On Friday, September 29th, a significant development emerged as a leading Democrat, Congressman Gregory Meeks, urged the Biden administration to pause a substantial portion of military financing to Egypt, citing grave human rights concerns. This call for a pause comes at a time when there’s a growing demand to cut down assistance to nations flouting human rights violations.
Meeks, who holds a pivotal position as the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed his concerns on Friday, emphasizing that Egypt had failed to meet the human rights criteria set by lawmakers to receive the aid. The United States had placed human rights conditions on $320 million of the $1.3 billion that Cairo receives annually from Washington. However, earlier this month, the Biden administration waived these conditions, asserting that the assistance advances U.S. national interests, and only withheld $85 million.
“Today, I requested the State Department pause a portion of U.S. military financing to Egypt that is conditioned on human rights criteria,” Meeks stated, referring to the remaining $235 million. He further stressed the need for more clarity from the State Department on how concerns about the treatment of political prisoners, journalists, and the rule of law are being addressed in the U.S.-Egypt bilateral relationship.
This call for a pause in aid coincides with a period when Senator Bob Menendez, a key Democrat, faces corruption charges over allegations of accepting bribes to deliver political favors, including advancing the Egyptian government’s interests in Washington, D.C. Menendez, who stepped down as the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after the charges, has denied any wrongdoing.
The allegations against Menendez have reignited demands in Congress to reassess assistance to Egypt. “It’s a devastating series of allegations, and as a committee, we now have a responsibility to understand what Egypt was doing and what Egypt thought it was getting,” said Chris Murphy earlier this week.
Rights groups have persistently accused the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of jailing tens of thousands of dissidents and outlawing almost all forms of political opposition, a claim Cairo denies. Despite Egypt launching a “National Human Rights Strategy” in 2021, rights groups have dismissed it as a mere cover-up for ongoing abuses.
This unfolding scenario underscores a broader narrative of how foreign aid is intertwined with human rights adherence, reflecting a complex dynamic between international relations and humanitarian principles.