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From the Camp David peace accords in 1978 until 2000 (the latest year for which figures are available), the United States has subsidized Egypt's armed forces with over $38 billion worth of aid. Egypt receives about $2 billion annually--$1.3 billion in foreign military financing and about $815 million in economic support fund assistance --making it the second largest regular recipient of conventional U.S. military and economic aid, after Israel. In 1990, the United States also forgave $7.1 billion in past Egyptian military debt in return for Egypt's support of Operation Desert Shield. In addition, Egypt receives excess defense articles worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually from the Pentagon. The announcement that 23,000 U.S. troops will be based in Egypt to conduct biannual military training exercises (Operation Bright Star) may have longer term implications for U.S. aid to the region, as might Egypt's willingness to support U.S. efforts against the Taliban.
Though the 1990s have brought economic improvements, Egypt is still poor, with an estimated 2000 annual GDP-per-capita of $3,600. In 1999, Egypt spent 2.7 percent of its gross national product and $2.508 billion in constant 1998 U.S. dollars on its military.
Massive U.S. military support of Egypt has coincided with 20 years of rule under Emergency Law, and continues despite regular reports of serious human rights abuses committed by the Egyptian government. According to the U.S. State Department's 2000 Human Rights Report, "The dominant role of the President and the entrenched NDP (National Democratic Party) control the political scene to such an extent that citizens do not have a meaningful ability to change their Government."
The government's abuse of Emergency Law powers increased dramatically in 1992 in response to a violent campaign launched by Islamic militants. Yet despite reductions in extremist violence, the Egyptian government has continued its crackdown, including what the U.S. State Department terms “numerous serious human rights abuses” committed by state security forces. These abuses include torture, arbitrary arrest, prolonged pretrial detention, extrajudicial executions, and "disappearances," and are often committed with impunity. Years of abuse by national anti-terrorist groups appear to have filtered down to afflict common citizens; according to Human Rights Watch's 2000 Report, in 1999 “evidence continued to mount that local police forces were employing similar torture techniques against ordinary citizens that elite security forces had used systematically against suspected armed militants, their families, and supporters.” In June 2000, the Emergency Law was extended for another three years. The Human Rights Watch's 2001 Report details more recent infringements of human rights committed by Mubarak's government in the run up to elections held in the autumn of 2000. Human Rights Watch reported that, "State security forces continued to commit grave human rights violations with impunity, including the detention without charge or trial of political detainees and torture, and political opponents continued to be sentenced after unfair trials."
The United States sells Egypt a large amount of military equipment and a significant number of small arms; such weaponry is both likely to be used for internal security and difficult to track once sold. These two factors could easily enable such weaponry to find its way into the hands of abusive government security forces. In fact, during fiscal years 1996-1999, according to the U.S. government’s “Section 655” reports, the United States delivered $10 million worth of small arms via the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program and authorized export licenses worth more than $4.8 million through State’s Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) channel. Small arms delivered or authorized included ammunition and raw materials for ammunition, grenades, a variety of pistols and rifles, and riot control equipment.
Arms sales have consistently outweighed regional balance and human rights issues in the U.S.-Egyptian relationship. Defense Secretary Cohen, in defending a 1999 decision to sell Egypt sophisticated Patriot air defense missiles, asserted that the United States had to grant Egyptian requests for high-tech arms because otherwise Egypt “would take it as an insult” and would “seek another supplier.” Yet Egyptian military planners still consider Israel, also a major U.S. weapons customer and aid recipient, to be one of their country’s greatest military threats.
Also disturbing is the fact that the United States’ second largest beneficiary of military aid can be found on the CIA's list of known proliferators, along with Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. According to the CIA’s most recent report on proliferation-related acquisition, “Egypt continues its effort to develop and produce ballistic missiles with the assistance of North Korea. This activity is part of a long-running program of ballistic missile cooperation between these two countries.” The range of these weapons is significant; Egypt could feasibly target all of Israel and beyond. Egypt continues strenuously to deny this allegation, but concerns about Egyptian cooperation with the North Koreans has resulted in a U.S. promise to increase and regularize the monitoring of Egypt's weapons procurement. A 1999 General Accounting Office investigation found that military technology was sold through the Pentagon's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program in violation of the Missile Technology Control Regime to a unnamed country which has co-produced M1A1 tanks since 1989--most likely Egypt (Foreign Military Sales: Review Process for Controlled Missile Technology Needs Improvement, September 1999, 99-231).
In 1999, Egypt received a $3.2 billion grant from the United States to subsidize a major military moderization program. This grant has resulted in the sale of 24 top of the line F-16 fighter jets, 200 heavy tanks and 3 Patriot missile system fire units. Congressional approval of the sale of AMRAAM missiles to Egypt followed in 2000; to appease Israel, the terms of the sale stipulate that Egypt will not be allowed to deploy these missiles on their aircraft. High value purchases continue in 2001 with the sales of helicopters, missile patrol craft, three-dimensional radar systems, 26 MLRS and 50 Stinger Vehicle Universal Launchers. Egypt's coproduction agreements also allow it to manufacture American weapons, such as the M1A1 Abrams main battle tank, on Egyptian soil.
Egypt-U.S. Relations CRS Issue Brief, August 2002.
Human Rights Watch 2001 Report on Egypt.
Human Rights Watch 2000 Report on Egypt.
State Department Human Rights Report on Egypt for 2002.
State Department Human Rights Report on Egypt for 2001.
State Department Human Rights Report on Egypt for 2000.
State Department Human Rights Report on Egypt for 1999
State Department Human Rights Report on Egypt for 1998.
Last Updated: November, 2001