by Mahmoud Fouly
The United States has decided to release its annual military aid to Egypt to secure its interests in the Middle East due to Egypt’s proven influence in the conflict-stricken region, the security and political experts said.
In a phone call with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama informed him that the U.S. will release the holds imposed since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 tank kits to Egypt.
“The President also advised President Sisi that he will continue to request an annual 1.3 billion dollars in military assistance to Egypt,” the White House said in a statement Tuesday.
The top world power withheld its annual military aid to Egypt three months after Sisi, then army chief, led the overthrow of first democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 after mass protests against his one-year rule and his Muslim Brotherhood group.
U.S. REGIONAL INTERESTS
Egypt is currently joining a Saudi-led regional coalition against the Iran-backed Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen who have recently forced the country’s president to flee to Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. backs the coalition to prevent the expansion of Iranian influence in the region if Yemen falls in the hands of the Houthis and to avoid Iranian seizure of nearby Bab al-Mandab Strait that may affect world trade.
“If Yemen was controlled by Iran, it would affect the world trade in general, as about 21,000 ships cross the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandab Strait every year,” said strategic and security expert Abdel-Moneim Kato, a retired military major general.
Security of Israel is also part of the U.S. interests in the Middle East, as the U.S. successive administrations always reiterated that the security of its number one ally in the region is part of its own security.
Egypt and Israel signed a U.S.-brokered peace treaty in 1979 and experts believe that the continuation of this agreement is in favor of the security and stability of the currently-chaotic region.
“The U.S. is aware that Israel is safe as long as Egypt is safe and that if it clashes with Egypt, the U.S.-Israeli interests in the region are not safe,” Kato told Xinhua.
Security experts see that combating terrorism is also one of the reasons behind the the U.S. decision to approach Egypt, the country that has adopted an “anti-terror-war” slogan since the removal of former Islamist President Morsi.
“There are Western mercenaries from the U.S. and Europe who have joined the regional Islamic State (IS) militant group,” Kato continued, adding that it raises concerns that they might form similar groups when they get back home.
“This is why the West sees that terrorism should be uprooted in its cradle in the Middle East to avoid its spread around the world,” Kato told Xinhua.
Since Morsi’s ouster, crackdown on his loyalists, which left about 1,000 of them dead and thousands more arrested, was criticized by the West in general and the U.S. in particular.
Meanwhile, self-proclaimed Islamist extremists killed hundreds of security men in anti-government terrorist attacks nationwide.
As an Egyptian Sinai-based militant group has recently pledged allegiance to the IS group, Egypt has become a key player in the region in terms of fighting terrorism, which led eventually to the change of the U.S. position towards Egypt.
ATTEMPT TO CONTAIN EGYPT
Sisi’s leadership worked hard to establish itself and improve Egypt’s foreign relations with Eastern and Western states.
The policy proved fruitful after Egypt successfully hosted a recent economic conference and an Arab summit that were attended by senior representatives of numerous countries including heads of states.
Gamal Salama, head of political science department at Suez University, sees that the U.S. release of military aid to Egypt shows that the United States does not want to “bet on a losing horse” after all its pressures on the country have gone in vain.
“Obama wants to contain Egypt so that it does not divert from coordination with the United States,” Salama told Xinhua, arguing that it is in favor of the United States to keep Egypt in its sphere.
HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS
The White House said that Obama during his phone call with President Sisi “reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials” and that he encouraged “increased respect” for freedom of speech and assembly.
The professor told Xinhua that those U.S. pro-human rights concerns were mere words to save face and to avoid criticism of U.S. media outlets that support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Salama also ruled out the possibility that the United States may give up its support for the Brotherhood despite approaching Sisi’s administration.
“The United States would rather keep the group as a pressure card to use against the Egyptian leadership when necessary,” the professor told Xinhua. Enditem