NEW YORK – In a surprise reversal of policy, President Obama spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Tuesday and announced the White House has decided to restore military assistance to Egypt after suspending it in October 2013 when Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a coup.
Obama informed Sisi the White House has lifted executive holds on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles and M1A1 tank kits.
Speaking on Fox News Wednesday morning, commentator Lt. Col. Ralph Peters speculated the White House decision to restore military aid to Egypt is an attempt to show displeasure with Iran’s introduction of last-minute changes in the nuclear negotiations. Iran’s unexpected demands forced Secretary of State John Kerry to extend the deadline that expired Tuesday.
Obama also advised the Egyptian leader that the White House would continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt, beginning in fiscal year 2018.
In the telephone conversation with Sisi, Obama specified the White House intends to channel U.S. security assistance for Egypt into counter-terrorism, border security, Sinai security, maritime security and sustainment of weapons systems already in Egypt’s arsenal.
In October 2013, when Obama decided to cut military aid to Egypt, the White House expressed disappointment that Egypt’s military government under Sisi had taken measures to establish democratic rule.
The U.S. move, however, was widely interpreted as retaliation for Sisi’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood leaders who were rapidly establishing controlling positions in the Morsi government.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius have both left the nuclear negotiations in Switzerland. They announced they would return as soon as it is “useful” to do so. The moves were widely interpreted as a signal that Iran can no longer be trusted to negotiate honestly any serious restrictions to its nuclear weapons ambitions.
Over the weekend, the Arab states, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, agreed in Cairo to form a combined Sunni military force to counter Iran’s growing influence in the region. Prominent leaders of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have assumed visible roles in an effort with Iraqi military forces to push ISIS out of Tikrit. Meanwhile, the Iranian-backed Houthi movement in Yemen has thrown the nation, which borders Saudi Arabia, into the chaos of civil war.