US President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday approved a nearly $200 million arms sale to Egypt, confirming that Cairo “continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East.”
The sale’s approval to Egypt raises many questions, especially after the Biden administration vowed to end support for Saudi Arabia’s offensive operations in Yemen’s war and said it is reviewing a major jet sale to the United Arab Emirates.
The $197 million sale of 168 tactical Raytheon-made Rolling Airframe Missiles (RAMs) was requested by the Egyptian navy to improve defense in coastal areas and around the Red Sea, the State Department said.
The State Department said in a statement that it approved the sale, subject to Congressional review. The sale also includes tri-pack shipping and storage containers, manuals, technical documentation and US government and contractor technical support.
The State Department said in a statement that the proposed sale of the missiles and related equipment “will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO Ally country that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East.”
“The proposed sale will support the Egyptian Navy’s Fast Missile Craft ships and provide significantly enhanced area defense capabilities over Egypt’s coastal areas and approaches to the Suez Canal,” the statement added.
The State Department also confirmed that the proposed sale and support “will not change the basic military balance in the region and that there will be no negative impact on the defensive readiness of the United States.”
Last Saturday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry stated that he saw “no room for any concern or optimism” regarding dealing with the Biden administration.
He explained that “Over the past four decades, (Egypt-US relations) have been strong, strategic, and have had many fields of cooperation and common gains.”
“The US is a superpower with both political and economic capabilities that make it important (for Egypt) to deal with it and find out mutual interests,” he added.
“The relations… have continued, whether the administration is republican or democratic. This succession over the past 40 years has made us deal with different administrations that held different viewpoints. We always had in-depth dialogue with them, as well as points of consensus and points of difference.”
He added that the difference in views eventually found a point of consensus.
“On many occasions, the Egyptian point of view is correct, and the American point of view is correct, and we assess the matter eventually according to events and results,” Shoukry noted.
He affirmed that Egypt currently maintains contact with the US through the former’s embassy in Washington, the State Department and the White House National Security Council.
“There is certainly no room for any concerns and no room for any optimism,” since “it all depends on the normal and practical management of bilateral relations,” the Egyptian minister noted.
Egypt’s regional rivals are relying on the Biden administration to put pressure on the Egyptian regime regarding the human rights file, especially since there have been previous remarks in this regard by the US president towards his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after years of close relations between the latter and former US President Donald Trump.
Observers point out that Cairo does not want to engage in a confrontation with Washington, and is working to reduce tensions over controversial issues.
Egypt has recently sent positive messages on the human rights file, most notably through the approval of executive regulations for the law on NGOs that were suspended for three years and the release of political activists.