WASHINGTON — The Obama administration announced Tuesday that it was reinstating military assistance to Egypt that had been suspended after a bloody crackdown on opposition activists, a move that analysts say mutes U.S. calls for democratic reforms but also promises sweeping changes to the way aid has traditionally been given the country.
The White House said that President Barack Obama personally called Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to deliver the news – an overture that comes as turmoil in the Middle East has the administration looking for partners that are more reliable than revolutionary.
U.S. officials said they’re now ready to provide additional military assistance, including releasing 12 F-16 aircraft, 20 Harpoon missiles, and up to 125 M1A1 Abrams tanks that had been blocked from delivery since 2013, when Egyptian forces killed more than 800 people and wounded thousands in what Human Rights Watch called “one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history.” The Egyptian government puts the death toll at 638.
The episode drew international condemnation of Egypt’s powerful military council, which had seized power in a coup amid massive protests against Mohammed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood figure who was the first democratically elected president in Egyptian history. Sissi was head of the armed forces during the coup. He was elected president last year and since has cracked down on dissent, not only from Islamists, but leftists and moderates.