The U.S. has delivered 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt following a year-long delay. The delivery was put on hold following the ouster of Mohamed Morsi and has been a major sticking point in American-Egyptian relations ever since. As the New York Times reports:
The United States announced in April that it had decided to lift its hold on the delivery of the attack helicopters. […]
The Pentagon said in September that the United States would deliver the helicopters, built by Boeing, to support Egypt’s counterterrorism efforts. […]
In another sign of improving relations between the countries, Robert Stephen Beecroft, the new American ambassador to Egypt, arrived in Cairo on Thursday. The previous ambassador left the post more than a year ago, after Mr. Morsi’s ouster.
President Sisi has made a point of mentioning the helicopters as an impediment both to Egypt’s own counter-terrorism efforts and its bilateral relations with the U.S. As he said in an interview with Charlie Rose when asked if Egypt would support the strikes on ISIS: “Give us the Apaches and the F16s that you have been suspending for over a year and a half now.”
Nonetheless, despite removing an obstacle to improved ties with Egypt, the original condition for restoring military aid when it was suspended in October of last year was “credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections.” Sisi’s election, in which he garnered 96% of the popular vote, was described by his opponent as “an insult to the intelligence of the Egyptians.”
Nor have other facets of Egypt’s human rights record improved over the past year. The interior ministry announced yesterday its year-end totals for political arrests. From a different article in the Times:
Egyptian security forces have detained nearly 10,000 people suspected of being militants, rioters and others wanted in violent attacks over the past 12 months in a crackdown that a senior Interior Ministry official said Saturday was aimed at those trying to curtail Egypt’s development. […]
General Osman said security forces had foiled about 400 terrorist attacks since January. He said the security forces had also arrested 460 suspected members of terrorist cells, 6,400 rioters, 50 wanted militants and about 2,600 people accused of attacking police stations.
As we’ve said before, the lack of a coherent U.S. policy on Egypt means we have no good options. The maneuver we’re left with—in which we work with Sisi’s illiberal government while holding our noses in disgust—displeases everyone. It makes the United States look hypocritical on human rights issues while pointlessly infuriating the Egyptian regime. But since Wilsonian moralism will always be part of American foreign policy, this helicopter delivery was bound to be only the beginning of an irritable friendship.