The United States Senate on Thursday rejected an effort to cancel a $2.2 billion deal to sell a dozen C-130J cargo planes, engines and related equipment valued at $2.2 billion to Egypt over the country’s human rights record.
The vote tallied at 81-18 against advancing a resolution offered by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to disapprove the sale. “We should end military sales to Egypt’s criminal masters,” Paul said. “Partially taking away some military aid while offering new sales that are 10 times what we’ve withheld shows weakness in the face of oppression.”
The State Department in late January elected to continue withholding $130 million in military aid, but just days earlier had notified lawmakers of the multibillion-dollar aircraft sale.
The US Department of Defense in a statement on January 25, 2022 said: “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 proposed C-130J-30 Super Hercules aircraft sale will cover four Rolls Royce AE-2100D turboprop engines for each aircraft, 12 Rolls Royce AE-2100D turboprop engine spares, and 30 embedded GPS/INS (EGI) with global positioning systems (GPS) security devices.
It will also include seven multifunctional information distribution system–low volume terminal block upgrade twos (MIDS-LVT BU2), including spares.
Paul criticized President Joe Biden for emphasizing human rights in U.S. foreign policy but continuing to arm Egypt. The senator criticized the decision to withhold a relatively small amount of military aid as a “slap on the wrist” while continuing larger arms sales.
Late last year, the Biden administration announced that it was preventing $130 million worth of military aid to Egypt due to allege human rights violations.
“We should end military sales to Egypt’s criminal masters,” Paul said. “Partially taking away some military aid while offering new sales that are 10 times what we’ve withheld shows weakness in the face of oppression.”
Lawmakers have pressured the Biden administration to cut military aid for Egypt to force reforms in that country.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced in September that $130 million in military aid would be held back unless Egypt made progress on human rights. That aid was part of a tranche of $300 million conditioned by Congress on human rights improvements and strengthening the rule of law. The State Department released the remaining $170 million.
The State Department noted that Cairo has failed to comply with human rights conditions laid out, and a deadline of 30 January was not met.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi at the time released some political prisoners since the U.S. first withheld the funding in the fall. Still, his government has cracked down on political opponents in recent years, and Egypt’s lack of progress on improving human rights spurred Blinken to continue withholding the money.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez of New Jersey, and Armed Services Chair Jack Reed of Rhode Island opposed Paul’s views, with the opinion that the Lockheed Martin-built cargo aircraft aren’t offensive weapons systems.
“These sales that we’re talking about here to Egypt present no direct human rights concerns and should be separated from that conversation,” Risch added.