The Biden administration plans to cancel millions in military financing for Egypt over the country’s alleged failure to address long-standing human rights abuses, instead using the funds to help Taiwan and Lebanon purchase weapons, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
President Joe Biden notified Congress of his intention to withhold at least $85 million in foreign military financing, which provides partner countries money with which to purchase arms from the U.S., that was initially conditioned on the release of political prisoners, the WSJ reported, citing U.S. officials. About $55 million of that aid may go to Taiwan instead as a means of reinforcing Taiwan’s military and strategic ties to the U.S. amid increasing tensions with China, several officials said.
Crisis-ridden Lebanon would receive the remaining $30 million, according to the WSJ.
Some lawmakers want the administration to rescind an additional $235 million in military aid tied to Egypt’s progress on human rights issues.
“[T]o the Biden administration’s credit, over the past two years, they have withheld a portion of Egypt for military aid because of these human rights violations,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in a statement to the WSJ. “There’s just no question, there has not been enough progress.”
The U.S. provides about $1.3 billion in military assistance to Egypt every year to reinforce close ties with the powerful Middle Eastern nation, but relations lately have strained over Egypt’s human rights record and differences over the war in Ukraine, according to the WSJ. In 2022, the Biden administration withheld $130 million in conditional aid.
Egypt’s president, Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi, did pardon a number of political prisoners in recent months including human-rights researcher Patrick George Zaki and lawyer Mohamed El-Baqer, according to the WSJ.
However, human rights watchers say their releases don’t make up for the thousands of dissidents, journalists and human rights advocates Egypt, under Sisi, has detained and mistreated amid a wider crackdown on free speech and political opposition, according to The Washington Post. Repression only intensified days ahead of the Biden administration’s deadline to decide whether to grant Egypt the conditional military assistance.
— House Foreign Affairs Committee Majority (@HouseForeignGOP) August 31, 2023
The redirected assistance will help Taiwan acquire U.S.-made self defense weapons, including air and coastal defense systems, drones, cyber defense capabilities and weapons that can thwart incoming ballistic missiles, the WSJ reported, citing a notification sent to Congress.
In August, the administration announced $80 million in foreign military financing for Taiwan, the first time that mechanism has been used to help build up the democratically-governed island’s military, CNN reported.
“FMF will be used to strengthen Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities through joint and combined defense capability and enhanced maritime domain awareness and maritime security capability,” a State Department notification to Congress of the transfer viewed by CNN stated.
Taiwan could receive as much as $320 million in foreign military financing in the future, officials told the WSJ, although the total would be much less than the $2 billion Congress authorized for use under the program.
The State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s requests for comment.
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