Saturday, June 20, 2015

US policy in Egypt motivated by competition with Russia for arms sales not justice

An Egyptian court has upheld the death sentence against the first elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi. He was sworn in as president in June 2012.
Just over a year after taking office in July 2013, Morsi was removed from office after mass protests and a military coup led by commander of the military, Abdel el-Sisi. El-Sisi would later be elected president. Morsi was held without charge for some time but later was charged with a number of crimes. He and five other defendants have been sentenced to death by hanging for a mass jail break. This jail break happened as part of the Arab Spring revolution against Hosni Mubarak.
The military-supported government initiated a crackdown on opponents of the regime, including Morsi supporters, members of the Muslim Brotherhood and other opponents of the regime. The repression continued when el-Sisi became president. There were mass trials that made a mockery of the Egyptian judicial system. Hundreds were sentenced to death in mass trials. The US did react to these violations of human rights by freezing some military aid.
However, in March of this year Obama unfroze the aid:The White House says the U.S. is supplying Egypt with 12 F-16s, 20 Harpoon missiles and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits – delivery of which was suspended in 2013 after a military-backed coup ousted President Mohammed Morsi and cracked down on his supporters. A White House statement also said President Obama directed the continued request of an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance, in the form of foreign military financing.The el-Sisi regime has not changed its repression of opposition. If anything, it has become worse with arrests of journalists and more trials that are judicial farces and almost universally condemned. What happened was that Egypt decided if the U.S. was going to try and use military aid to force reforms then it would seek arms elsewhere.
In September of 2014 Russia and Egypt signed a preliminary deal to buy $3.5 billion in arms from Russia. Later in February of this year when Putin visited Cairo on Feb. 9 arms deals were discussed and military officials from the internationally recognized Libyan government discussed purchase of arms from Russia as well. Since there is a ban on direct sales to Libya under a UN resolution, Egypt could "mediate" any purchase. It is hardly surprising that in March suddenly the el-Sisi regime had reformed sufficiently to receive billions from the U.S. again.
The U.S. has a long history of supplying arms for Egypt even under the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. It has a generous "cash flow" arrangement that only one other ally of the U.S., Israel, is able to use:Since the early 1980s, the United States has granted Egypt an extraordinary ability to place orders with American defense contractors that are worth far more than Congress has appropriated for military aid, according to U.S. officials. Under the mechanism, called cash-flow financing, Egypt can submit large orders for equipment that takes years to produce and deliver, under the assumption that U.S. lawmakers will continue to allocate the same amount in military aid year after year.From 2008 to 2012 Egypt ordered $8.5 billion in military aid while the U.S. Congress only allocated $6.3 billion for military aid to Egypt. In effect, Egypt has a credit card for US military purchases with a spending limit of billions.
The U.S. has called the death sentence against Morsi "deeply troubling." Josh Earnest, the White House spokesperson, delivered a sentence of a few tongue-lashings against Egypt: "We are deeply troubled by the politically motivated sentences that have been handed down against former president Morsi and several others by an Egyptian court today..We are concerned that proceedings have been conducted in a way that is not only contrary to universal values but also damaging to stability that all Egyptians deserve,"He did not suggest that the U.S. would now again freeze military aid to Egypt. An appeal of the sentence can still be made. Egypt may or may not feel the need to show some mercy.


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