Aug. 23 (UPI) — The Trump administration denied $96 million in economic aid and delayed $195 million in military aid to Egypt Tuesday due to the country’s poor human rights record.
“We have serious concerns regarding human rights and governance in Egypt,” an administration official said, according to CNN. “At the same time, strengthened security cooperation is important to U.S. national security.”
The move denotes a serious reversal in policy towards Egypt, which has long been one of the biggest recipients of U.S. economic and military aid, despite the country’s track record on human rights. Over the past 30 years, Egypt has received $80 billion in aid from the United States.
But it also has analysts confused because of President Donald Trump‘s recent warm overtures to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
“It is unusual that the Trump administration would take a punitive measure against Egypt, given the president’s outreach to President Sisi and his general embrace of this Egyptian government,” Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the New York Times.
Egypt’s relations with North Korea were also a factor in the Trump administrations decision to block and delay aid.
“I would not say reports of difficulties with Egypt’s human rights situation or its connection with North Korea are new,” Satloff said.
Although the country has long been by human rights groups for its regular crackdowns on political speech and dissidence, Egypt received more criticism for passing a law that severely restricts nongovernmental organizations, including human rights groups, with punishments including fines and prison time.
“This new law represents a huge step backward for freedom of association in Egypt,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Egyptian authorities have squeezed shut whatever limited space remained for nongovernmental groups in Egypt and driven the human rights community underground.”