Egypt, along with Israel and Jordan, is one of the largest Mideast recipients of American economic and military aid, but in recent years U.S. lawmakers have sought to condition that assistance on human rights improvements and reforms.
Just a week ago, the Biden administration raised eyebrows and some alarm from human rights activists when it signed off on the $197 million sale of tactical missiles and associated engineering, technical and logistics support.
The Feb. 16 announcement, which followed months of consultations between Cairo and the Trump administration, was made amid a continuing crackdown on dissidents by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi's government.
On Monday, el-Sissi met with Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of the U.S. Central Command. El-Sissi’s office said he expressed his commitment to Egypt-U.S. cooperation, particularly the well-established military cooperation, while the U.S. Embassy said they discussed shared security concerns and agreed on the strategic nature of the defense relationship.
“Our defense relationship has endured — and will continue — for the benefit of both our great nations,” Gen. McKenzie was quoted as saying.
Egyptian authorities have in recent years conducted a wide-ranging crackdown on dissent, jailing thousands of people, mainly Islamists, but also several well-known secular activists.
Egypt this month released some prominent activists and journalists. However, rights groups accused authorities of targeting families of activists and rights defenders living abroad, in an apparent attempt to intimidate critics.
Earlier Tuesday, Egyptian authorities released a university professor and activist after he spent more than a year in pre-trail detention. Hazem Hosny, a political science professor at Cairo University, was freed pending an investigation into allegations he disseminated false news and joined an outlawed group, according to his lawyer.