractors. 

Don’t stop with Saudis — Biden must cut off weapons to UAE, too

Responsible Statecraft, February 17

The Center For International Policy’s William Hartung argues that arms sales to the United Arab Emirates should receive the same scrutiny given to Saudi arms offers. “Reversing all of Trump’s arms sales to the UAE and Saudi Arabia would be an excellent first step towards fulfilling President Biden’s desire to end the war in Yemen, as well as a step towards reorienting U.S. policy in the broader Middle East towards promoting peace and reconciliation rather than war and confrontation,” writes Hartung.


Data Fact of the Week:

Arms Sales to Egypt By Type Since 2008

The graphic above illustrates the types of arms and defense services the U.S. has sold to Egypt since 2008. 

On February 16, 2021, the Biden Administration notified Congress of a proposed sale of 168 Rolling Airframe Missiles to Egypt worth $197 million. The sale is the first proposed for Egypt under President Biden, despite his promises to recalibrate arms transfers to authoritarian governments. 

To read SAM’s issue brief on the sale, click here

From The U.S. Government 

Defense Department


Major Arms Sale: Egypt – Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAM) Block 2 Tactical Missiles

February 16, 2021  

Estimated cost of $197 million.

Major Arms Sale: Finland – Extended Range Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System

February 17, 2021  

Estimated cost of $91.2 million.

Upcoming Congressional Hearings


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2/23: Hearings to examine emerging technologies and their impact on national security.

House Armed Services Committee

2/23: Near-Peer Advancements in Space and Nuclear Weapons

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2/24: Future Defense Spending

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2/24: Hearings to examine the nomination of William Joseph Burns, of Maryland, to be Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

Upcoming Events (All Online)

2/22: Canada and the Arms Trade, hosted by Project Ploughshares
2/22: Prospects for U.S.-China Diplomatic Dialogue under the Biden Administration, hosted by Georgetown University
2/22-2/26: The Middle East and the new US administration, hosted by Brookings
2/23: Missile Defense and Defeat: A Conversation with the Vice Chairman, hosted by CSIS
2/24: Is “Freeze for Freeze” A Viable Pathway to Re-engage with Iran?, hosted by CSIS
2/24: Security Challenges in Africa: 2021 and Beyond, hosted by USIP
2/25: MEI Annual Counterterrorism Conference, hosted by MEI
2/25:  New Strategy for U.S. Engagement in North Africa, hosted by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
2/26: Women’s gains in Afghanistan: Healthcare’s essential role in stabilizing Afghanistan, hosted by the Atlantic Council
2/26: A Path for Peacebuilding through Peace Education in Afghanistan: Lessons Learned and the Road Ahead for Peace Education, hosted by Georgetown University
2/26: The Fragmented Spectacle of Chinese Soft Power in Africa, hosted by Georgetown University
2/26: The War of Tomorrow: How are novel military technologies changing modern conflicts?, hosted by World BEYOND War 
3/3: Arms Sales to Conflict Zones, hosted by Forum on the Arms Trade
3/8: Gun Violence in the Americas, hosted by The Network for the Prevention of Gun Violence in the Americas
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