U.S. Supplying Egypt With Attack Copters Easing Aid Halt

The U.S. is resuming delivery of Apache attack helicopters to Egypt and releasing half of the $1.3 billion a year in military aid that was halted last year.

President Barack Obama decided to provide 10 helicopters to help fight terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Egyptian counterpart in a telephone call April 22, according to Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman.

The assistance was suspended after the military led the ouster of Egypt’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Mursi in July. Secretary of State John Kerry told U.S. lawmakers that Egypt is abiding by its peace treaty with Israel and is combating terrorism. Kerry stopped short of verifying that Egypt is moving toward democracy, a third step required for some of the U.S. aid to flow.

“He is certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States,” Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement. “He urged Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy -– including by conducting free, fair, and transparent elections.”

Kerry met yesterday in Washington with Egypt’s intelligence chief, Mohamed Farid El-Tohamy, and is scheduled to meet on April 29 with Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, the highest-ranking Egyptian official to visit the U.S. capital since July. The announcement on the helicopters came a month before the Arab world’s most populous country holds presidential elections.

Funds Withheld

Human-rights advocates yesterday expressed concern over the Obama administration’s decision to restart some military aid, citing Egypt’s crackdown on political opponents.

“This kind of mixed messaging from the administration will only create more distrust and misunderstanding among the Egyptian government and civil society fighting for democracy and human rights,” Neil Hicks, international policy adviser to Human Rights First, said in a statement. “Egypt cannot be a reliable strategic partner for the United States while its government is engaging in widespread repression.”

The AH-64D Longbow Apache helicopters made by Chicago-based Boeing Co. are being provided from funds obligated in the previous fiscal year. Psaki said yesterday that Kerry’s certifications also will permit the U.S. to provide $650 million this year to support “critical security efforts and continue to fund contracts for other goods and services.”

Spending Legislation

The Pentagon continues to withhold previously ordered F-16 fighter jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp., General Dynamics Corp. M1A1 tanks to be assembled in Egypt, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Boeing, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said yesterday.

While U.S. law requires freezing aid when a government is deposed in a coup d’etat, the Obama administration has consistently stopped short of calling Mursi’s ouster a coup.

Spending legislation that’s funding the U.S. government through the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 tied the release of military aid to maintaining strategic relations with the U.S., meeting obligations toward Israel and moving toward democracy. The administration plans to release funds it deems related to the two goals it certified Egypt achieved.

The U.S. halted delivery of fighter jets and other military gear and withheld $260 million of cash support for the Egyptian government “pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections,” Psaki had said in October.

The U.S. has given Egypt about $1.3 billion a year in military aid as a byproduct of the U.S.-brokered Camp David agreement of 1978, when Egypt split from its Arab neighbors and agreed on a separate peace treaty with Israel.

Former Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Seesi, who led Mursi’s removal, stepped down as armed forces chief in March to run for president in next month’s election. Egypt has banned as terrorist the Muslim Brotherhood that backed Mursi.

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