WASHINGTON — One day after Egypt’s defense minister visited the Pentagon, received a 19-gun salute and gave a record-long opening statement, the State Department announced a possible $554 million in military equipment to Cairo for “follow on technical support.”
The proposed Egyptian sale was announced as well as proposed sales of $44 million to Canada and a $950 million to South Korea.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper hosted Egypt’s Defense Minister Gen. Mohamed Zak at the Pentagon on Monday.
In regards to the Egypt sale, the State Department said in its announcement Tuesday that the equipment “is essential to maintain Egypt’s national security, regional stability, and the free flow of worldwide commerce via the Suez Canal.
“Egypt intends to use this technical maintenance and service support to ensure the Egyptian Navy is operationally capable of providing coastal defense and security,” the statement said. “The proposed sale will increase the Egyptian Navy’s material and operational readiness. Egypt will have no difficulties absorbing this support into its armed forces.”
As in all such announcements, the State Department said that “the proposed sale will not alter the basic military balance in the region.”
That line is more relevant than usual in this proposed sale, site a balance of sales to Egypt and Israel is carefully maintained. Since the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty until the military coup ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, U.S. military sales to Egypt were steady.
After the coup, the Obama administration put an executive hold on the delivery of major weapon systems and suspended the transfer of the annual military assistance. Following a review of the US foreign assistance to Egypt, the military assistance policy was adjusted a counterterrorism emphasis rather than traditional military hardware.