Cardin withholds $235 million in military aid to Egypt; pits himself against Biden administration

Ahram Online , Wednesday 4 Oct 2023

Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md), the newly appointed chair of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, withheld on Tuesday $235 million in US military financing earmarked for Egypt. The move pits Cardin against the Biden administration.

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin
File Photo:U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin talks to reporters about assuming chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 28, 2023. AP


The decision is in conflict with a recent waiver the Biden administration issued, which gives the green light for the delivery of the military aid to Egypt.

“I intend to exercise fully the committee’s oversight responsibilities and my authorities to hold foreign military funds and the sale of arms to the government of Egypt, if it does not take concrete, meaningful, and sustainable steps to improve the human rights conditions in the country,” Cardin said in a Foreign Relations Committee statement on Tuesday.

The US and Egypt share long-standing strategic interests, starting with Egypt’s region-changing decision to be the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel, to its critical efforts to de-escalate tensions in the region in pursuit of peace, he added.

“Egypt’s stability is in the US national interest, and that interest is best served when the Egyptian government is taking sustainable, concrete, and meaningful steps to improve respect for the human rights of its citizens,” Cardin said.

Congress has been legislatively clear that Egypt’s record on a range of critical human rights issues, good governance, and the rule of law must improve “if our bilateral relationship is to be sustained,” he pointed out.

“My hold on current funds will remain until specific human rights progress is made,” Cardin stressed.

The US has been providing Egypt with aid, including military assistance, since Cairo's 1979 peace deal with Israel.

Each year, Egypt receives approximately $1.3 billion in US military aid, as well as an annual economic assistance package, which amounted to $150 million in 2016, according to the website of Egypt's foreign ministry.

In mid-September 2023, the Biden administration passed $235 million in military aid to Egypt, which had been withheld for the previous two years due to human rights concerns, saying the approval was imperative to national security.

At that moment, the US decision meant retaining only a minor portion — $85 million — of the $1.3 billion.

Cardin succeeds Bob Menendez, who is facing allegations that he accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes in exchange for leveraging his influence for Egypt's benefit.


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