There is perhaps a more significant – but undisclosed – reason for sustaining military aid flows to Egypt: protecting US defense contractors.
Virtually all – or an overwhelming proportion – of the 1.3 billion dollars granted under Foreign Military Financing (FMF) is plowed back into the US economy, specifically into the US defense industry.
William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Centre for International Policy (CIP), told IPS US President Barack Obama’s refusal to cut-off military aid to Egypt while US weapons are being used to murder protesters is “unconscionable”.
“The reasons given for continuing this aid no longer hold up to scrutiny. It is not a source of stability, as the Obama administration claims,” he said.
And it has certainly not given the United States any leverage to moderate the behavior of the regime, said Hartung, who has written extensively on the politics and economics of the US defense industry.
“One thing the aid has done and continues to do is to enrich US defense contractors like Lockheed and General Dynamics,” he added.
With the exception of a tank factory built with US assistance, he pointed out, the vast bulk of the roughly 40 billion dollars in US military aid to Egypt over the past 30 years has gone straight into the coffers of US weapons makers.
The sophisticated weapons systems already purchased by Egypt – with much more still in the pipeline – include F-16 fighter planes, E2-C Hawkeye reconnaissance aircraft, Apache and Sikorsky helicopters, C-130 transports, Sidewinder, Sparrow, Improved-Hawk and Hellfire missiles, M-1A1 Abrams and M60A1 battle tanks, and M113A2 armored personnel carriers.
All of these weapons have either been delivered – or are in the process of being delivered – by some of the major US defense contractors, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, General Electric, Boeing, Sikorsky, General Dynamics, United Defense and Raytheon, among others.
Besides the 1.3 billion dollars in FMF outright grants, Egypt also receives 1.9 million dollars annually for International Military Education and Training (IMET) and about 250,000 dollars in Economic Support Funds (ESF).
Egypt also receives, at minimum cost as delivery charges, second-hand US equipment under Excess Defense Articles (EDA) worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
The US defense contractor General Dynamics is involved in helping Egypt co-produce the M1A1 Abrams battle tank, described as “one of the cornerstones of US military assistance to Egypt”.