Obama Lifts Arms Freeze Against Egypt


New York Times/Middle East

WASHINGTON — Seeking to patch up relations with a longtime regional ally at a time of spreading war and instability in the Middle East, President Obama on Tuesday lifted an arms freeze against Egypt that he first imposed after the 2013 military overthrow of the country’s elected government.

Mr. Obama removed his holds on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 tank kits and in a telephone call assured President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt that he would continue to support $1.3 billion in annual military assistance for the Cairo government, the White House announced.

The White House said in a statement, “The president explained that these and other steps will help refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region, consistent with the longstanding strategic partnership between our two countries.”

While the White House said Mr. Obama continued to express concern about human rights abuses in Egypt, the decision to resume arms deliveries signaled a geopolitical trade-off for the American leader. In effect, he signaled that he was done punishing Cairo for toppling an elected president and that he was instead focusing on the shared goal of combating extremist elements in Libya and Yemen.

Egypt has said in recent days that it may send ground troops into Yemen if necessary to support an air campaign led by Saudi Arabia to counter the advance of Houthi rebels backed by Iran. Egypt also helped announce a plan to join with other Arab countries to form a combined military force to stand against Iranian aggression and Islamic extremism.

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