Biden administration approves anti-tank missiles sale to Egypt
The move comes as US officials believe the war in Ukraine is an opportunity to pry Egypt away from the orbit of Russia.
Congress was informed by the Biden administration on Thursday that it has approved a possible sale to Egypt of $691m worth of anti-tank missiles and other equipment.
If completed, the sale would include 5,070 TOW 2A anti-tank missiles, equipment, tools, and training services.
The Department of Defense released a statement saying the weapons would help Egypt reload its existing stockpiles of arms and be used for border security and counter-terrorism operations.
"This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a Major Non-NATO Ally that continues to be an important strategic partner in the Middle East," the statement said.
Egypt has witnessed a years-long campaign against militants in the Sinai peninsula. Earlier this month, the Egyptian Armed Forces announced that 11 soldiers were killed while attempting to prevent a "terrorist attack on the Suez Canal zone bordering the Sinai Peninsula."
Egypt is home to the Suez Canal and a strategic US ally in the region; the US provides Cairo every year with about $1.3bn in military aid, the second-highest amount of any country after "Israel".
However, ties between the two countries have come under strain over the US' critique of human rights issues in Egypt., like elsewhere in the world but the US.
According to US State Department officials, the US administration withheld $130 million in military aid for "human rights concerns" and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's tightening crackdown on dissent in recent years.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had stated in September that funding would be withdrawn if Egypt did not meet particular human-rights-related criteria imposed by Washington, which activists claim included the release of some political prisoners.
In recent years, Egypt has also made deals with France and Russia in order to diversify its arms supply. Moscow was the only largest arms provider to the country between 2017 and 2021, while Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi looked to protect his country from dependence on the US.
However, Russia's war in Ukraine and western sanctions rose hopes among US officials that they can pry Egypt and other countries in the Middle East away from Russia's orbit.