The White House said President Obama told Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi today that he’s lifting blocks on military deliveries that were put in place after the ouster of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.
The move comes as el-Sisi, former commander of the country’s armed forces, racked up support for his idea of a joint Arab force.
According to al-Ahram, Algeria and Iraq have “reservations” going into Sunday’s start of meetings on the joint force. El-Sisi first called for the force after ISIS slaughtered 20 Coptic Christians in February, but the proposal picked up steam as Saudi Arabia hustled together nine allies to attack Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Operation Decisive Storm.
The White House said Obama spoke with el-Sisi today “regarding the U.S.-Egyptian military assistance relationship and regional developments, including in Libya and Yemen.”
“President Obama informed President al-Sisi that he will lift executive holds that have been in place since October 2013 on the delivery of F-16 aircraft, Harpoon missiles, and M1A1 tank kits. The President also advised President al-Sisi that he will continue to request an annual $1.3 billion in military assistance for Egypt. Beginning in fiscal year 2018, the President noted that we will channel U.S. security assistance for Egypt to four categories – counterterrorism, border security, Sinai security, and maritime security – and for sustainment of weapons systems already in Egypt’s arsenal,” said a readout of the call.
“The President explained that these and other steps will help refine our military assistance relationship so that it is better positioned to address the shared challenges to U.S. and Egyptian interests in an unstable region, consistent with the longstanding strategic partnership between our two countries.”
As the administration has consistently put in a plug for “inclusiveness” from the Egyptian government — the Muslim Brotherhood is banned — the relationship between Washington and Cairo has suffered.
“President Obama also reiterated U.S. concerns about Egypt’s continued imprisonment of non-violent activists and mass trials,” the White House continued. “He encouraged increased respect for freedom of speech and assembly and emphasized that these issues remain a focus for the United States. The two leaders agreed to stay in touch in the weeks and months ahead.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn’t commit today to U.S. support for a joint Arab force.
It would “obviously depend a lot on how, what sort of — what the command structure looks like, how decisions would be made about deploying the force,” Earnest told reporters.
“Obviously, the United States has strong relationships and in some cases even strong military to military relationships with many of the countries that have entered into this, you know, broad agreement,” he added. “So, we’re obviously going to watch closely what additional steps the countries take to put this together. It’s obviously something that we will watch closely and have conversations about.”
The Muslim Brotherhood issued a statement saying it “regrets the situation” in Yemen “and the unfortunate developments in our country as a result of political parties failing to reach a mutually-acceptable political solution, due to the insistence of some parties to resort to use of force to resolve differences.”