US plans to sell F-15 fighters to Egypt amid human rights dispute


McKenzie didn’t provide further details. The State Department has not publicly notified a fighter sale to Egypt, and a spokesperson did not provide specifics.

“As a matter of policy, the Department does not comment on or confirm proposed defense sales until they have been formally notified to Congress,” a State Department spokesperson said.

Some lawmakers will likely work to block the sale of the Boeing-built jets over Egypt’s human rights record. A sale of fighters — which could total in the billions of dollars — also would dwarf the $130 million in military aid the Biden administration is withholding over concerns with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi’s lack of progress on human rights.

A fighter purchase, if approved through the US foreign military sales process, would still need to be notified to Congress, giving lawmakers a window to block it.

The McKenzie announcement comes just days after the Senate tussled over a $2.2 billion sale of cargo planes to Egypt. Senators last week rejected in a wide vote a push by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) to block the sale of a dozen C-130J aircraft. Proponents of the deal noted that selling cargo planes isn’t the same as selling weapons.

Paul, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and others have pushed to limit arms sales to Egypt. But Cairo is a long time US ally in the region and has received billions in military aid.

The Biden administration has walked a fine line on Egypt. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in January elected to continue withholding $130 million in military aid, just days after the State Department notified Congress of the cargo plane sale. The aid was part of a tranche of $300 million fenced off by Congress on condition of human rights improvements and strengthening the rule of law. The State Department allowed Egypt to access the remaining $170 million.

Testifying at a hearing on military posture in the Middle East and Africa, McKenzie was asked by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) what weapons countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had requested that the US hasn’t provided yet. The UAE has notably sought Lockheed Martin-built F-35 jets.

McKenzie told senators that the US remains “the partner of choice” for those countries, but added they find the lengthy process “frustrating.”

“That’s the basic criticism of our ability to provide weapons to our friends and partners. It takes too long to actually get them. It moves in fits and starts. And of course, with our weapons come our values,” McKenzie said. “They’re not going to be able to do anything they want with those weapons.”

But some lawmakers have opposed continuing to arm Egypt while the government continues to crack down on its political opponents.

“We should end military sales to Egypt’s criminal masters,” Paul said on the Senate floor last week. “Partially taking away some military aid while offering new sales that are 10 times what we’ve withheld shows weakness in the face of oppression.”


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