Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations
May 27, 2020
Historical y, Egypt has been an important country for U.S. national security interests
based on its geography, demography, and diplomatic posture. Egypt controls the Suez
Jeremy M. Sharp
Canal, which is one of the world’s most wel -known maritime chokepoints, linking the
Specialist in Middle
Mediterranean and Red Seas. Egypt’s population of more than 100 mil ion people makes Eastern Affairs
it by far the most populous Arabic-speaking country. Although today it may not play the

same type of leading political or military role in the Arab world as it has in the past,

Egypt may retain some “soft power” by virtue of its history, media, and culture. Cairo
hosts both the 22-member Arab League and Al Azhar University, which claims to be the oldest continuously
operating university in the world and has symbolic importance as a leading source of Islamic scholarship.
Additional y, Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel remains one of the most significant diplomatic achievements
for the promotion of Arab-Israeli peace. While people-to-people relations remain cold, the Israeli and Egyptian
governments have increased their cooperation against Islamist militants and instability in the Sinai Peninsula and
Gaza Strip.
Throughout the first half of 2020, the Trump Administration has continued its policy of fostering good relations
with the Egyptian government by advancing military-to-military ties, trade, and investment. Several issues have
caused tensions in U.S.-Egyptian relations, including Egypt’s continued detention of American citizens and the
Egyptian military’s possible purchase of advanced Russian fighter jets.
Since 1946, the United States has provided Egypt with over $84 bil ion in bilateral foreign aid (calculated in
historical dollars—not adjusted for inflation), with military and economic assistance increasing significantly after
1979. Annual appropriations legislation includes several conditions governing the release of these funds.
Successive U.S. Administrations have justified aid to Egypt as an investment in regional stability, built primarily
on long-running cooperation with the Egyptian military and on sustaining the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Al U.S. military aid to Egypt finances the procurement of weapons systems and services from U.S. defense
For FY2021, the President is requesting a total of $1.4 bil ion in bilateral assistance for Egypt. Nearly al of the
U.S. funds for Egypt come from the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) account and provide grant aid with which
Egypt purchases and maintains U.S.-origin military equipment.
As the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to spread throughout Egypt, the economy is
facing a downturn due to the loss of tourism, private sector investment, foreign remittances, and Suez Canal
revenue. To date, Egypt’s economic downturn has not outwardly affected the stability of the Egyptian
government, led by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi. To minimize economic damage from COVID-19
countermeasures, the Egyptian government has enacted stimulus packages and borrowed $2.7 bil ion from the
International Monetary Fund. President Sisi has maintained stability during the pandemic by continuing to use
emergency powers and broad legal authority granted to the executive by parliament to suppress opposition.
Beyond the United States, President Sisi has broadened Egypt’s international base of support to include several
key partners, including the Arab Gulf states, Israel, Russia, China, France, and Italy.
In April 2019, Egyptian voters approved constitutional amendments that extend Sisi’s current term until 2024 and
permit him to run for a third term, potential y keeping him in office until 2030.

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Overview ....................................................................................................................... 1
Issues for Congress ......................................................................................................... 3
Egyptian Cooperation with Israel ................................................................................. 3
Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinians ........................................................................... 3
Sinai Peninsula .................................................................................................... 4
Natural Gas ......................................................................................................... 5
Democracy, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom ........................................................ 7
Detention of American Citizens in Egypt ................................................................. 8
Coptic Christians.................................................................................................. 9
Possible Egyptian Purchase of Russian Advanced Fighter Aircraft ............................. 11
Historical Background ................................................................................................... 12
Domestic Developments ................................................................................................ 12
Egypt’s Foreign Policy .................................................................................................. 14
Libya ..................................................................................................................... 15
The Nile Basin Countries .......................................................................................... 16
Russia.................................................................................................................... 18
France.................................................................................................................... 20
U.S.-Egyptian Relations ................................................................................................. 20
Other Issues in U.S.-Egyptian Relations ...................................................................... 22
Possible Muslim Brotherhood Designation ............................................................. 22
The April Corley Case......................................................................................... 23
Recent Action on U.S. Foreign Aid to Egypt ................................................................ 24

Figure 1. Map of Egypt .................................................................................................... 2
Figure 2. The Sinai Peninsula............................................................................................ 5
Figure 3.Israel Participates in Egypt-led Gas Forum ............................................................. 6
Figure 4. Competition for Natural Gas in the Mediterranean .................................................. 7
Figure 5. President Abdel Fattah al Sisi ............................................................................ 13
Figure 6.GERD Talks in Washington DC .......................................................................... 16
Figure 7.Growing Russian and French Arms Sales to Egypt................................................. 19
Figure 8.The aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln transits the Suez Canal............................ 22

Figure A-1. The Military Aid “Pipeline” ........................................................................... 28

Table 1. Democracy, Human Rights, and Development Indicators........................................... 8
Table 2. U.S. Bilateral Aid to Egypt: FY2016-FY2021 ........................................................ 24

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Table A-1. U.S. Foreign Assistance to Egypt: 1946-2020..................................................... 29

Appendix. Background on U.S. Foreign Assistance to Egypt................................................ 25

Author Information ....................................................................................................... 31

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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Egypt, the Arab world’s most populous country of over 100 mil ion people,1 faces an uncertain
future with the COVID-19 pandemic coming after several years of modest economic growth.
Prior to the outbreak, macroeconomic trends had appeared to be moving in a somewhat positive
direction, and financial analysts considered Egypt to be one of the most promising emerging
market destinations for foreign investment worldwide.2 As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads
throughout Egypt, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that in 2020 Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) wil grow 2%, a figure wel below pre-pandemic forecasts of over 5.5% growth.3
The pandemic is depressing a number of economic sectors in Egypt, such as tourism, which
accounts for 9.5% of employment and 5.5% of GDP.4 Lower natural gas prices and drops in
worker remittances also are expected to depress government revenue and household incomes.
As of May 2020, Egypt’s economic downturn has not outwardly affected the stability of the
Egyptian government, led since 2014 by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al Sisi (herein referred
to as President Sisi). In order to minimize economic damage from COVID-19 countermeasures,
the government has instituted a policy it cal s “co-existing with coronavirus,” in which seeks to
balance restrictions such as partial curfews and quarantines with continued economic activity. The
Egyptian government also has enacted stimulus packages directed to the tourism sector, increased
the budget of the Ministry of Health, and upped its unemployment benefits for furloughed
workers. However, despite the government’s attempt to continue economic activity, according to
one account, “The looser lockdown has not spared Egypt an economic crisis….The private sector,
weak to start, is in free fal .”5 Although Egypt previously received IMF support ($12 bil ion loan
for 2016-2019)6 geared toward reducing overal debt, the IMF also has added a new $2.77 bil ion
tranche of financing to help Egypt during the pandemic.
In addition to expanding government benefits to low-income workers, President Sisi has
maintained stability during the pandemic by continuing to use emergency powers and broad legal
authority granted to the executive by parliament to suppress opposition. Authorities have used
media laws to arrest journalists who questioned government caseload statistics on charges of
spreading “false news.”7 The Egyptian parliament also has amended and extended the nationwide

1 Beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, Egypt has long struggled with strained domestic resources due overpopulation,
which surpassed 100 million in 2020 and is predicted to rise as high as 150 million by 2050 (United Nations – World
Population Prospects – 2019). In Egypt, overpopulation, particularly in the Cairo metropolis, has resulted in
overcrowded classrooms, unemployment, and crippling traffic. See, “ As Egypt’s Population Hits 100 Million,
Celebration is Muted,”, December 19, 2019. T he Egyptian government has launched family planning
initiatives, which is a challenge in more rural areas. See, “'T wo is Enough,' Egypt T ells Poor Families as Population
Booms,” Reuters, February 20, 2019.
2 While the Egyptian economy has experienced growth in tourism and energy, non -oil business activity had declined
for six straight months prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, signaling that private sector growth was below expectations.
See, “Egypt Non-Oil Private Sector Shrinks Faster in Jan – PMI,” Reuters, February 3, 2020.
3 International Monetary Fund, Confronting the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Middle East and Central Asia, April 2020.
4 “Egypt: Country Outlook,” Economist Intelligence Unit, April 24, 2020.
5 “Egypt Chose a Looser Lockdown. Its Economy is Still in Crisis,” The Economist, May 23rd 2020 edition.
6 In 2016, the IMF and Egypt reached a three-year, $12 billion loan agreement predicated on Egypt undertaking key
reforms such as depreciating the currency, reducing public subsidies, and increasing taxes. While reforms such as
reduced subsidies for electricity helped to reduce the annual deficit, poverty rates in Egypt have increased from 28% in
2015 to 33% in 2019. See, “Arab States and the IMF: A Bit too Austere,” The Economist, February 22, 2020.
7 Amnesty International, “Egypt: Prisons Are Now Journalists' Newsrooms,” Public Statement, May 3, 2020.
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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

state of emergency, which has been in place since April 2017. While the government claims these
expansions were needed to cope with COVID-19, according to Human Rights Watch, only a few
of the new amendments are “clearly tied to public health developments.”8
Figure 1. Map of Egypt

Source: Map Resources, adapted by CRS.
Throughout the first half of 2020, the Trump Administration has continued its policy of fostering
good relations with the Egyptian government by advancing military-to-military ties,9 trade, and
investment. Although the Administration has refrained from publicly rebuking the Sisi regime
over its human rights record, several issues have caused tensions in U.S.-Egyptian relations,
including Egypt’s continued detention of American citizens and the Egyptian military’s possible
purchase of advanced Russian fighter jets (see Issues for Congress section below). According to
multiple reports, the U.S. Defense Department is actively pursuing a policy review of
longstanding U.S. participation in the Sinai Peninsula peacekeeping and monitoring mission,
known as the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO).10

8 Human Rights Watch, “ Egypt: Covid-19 Cover for New Repressive Powers,” May 7, 2020.
9 In May 2020, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a potential sale to Egypt of up tp 43
refurbished AH-64E Apache attack helicopters for an estimated cost of $2.3 billion. See, U.S. Department of Defense,
Defense Security Cooperation Agency, T ransmittal No: 19-74, May 7, 2020.
10 See CRS Insight IN11403, Possible Withdrawal of U.S. Peacekeepers from the Sinai Peninsula , by Jeremy M. Sharp.
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Issues for Congress
Egyptian Cooperation with Israel
Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel remains one of the single most significant diplomatic
achievements for the promotion of Arab-Israeli peace. Congress has long been concerned with the
preservation of the peace treaty and has appropriated foreign assistance and exercised oversight to
ensure that both parties maintain it. Since 2012, congressional appropriators have included in
foreign operations appropriations law a requirement that before foreign aid funds can be provided
to Egypt, the Secretary of State must certify that Egypt is meeting its obligations under the 1979
Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.11
While people-to-people relations remain cold, Egypt and Israel have continued to find specific
areas in which they can cooperate, such as containing Hamas in the Gaza Strip, countering
terrorism, and developing natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean (see sections below).
Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinians
Egypt’s triangular relationship with Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is complex. On the one
hand, Israel and Egypt cooperate against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as they have since 2013. Egypt
is opposed to Islamist groups wielding political power across the Middle East, and opposes
Turkish and Qatari support for Hamas.12 On the Egyptian-Gaza border, Egypt has tried to thwart
arms tunnel smuggling into Gaza and has accused Palestinian militants in Gaza of aiding terrorist
groups in the Sinai. On the other hand, in an acknowledgement of Hamas’ entrenched rule in
Gaza, now in its second decade, Egypt couples its policy of containment with ongoing dialogue.
The Egyptian-Hamas relationship has provided the Egyptian security and intel igence services an
opportunity to play the role of mediator between Israel and Hamas. Egypt, at times, has attempted
to broker a long-term Israel-Hamas truce.13
Egypt controls the Rafah border crossing into Gaza, making Rafah the only non-Israeli-controlled
passenger entryway into the Strip, which it periodical y closes for security reasons. Control over
the Rafah border crossing provides Egypt with some leverage over Hamas, though Egyptian
authorities appear to use it carefully in order not to spark a humanitarian crisis on their border.14
Egypt also controls the Salah al Din Gate, a previously used crossing north of Rafah that opened
for commercial use in 2018. According to one report, both Hamas and Egypt tax imported goods
moving into Gaza through the gate, earning Hamas tens of mil ions of dollars per year in
After President Trump released his long-promised “Peace to Prosperity” plan for Israel and the
Palestinians on January 28, 2020, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry released a statement that
recognized “the importance of considering the U.S. administration’s initiative from the
perspective of the importance of achieving the resolution of the Palestinian issue, thus restoring to

11 See Section 7041(a)(1) of P.L. 116-94, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020. In addition to sustaining
the treaty, the certification also requires Egypt to sustain its “ strategic relationship with the United States.”
12 “How Israel and Egypt are Coordinating on Gaza,” Al Monitor, July 12, 2018.
13 “Egypt T rying to Broker Broad Israel-Hamas T ruce, Hamas Says,” Associated Press, August 2, 2018.
14 “For Hamas, Reconciliation with Egypt Worth More than Qatari Cash,” Al Monitor, January 31, 2019.
15 “New Gaza Crossing Raises Questions about Blockade Policies,” PolicyWatch, number 3205, T he Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, October 23, 2019.
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the Palestinian people their full legitimate rights through the establishment of a sovereign
independent state in the Palestinian occupied territories in accordance with international
legitimacy and resolutions.”16
President Sisi has refrained from making any public statements assessing the U.S. peace plan or
the possibility of Israeli West Bank annexation. Instead, Egypt’s foreign ministry has worked
collectively with other Arab states through the Egypt-based Arab League to express opposition to
annexation. In late April 2020, Arab League foreign ministers issued a statement saying “The
implementation of plans to annex any part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967,
including the Jordan Valley ... and the lands on which Israeli settlements are standing represents a
new war crime ... against the Palestinian people.”17
Sinai Peninsula
Several terrorist groups based in the Sinai Peninsula (the Sinai) have been waging an insurgency
against the Egyptian government since 2011. The Islamic State’s Sinai Province affiliate (IS-SP)
is the most lethal terrorist organization in the peninsula.18 Since its inception in 2014, IS-SP has
attacked the Egyptian military continual y, targeted Coptic Christian individuals and places of
worship,19 and occasional y fired rockets into Israel. From January to November 2019, IS-SP
conducted 282 attacks in Sinai that resulted in the deaths of 269 people, most of whom were
Egyptian security personnel.20

16 Facebook, Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Statement (unofficial translation), January 28, 2020.
17 “Arab League Slams Israeli Plan to Annex Occupied West Bank,” Al Jazeera, April 30, 2020.
18 T his group was formerly known as Ansar Bayt al Maqdis (Supporters of the Holy House or Partisans of Jerusalem).
It emerged after the Egyptian revolution of 2011 and affiliated with the Islamic State in 2014. Estimates of its
numerical composition range from 500 to 1,000. In Arabic, it is known as Wilayat Sinai (Sinai Province). Also referred
to as ISIS-Sinai, ISIS-Egypt, and the Islamic State in the Sinai.
19 In November 2018, IS-SP claimed responsibility for an attack against Coptic Christian pilgrims traveling to t he
monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor 85-miles south of Cairo in the western desert.
20 Amos Harel, “ ISIS Is Still Alive and Well in Sinai, and Israel Fears a Major Attack on Its Egypt Border ,” Ha’aretz
(Israel), December 18, 2019. T his article suggests that IS-SP attacks in the Sinai have decreased significantly, from 603
in 2017 to 333 in 2018.
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At times, Egypt and Israel have cooperated
to counter terrorism in the Sinai. In a
Figure 2. The Sinai Peninsula
televised interview in 2019, President Sisi
responded to a question on whether
Egyptian-Israeli military cooperation was
the closest it has ever been, saying “That is
correct. The [Egyptian] Air Force sometimes
needs to cross to the Israeli side. And that’s
why we have a wide range of coordination
with the Israelis.”21 One news account
suggested that, as of February 2018, Israel,
with Egypt’s approval, had used its own
drones, helicopters, and aircraft to carry out
more than 100 covert airstrikes inside Egypt
against militant targets.22
The 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty
limits the number of soldiers that Egypt can
deploy in the Sinai, subject to the parties’
negotiation of changes to address particular
circumstances. Egypt and Israel agree upon
any short-term increase of Egypt’s military
presence in the Sinai and to the construction
of military and/or dual-use infrastructure.

Since Israel returned control over the Sinai
to Egypt in 1982, the area has been partial y demilitarized, and the Sinai has served as an
effective buffer zone between the two countries. The Multinational Force and Observers, or MFO,
are deployed in the Sinai to monitor the terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty (see Figure 1).
Natural Gas
Israeli-Egyptian energy cooperation has significantly expanded since 2018. For Egypt,
cooperation with Israel is a key component of its broader regional strategy to become a key player
in the development of undersea natural gas in the Eastern Mediterranean. 23 Egypt is attempting to
position itself as a regional gas hub, whereby its own gas fields meet domestic demand while
imported gas from Israel and Cyprus can be liquefied in Egypt and reexported.24 Egypt has the
Eastern Mediterranean’s only two large-scale liquefied natural gas terminals (located at Idku and
Damietta), operating as partnerships between the state and foreign companies such as Italy’s ENI
and Royal Dutch Shel .
In 2018, Israeli and Egyptian companies entered into a decade-long agreement by reaching a $15
bil ion natural gas deal, according to which Israeli off-shore natural gas is exported to Egypt for
either domestic use or liquefaction before being exported elsewhere.

21 “Egypt’s President El-Sisi Denies Ordering Massacre in Interview his Government Later T ried to Block,” 60
, January 6, 2019.
22 “Secret Alliance: Israel Carries Out Airstrikes in Egypt, with Cairo’s O.K,” New York Times, February 3, 2018.
23 T he COVID-19 pandemic is significantly slowing natural gas production in the Eastern Mediterranean in spring
2020, as many analysts expect weaker demand in the months ahead. See, Clifford Krauss, “ Natural Gas Exports Slow
as Pandemic Reduces Global Demand,” New York Tim es, May 11, 2020.
24 “Egypt Says U.S. Oil Firms Showing Appetite for Offshore P rojects,” Reuters, November 24, 2018.
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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Figure 3.Israel Participates in Egypt-led Gas Forum

Source: Egypt’s Ministry of Petroleum.
Note: Photo also features former U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry (second from left).
Israeli and Egyptian companies have bought significant shares of an unused undersea pipeline
(the EMG pipeline) connecting Israel to the northern Sinai Peninsula. The pipeline is now used to
transport natural gas from Israel to Egypt as part of the previously mentioned gas deal between
the U.S.-based company Noble Energy, its Israeli partner Delek, and the Egyptian company
Dolphinus Holdings.
As energy ties bind Israel and Egypt closer together, it also has made both parties wary of
competitors such as Turkey. In January 2019, Egypt convened the first ever Eastern
Mediterranean Gas Forum (EMGF), a regional consortium consisting of Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the
Palestinian Authority, Cyprus, Greece, and Italy, intended to consolidate regional energy policies
and reduce costs.25 Since then, it has held two other EMGFs, most recently in January 2020.
Turkey, which is considered a rival in the competition to secure energy resources in the
Mediterranean, is not a member of the EMGF. As Turkey has expanded its role in Libya, Libya’s
Government of National Accord (GNA) signed a maritime boundary agreement with Turkey in
late 2019 which many observers view as favorable for Turkish interests in the Eastern
Mediterranean.26 Afterward, Egypt cal ed the deal “il egal and not binding;” Israel said the deal
could “jeopardize peace and stability in the area.”27

25 “Natural Gas Fields Give Israel a Regional Political Boost,” Associated Press, January 23, 2019.
26 Selcan Hacaoglu and Firat Kozok, “T urkish Offshore Gas Deal with Libya Upsets Mediterranean Boundaries,”
Bloom berg, December 6, 2019.
27 “T urkey-Libya Maritime Deal Rattles East Mediterranean,” Reuters, December 25, 2019.
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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Figure 4. Competition for Natural Gas in the Mediterranean

Source: Bloomberg
Democracy, Human Rights, and Religious Freedom
Egypt’s record on human rights and democratization has sparked regular criticism from U.S.
officials and some Members of Congress. The Egyptian government rejects foreign criticism of
its human rights practices as il egitimate interference in Egypt’s domestic affairs.28 Certain
practices of Sisi’s government, the parliament, and the security apparatus have been the subjects
of U.S criticism. According to the U.S. State Department’s report on human rights conditions in
Egypt in 2019:
Significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including
extrajudicial killings by the government or its agents and terrorist groups; forced
disappearance; torture; arbitrary detention; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions;
political prisoners; arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; the worst forms of
restrictions on free expression, the press, and the internet, including arrests or prosecutions
against journalists, censorship, site blocking, and the existence of unenforced criminal
libel; substantial interference with the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of
association, such as overly restrictive laws governing civil society organizations;
restrictions on political participation; violence involving religious minorities; violence
targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons; use of the law
to arbitrarily arrest and prosecute LGBTI persons; and forced or compulsory child labor.
The government inconsistently punished or prosecuted officials wh o committed abuses,

28 “Egypt calls on US not to interfere in its Affairs,” The Middle East Monitor, March 15, 2019.
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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

whether in the security services or elsewhere in government. In most cases the government
did not comprehensively investigate allegations of human rights abuses, including most
incidents of violence by security forces, contributing to an environment of impunity.29
Authorities restrict access to the internet, censor online content, and monitor private online
communications.30 In 2018, parliament passed amendments to the Media and Press Law that,
among other changes, grant the regulatory body known as the Supreme Media Council the
authority to suspend a social media account that has 5,000 followers or more if it posts false
news, promotes violence, or spreads hateful views.”31 The Egyptian government also has
attempted to require that technology companies share their user data with authorities.32 In October
2019, the Egyptian cabinet issued a resolution mandating, among other things, that ride-sharing
companies such as Uber submit to the Ministry of Transportation six months’ worth of customers’
data from al rides.33
Select international human rights, democracy, and development monitoring organizations provide
the following global rankings for Egypt.
Table 1. Democracy, Human Rights, and Development Indicators

Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2020

“Not Free”
Press Freedom
Reporters Without Borders, World Press

166/180 Countries
Freedom Index 2020
Transparency International, Corruption

106/180 Countries
Perceptions Index 2019
United Nations Human Development

116/189 Countries
Programme, Human Development Index 2019
Source: Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, Transparency International, and United Nations Human
Development Programme.
Detention of American Citizens in Egypt
The detention of American citizens/dual nationals in Egypt has strained U.S.-Egyptian relations at
times. On January 13, 2020, Mustafa Kassem, a dual U.S.-Egyptian citizen who had been
detained in Egypt since 2013, died of heart failure in an Egyptian prison after a two-year hunger
strike. Some Members of Congress had long been concerned for Kassem, arguing that Egyptian
authorities unlawfully detained and wrongfully convicted him.34 The Egyptian government has
defended its treatment of Kassem, claiming that he received adequate medical care and legal
rights. After Kassem’s death, one report suggests that the State Department’s Bureau of Near

29 U.S. State Department, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Country Reports on Human Rights
Practices for 2019, Egypt
30 See, “T he Eye on the Nile,” Check Point Research, October 3, 2019.
31 “Egypt: Parliament Passes Amendments to Media and Press Law,” Global Legal Monitor, the Law Library, Library
of Congress, August 6, 2018.
32 “Dilemma for Uber and Rival: Egypt’s Demand for Data on Riders,” New York Times, June 10, 2017.
33 “Egypt: Ministerial Resolution Issued to Regulate Activities of Ride-Sharing Companies,” Global Legal Monitor,
T he Law Library, Library of Congress, October 22, 2019.
34 For additional background, see CRS Insight IN11216, Egypt: Death of American Citizen and Congressional
, by Jeremy M. Sharp.
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Eastern Affairs had raised the option of possibly cutting up to $300 mil ion in foreign aid to
Although some U.S. citizens may be detained in Egypt on non-political charges (such as narcotics
possession), notable detainee cases that may involve political y motivated charges include the
Khaled Hassan. Detained since January 2018, Hassan is a limousine driver from
New York who has been accused of joining Islamic State-Sinai Province (IS-SP).
Human rights organizations al ege that Hassan has been tortured while in
prison.36 Hassan is a dual U.S. and Egyptian citizen.
Mohammed al Amashah. Detained since March 2019, al Amashah is a 23-year-
old medical student who was arrested in Tahrir Square on charges of misusing
social media and helping a terrorist group after he displayed a sign that read,
“Freedom for al prisoners.” In March 2020, he went on a hunger strike to protest
his imprisonment. Al Amashah is a dual U.S. and Egyptian citizen.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread worldwide, particularly in prisons, some human
rights advocates and Members of Congress37 have cal ed on the Egyptian government to release
some of its detainees, including the few American citizens held on political y motivated charges.38
On April 10, a bipartisan group of Senators wrote a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo
urging him to “publicly cal for the release of Americans and political prisoners locked up abroad
on baseless charges” to include detained American citizens in Egypt.39 The Egyptian government
claims that it is taking preventive and protective measures for prisoners and prison staff and has
suspended family visits to prisons to limit risk of infection.40 On April 23 in a phone cal between
Secretary of State Pompeo and Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Secretary Pompeo
“emphasized that detained U.S. citizens be kept safe and provided consular access during the
COVID-19 pandemic.”41
In early May 2020, Reem Mohamed Desouky, a teacher from Pennsylvania who was arrested at
the Cairo airport on charges of improper use of social media and who had been detained since
July 2019, was released from prison and returned safely to the United States after she renounced
her Egyptian citizenship. Desouky had been a dual U.S. and Egyptian citizen.
Coptic Christians
Most Egyptians are Sunni Muslims, but a smal percentage (perhaps 5% or less) are Coptic
Christians, and this minority has faced discrimination and persecution, from the government as
wel as from other citizens and terrorist groups. Congress has at times urged the government of

35 Jack Detsch, Robbie Gramer, Colum Lynch, “After Death of U.S. Citizen, State Department Floats Slashing Egypt
Aid,” , March 31, 2020.
36 “Jailed in Egypt, American Limo Driver Attempts Suicide,” Washington Post, August 9, 2019.
38 “Working Group on Egypt Call to Release Detainees,” March 26, 2020. Available online at:
39 See Senators T oomey, Casey Urge Release of Americans and Political Prisoners Detained Abroad to Protect them
from COVID-19, April 10, 2020.
40 “Fear of Coronavirus Haunts Egypt's Cramped Jails,” Reuters, April 22, 2020.
41 U.S. State Department, Secretary Pompeo’s Call with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, April 23, 2020.
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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

Egypt to protect this community. For example, in the 116th Congress, H.Res. 49, among other
provisions, urges the Government of Egypt to enact “reforms to ensure Coptic Christians are
given the same rights and opportunities as al other Egyptian citizens…”
For years, the Coptic Christian community in Egypt has cal ed for equal treatment under the
law.42 Since taking office, President Sisi has publicly cal ed for greater Muslim-Christian
coexistence and national unity. In January 2019, he inaugurated Egypt’s Coptic Cathedral of
Nativity in the new administrative capital east of Cairo saying, “This is an important moment in
our history. ... We are one and we wil remain one.”43
Despite these public cal s for improved interfaith relations in Egypt, the minority Coptic Christian
community continues to face professional and social discrimination, along with occasional
sectarian attacks. According to the latest annual U.S. Commission on International Religious
Freedom report, “religious discrimination [in Egypt] remained pervasive, including a disparity in
policies regarding places of worship, a lack of opportunities for non-Muslims to work in key
areas of government service, state security harassment of former Muslims, and recurring incidents
of anti-Christian violence, particularly in rural areas.”44
Major terrorist attacks against Christian places of worship also continue to threaten the Coptic
community. Suicide bomber attacks against Coptic cathedrals in 2011, 2016, and 2017
collectively kil ed over 95 people and injured hundreds of others. In spring 2020, the Egyptian
Ministry of the Interior broke up a terrorist cel planning attacks over Coptic Easter. One
policeman and seven suspects were kil ed in the operation.45
Coptic Christians also have long voiced concern about state regulation of church construction.
They have demanded that the government reform long-standing laws (some dating back to the
nineteenth century) on building codes for Christian places of worship. Article 235 of Egypt’s
2014 constitution mandates that parliament reform these building code regulations. In 2016,
parliament approved a church construction law (Law 80 of 2016) that expedited the government
approval process for the construction and restoration of Coptic churches, among other structures.
Although Coptic Pope Tawadros II welcomed the law,46 critics claimed that it continues to al ow
for discrimination. According to Human Rights Watch, “the new law al ows governors to deny
church-building permits with no stated way to appeal, requires that churches be built
‘commensurate with’ the number of Christians in the area, and contains security provisions that
risk subjecting decisions on whether to al ow church construction to the whims of violent

42 In late 2019, an Egyptian Coptic woman won a landmark inheritance case before the Cairo Court of Appeal. T he
court granted the plaintiff, a Coptic Christian woman, a share of her late father’s inheritance equal to that of her two
male brothers by applying Christian Orthodox Personal Status Bylaws rather than Islamic law (which grants sons twice
the share of daughters). T he plaintiff had argued that, per the Egyptian Constitution of 2014, she should not be subject
to Islamic law in matters related to family law. See, George Sadek, “ Egypt: Court Grants Christian Woman Share of
Father’s Estate Equal to Share of Her T wo Brothers,” Library of Congress, Global Legal Monitor, January 9, 2020.
43 “Egypt’s Sisi Opens Mega-Mosque and Middle East’s Largest Cathedral in New Capital,” Reuters, January 6, 2019.
44 Annual Report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, April 2020.
45 Samy Magdy, “Egypt: Police Kill 7 Suspected Militants in Cairo Suburb, ABC News, April 14, 2020.
46 “HH Pope T awadros II: Church Construction Law Corrected an Error and Bandaged W ounds,” Coptic Orthodox
Cultural Center, September 1, 2016.
47 “Egypt: New Church Law Discriminates Against Christians,” Human Rights Watch, September 15, 2016.
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Possible Egyptian Purchase of Russian Advanced Fighter Aircraft
For over a year,48 there have been periodic reports of Egyptian plans to purchase Russian Sukhoi
Su-35 Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft, a move that could potential y trigger U.S. sanctions under the
Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 (CRIEEA; P.L. 115-44/H.R.
3364, Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act [CAATSA], Title II – hereinafter
referred to as CAATSA).49 In May 2020, TASS Russian News Agency reported that the Gagarin
Aircraft Manufacturing Association in Komsomolsk-on-Amur had started production of the
aircraft under a contract signed in 2018.50 As of May 2020, U.S. officials have not publicly
confirmed that Egypt and Russia are moving ahead with the deal. The Su-35 is Russia’s most
advanced fighter aircraft. Indonesia and Turkey also may purchase the Su-35.51
Section 231 of CAATSA requires that the President impose a number of sanctions on a person or
entity who knowingly engages in a significant transaction with anyone who is part of, or operates
for or on behalf of, the defense or intel igence sectors of the Government of the Russian
Federation. The Secretary of State has determined that the manufacturer of the Su-35,
Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Production Organization (KNAAPO) is a part of, or operates on
behalf of, Russia’s defense and intel igence sectors for the purpose of meeting the definitional
requirements of CAATSA Section 231.52 On September 20, 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department
made its first designations pursuant to Section 231 against the Equipment Development
Department of China’s Central Military Commission, as wel as its director, for taking delivery
from Russia of 10 Su-35 combat aircraft in December 2017 and S-400 surface-to-air missile
system-related equipment in 2018.53
On April 8, 2019, a bipartisan group of 17 Senators wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike
Pompeo expressing concern regarding Egypt’s possible purchase of the Su-35.54 The next day, in
testimony before the Senate, Secretary Pompeo remarked that “We’ve made clear that, if those
systems were to be purchased, [under] statute CAATSA would require sanctions on the regime….
We have received assurances from [the Egyptians] that they understand that [sanctions wil be
imposed] and I am very hopeful that they wil decide not to move forward with that
In November 2019, new reports surfaced indicating that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and
Secretary of Defense Mark Esper warned the Egyptian government that “Major new arms deals
with Russia would—at a minimum—complicate future U.S. defense transactions with and

48 In April 2019, reports surfaced that the Egyptian Air Force was considering procuring over 20 Russian Sukhoi Su-35
Multi-Role Fighter Aircraft in a deal worth $2 billion . See, “ Egypt Signs $2 bln Deal to Buy Russian Fighter Jets –
Kommersant,” Reuters, March 18, 2019.
49 Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 , title II, Countering America’s Adversaries
T hrough Sanctions Act (CAAT SA; P.L. 115-44). For additional background, see CRS Report R45415, U.S. Sanctions
on Russia
, coordinated by Cory Welt .
50 Derek Bisaccio , “Su-35 Production for Egypt Begins,” Defense and Security Monitor, May 18, 2020.
51 “Russia Completes Deliveries of SU-35 Fighter Aircraft to China,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 16, 2019.
52 See, U.S. State Department, Section 231 of CAAT SA,
54 Senator Bob Menendez website, Leading Senators Call on Sec. Pompeo to Raise Key Concerns during Bilateral
Meeting with Egyptian President Sisi, April 8, 2019.
55 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations Holds Hearing on Fiscal 2020 Budget Request
for the State Department , CQ Transcripts, April 9, 2019.
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security assistance to Egypt.”56 Another U.S. official cautioned that the purchase puts Egypt “at
risk of sanctions and it puts them at risk of loss of future acquisition.”57 Since then, there have
been no additional official U.S. public statements regarding the possibility of sanctioning Egypt.
Historical Background
Since 1952, when a cabal of Egyptian Army officers, known as the Free Officers Movement,
ousted the British-backed king, Egypt’s military has produced four presidents; Gamal Abdel
Nasser (1954-1970), Anwar Sadat (1970-1981), Hosni Mubarak (1981-2011), and Abdel Fattah al
Sisi (2013-present). These four men have ruled Egypt with strong backing from the country’s
security establishment almost continual y. The one exception has been the brief period of rule by
Muhammad Morsi, who was affiliated with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (see below). That
organization that has opposed single party military-backed rule and advocated for a state
governed by a vaguely articulated combination of civil and Shariah (Islamic) law. For the most
part, the Muslim Brotherhood has been the only significant and abiding opposition during the
decades of military-backed rule.
The one departure from Egypt’s decades of military rule, the brief period in which Morsi ruled,
took place between 2011 and 2013, after popular demonstrations dubbed the “Arab Spring,”
which had started in neighboring Tunisia, compel ed the military to force the resignation of
former President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011. During this period, Egypt experienced
tremendous political tumult, culminating in Morsi’s one-year presidency. When Morsi took office
on June 30, 2012, after winning Egypt’s first truly competitive presidential election, his ascension
to the presidency was expected to mark the end of a rocky 16-month transition period. Proposed
timelines for elections, the constitutional drafting process, and the military’s relinquishing of
power to a civilian government had been constantly changed, contested, and sometimes even
overruled by the courts. Instead of consolidating democratic or civilian rule, Morsi’s rule exposed
the deep divisions in Egyptian politics, pitting a broad cross-section of Egypt’s public and private
sectors, the Coptic Church, and the military against the Brotherhood and its Islamist supporters.
The atmosphere of mutual distrust, political gridlock, and public dissatisfaction that permeated
Morsi’s presidency provided Egypt’s military, led by then-Defense Minister Sisi, with an
opportunity to reassert political control. On July 3, 2013, following several days of mass public
demonstrations against Morsi’s rule, the military unilateral y dissolved Morsi’s government,
suspended the constitution that had been passed during his rule, and instal ed Sisi as interim
president. The Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters declared the military’s actions a coup
d’etat and protested in the streets. Weeks later, Egypt’s military and national police launched a
violent crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood, resulting in police and army soldiers firing
live ammunition against demonstrators encamped in several public squares and the kil ing of at
least 1,150 demonstrators. The Egyptian military justified these actions by decrying the
encampments as a threat to national security.58
Domestic Developments
President Abdel Fattah al Sisi’s tenure appears to have been predicated on the idea that a
significant segment of the public, exhausted after several years of unrest and distrustful of
Islamist rule, remains wil ing to forgo democratic liberties in exchange for the rule of a

56 “Pompeo Warns Egypt of Sanctions Over Russian Arms,” The Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2019.
57 “US: Egypt Could Face Sanctions if it Purchases Russian Fighter Jets,” Associated Press, November 18, 2019.
58 “Egyptian Cabinet Vows to Disperse Pro-Morsi Protest Camps,” The Guardian (UK), July 31, 2013.
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strongman hailing from the military. The authorities have limited dissent by maintaining a
constant crackdown, which initial y was aimed at the Muslim Brotherhood but has evolved to
cover a broader range of political speech, encompassing anyone criticizing the government.
While successive Egyptian presidents since 1952 were effective at centralizing power, both
within the ruling system and outside it, certain institutions (judiciary, military) and individuals
enjoyed a considerable degree of independence from the executive. However, under President
Sisi, there has been arguably an unprecedented attempt to consolidate control over al branches of
government while stymying opposition to his rule. In April 2019, voters approved amendments to
the constitution that extend Sisi’s current term until 2024 and permit him to run for a third term,
potential y keeping him in office until 2030. The amendments also granted the president the
authority to appoint al chief justices of Egyptian judicial bodies and the public prosecutor.
During summer 2019, Sisi made those judicial appointments, leading one anonymous Egyptian
judge to question this authority, saying that “The role of the judge is to be at arm’s length from
the executive, but this is inconsistent now with the fact the president of the republic is involved
with a judge’s transfer, promotion and accountability.”59 Sisi also placed his older brother and
oldest son in key security and intel igence positions, although his son is no longer in that role.60
Egypt’s unicameral parliament consists of
several parties and has been largely
Figure 5. President Abdel Fattah al Sisi
supportive of the government’s legislative
agenda. One report suggests that the
parliament is general y pliant to the
presidency and that lawmakers who have
opposed government initiatives have at times
been subject to smear campaigns and
Parliamentary elections were last held in late
2015. New elections are anticipated in late
2020 for the House/Chamber of

Representatives (HOR—450 seats) and a to-
Source: Egyptian State Information Service.
be-resurrected upper chamber (Consultative Assembly—180 seats). The Economist Intelligence
expects that “parliament wil remain subservient to the interests of Mr Sisi and to those of
the military and other favoured institutions. The public is broadly aware that this wil be the case,
and turnout is likely to be low at both the municipal and parliamentary votes.”62 In summer 2019,
when a group of leftist and labor activist politicians attempted to form what they referred to as a
“coalition of hope” to compete in the 2020 elections, the Interior Ministry arrested several of the

59 “Fears Over Egypt’s Judiciary Abound After Sisi Appointments,” Agence France Presse, August 21, 2019.
60 Reportedly, President Sisi has since removed his son Mahmoud from the deputy head of the GIS. According to one
controversial report in the Egyptian publication Mada Masr, Mahmoud Sisi lost his position in the GIS after the
president’s inner circle concluded that his reputation was harmful to the Sisi regime. See, “President’s Eldest Son,
Mahmoud al-Sisi, Sidelined from Powerful Intelligence Position to Diplomatic Mission in Russia,” Mada Masr,
November 20, 2019. After Mada Masr published this account, security services temporarily detained an editor and two
journalists and had their personal electronics confiscated. See, “Egypt News Outlet Raided after Report on Sisi’s Son,”
Financial T imes, November 24, 2019.
61 “How Egypt’s President T ightened his Grip,” Reuters, August 1, 2019.
62 “Election Preparations Get Under Way,” Economist Intelligence Unit, October 23, 2019.
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coalition’s members, charging them with attempting to bring down the state using entities
connected to the Muslim Brotherhood.63
Egypt’s Foreign Policy
Under President Sisi, Egypt’s foreign policy has been more active after a period of dormancy
during the latter years of the late President Hosni Mubarak and the tumultuous two-and-a-half-
year transition that followed Mubarak’s resignation.64 While President Sisi has continued Egypt’s
longtime policy of playing an intermediary role between Israel and the Palestinians, Egypt under
Sisi has attempted to play a bigger role in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea. Since
2014, as Egypt has developed off-shore natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean, President Sisi
has modernized the Egyptian Navy and improved economic ties with Israel, Italy, and Cyprus
while also looking to deter regional rivals, such as Turkey. In January 2020, Egypt inaugurated a
new base (Berenice) on the Red Sea which, according to one account, wil al ow Egypt to
“project military power into the southern Red Sea.”65
As part of President Sisi’s strategy to revitalize Egyptian power in its immediate vicinity, it has
maintained longstanding U.S.-Egyptian security ties while prioritizing defense relationships with
other actors.66 During Sisi’s presidency, Egypt has diversified its military-to-military and trade
relationships away from the United States to include closer relations with Russia, China, and
European nations such as France, Italy,67 and Germany.68 Between 2014 and 2018, Egypt was the
third-largest arms importer global y (after Saudi Arabia and India) with France and Russia being
Egypt’s principal suppliers.69

63 “Prosecution T akes Up Political Line in Interrogation of Several Coalition for Hope Defendants, Hands Down 15 -
day Detention Orders,” Mada Masr, June 27, 2019.
64 From about 2000 to 2013, Egypt had turned inward, unable to either lend its support or unilaterally advance major
U.S. initiatives in the region, such as the war in Iraq or the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Moreover, the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001 profoundly and negatively impacted how some U.S. policymakers viewed Egypt.
Whereas the bilateral relationship had previously focused on promoting regional peace and stability, the 9/11 attacks
reoriented U.S. policy during the George W. Bush Administration, as Americans considered the possibility that popular
disillusionment from authoritarianism might contribute to terrorism. Egypt has been a key element of this reorientation,
as several Egyptian terrorists helped form the original core of Al Qaeda. For example, see Nabil Fahmy, “ Egypt in the
World,” The Cairo Review of Global Affairs, Summer 2012.
65 Jeremy Binnie, “Egypt Inaugurates Major Red Sea Base Complex,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 16, 2020.
66 T he United States continues to fund the procurement of major defense systems, as the Defense Security Cooperation
Agency (DSCA) has notified Congress of potential defense sales to Egypt worth an estimated $1.8 billion since 2017.
For a list of major arms sales notifications to Egypt, see .
67 T he Egyptian Navy is reportedly in discussions to purchase two Italian FREMM Frigates from the Italian defense
contractor Fincantieri for an estimated $1.3 billion. See, T om Kington, “ Italy in T alks to Sell Frigates to Egypt ,”
Defense News, February 18, 2020.
68 T hyssenKrupp Marine Systems (T KMS) supplies the Egyptian Navy with T ype 209/1400mod submarines. T he same
German company also is providing the navy with MEKO A‑200 frigates.
69 “T rends in International Arms T ransfers, 2018,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ( SIPRI), March
“Egypt looks beyond the US to meet Defence Needs,” Economist Intelligence Unit, April 15, 2019. Report used data
from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute’s database on arms transfers.
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The Egyptian government supports Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and the Libyan National Army
(LNA) movement, which controls most of eastern Libya and has sought to take control of the rest
of the country by force since April 2019. Haftar’s politics closely align with President Sisi’s, as
both figures hail from the military and broadly oppose Islamist political forces. From a security
standpoint, Egypt seeks the restoration of order on its western border, which has experienced
occasional terrorist attacks and arms smuggling.70 From an economic standpoint, thousands of
Egyptian guest workers were employed in Libya’s energy sector prior to unrest in Libya in 2011,
and Egypt seeks their return to Libya and a resumption of the vital remittances that those workers
provided the Egyptian economy.
As the war in Libya has escalated since Haftar launched his April 2019 offensive to seize Tripoli,
there has been renewed attention to the role of outside actors in the Libya conflict. Although
Egypt has participated in international diplomatic efforts (such as the January 2020 Berlin
Conference) to halt fighting and reunify Libya, broadly speaking, Egypt’s policy toward Libya
also is closely aligned with other foreign backers of the LNA, including Russia, France, and the
United Arab Emirates (UAE). As Turkey’s support for the Government of National Accord
(GNA) has increased over the past year, there is some concern that foreign backers of Haftar wil
increase their support and further destabilize Libya. In late 2019, President Sisi responded to
reports of Turkey’s increased role by stating, “We wil not al ow anyone to control Libya ... it is a
matter of Egyptian national security.”71
To date, Egypt’s support for the LNA has included, among other things, the following:
 In 2014, Egypt donated used combat aircraft (MiG-21s) and helicopters from its
own air force to the LNA.72
 According to the United Nations Panel of Experts on Libya, Egypt conducted air
strikes against targets in Libya’s oil producing regions to support the LNA’s
offensive there in 2017.73
 According to the United Nations Panel of Experts on Libya, Egypt al owed the
United Arab Emirates to refuel aircraft in Egypt before launching sorties in
 According to one source, Egypt al owed the UAE to base its fleet of armed
Chinese-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) at air bases in western

70 Egyptian officials have argued that terrorist violence emanating from Libya and directed against Egyptian citizens
living and working there has compelled Egypt to militarily intervene in its neighbor’s civil war. On February 15, 2015,
Islamists allied with the Islamic State released a video in which 21 hostages, most of whom were Egyptian Coptic
Christians, were beheaded on a beach near the central Libyan town of Sirte. T he following morning, Egypt resp onded
with air strikes against terrorist camps in Derna, which had been a former Islamic State stronghold in eastern Libya.
71 “Egypt's Sissi Slams Attempts to 'Control Libya,'” Agence France-Presse, December 17, 2019.
72 “T he Rise of Libya’s Renegade General: How Haftar built his War Machine,” Middle East Eye, May 14, 2019.
73 Letter dated 5 September 2018 from the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011)
addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2018/812, September 5, 2018.
74 Letter dated 29 November 2019 from the Panel of Experts on Libya established pursuant to resolution 1973 (2011)
addressed to the President of the Security Council, S/2019/914, December 9, 2019.
75 Christopher Biggers, “Wing Loong II UAVs Deployed to Western Egyptian Base,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, February
27, 2020.
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 Egypt has al owed UAE aircraft to deliver equipment to Libya via Egyptian
 Egypt may have permitted the UAE’s Mirage 2000-9 fighter aircraft to be housed
at Sidi Barrani Air Base in western Egypt between deployments to Libya.77
The Nile Basin Countries
Egypt relies on the Nile River78 for
hydroelectricity, agriculture, and most of its
Figure 6.GERD Talks in Washington DC
domestic water needs, and thus treats
restrictions to the flow of the Nile from
upstream countries as an existential issue.
According to the United Nations, “Egypt’s
dependency ratio is one of the world’s highest
with 96.9 percent of the total renewable water
resources flowing into the country from
neighbouring countries. The total renewable
water resources per capita stands at 700
m3/year/capita in 2014, but considering

population growth is expected to drop below

the 500 m3 threshold of absolute water
Source: U.S. Department of the Treasury.
scarcity by 2030.”79 Experts expect climate change to increase the frequency of hot and dry years
for farmers along the Nile.80
The government has been at odds with Nile Basin countries to Egypt’s south that seek to revisit
colonial-era treaties governing the Nile waters. Tensions are particularly strong with Ethiopia
(population 105 mil ion), which is nearing completion of the $4.2 bil ion Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam (GERD), a major hydroelectric project on the Blue Nile, which starts in
Ethiopia. Egypt argues that the dam, once fil ed, wil limit the flow of the Nile below Egypt’s
share81, as agreed upon in a 1959 deal with Sudan (of which Ethiopia was not part).82 Ethiopia
claims that the dam, which would double its electricity generating capacity, is critical to its efforts
to eradicate poverty. Sudan, which sits in the middle of the dispute, stands to benefit from

76 Jared Malsin and Benoit Faucon, “Libya Fighting Resumes After a Brief Lull,” The Wall Street Journal, January 31,
77 Kerry Herschelman, “UAE Mirages using Egyptian Airbase, Jane’s Defence Weekly, May 14, 2020.
78 T he Nile is the longest river in the world (4,184), stretching from Kenya’s Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean Sea.
T he Blue Nile and White Nile merge in Sudan before flowing into Egypt.
79 FAO. 2016. AQUAST AT Country Profile – Egypt. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Rome, Italy.
80 Declan Walsh and Somini Sengupta, “For T housands of Years, Egypt Controlled the Nile. A New Dam T hreatens
T hat,” New York Times, February 9, 2020.
81 “Egypt Denounces Ethiopia for Moving Ahead with Nile Dam Amid Water: Shortage Fears,” Reuters, October 3,
82 International agreements on apportioning the flow of the Nile River date back to the British colonial perio d when
some Nile riparian countries were not parties themselves to the agreements. T he last major agreement, the 1959 Nile
Waters Agreement between Egypt and Sudan, divided the entire average annual flow of the Nile between Egypt and
Sudan. Ethiopia was not part of this agreement.
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Ethiopia’s prospective electricity exports and the regulated water flow, which would curtail
flooding and improve its agricultural potential.83
After years of failed talks, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan continue to disagree over how long
Ethiopia should take to fil the dam, as wel as how much water should be released from the
GERD on an annual basis, particularly during prolonged droughts.84 Reduced Nile flow through
Sudan into Egypt may exacerbate existing water shortages in both countries and cause short-term
political problems for the Egyptian government, given its extensive unmet domestic water needs.
To break the deadlock over Nile water-sharing, Egypt has repeatedly sought third-party
mediation, particularly from the United States. On November 6, 2019, the U.S. Treasury
Department hosted ministers from Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan for talks on the GERD just weeks
after the issue was discussed on the sidelines of the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, Russia. In a
joint statement, al sides agreed that water ministers would continue to hold technical meetings on
the GERD, with the United States and World Bank serving as observers, with the goal of reaching
an agreement by January 15, 2020.85
Rising Sea Levels and the Nile Delta
Low-lying deltas like Egypt’s Nile Delta and other parts of Egypt’s coast are susceptible to sea-level rise. Higher
sea levels can result in more frequent flooding from high tides and extreme rainfal , greater impacts from coastal
storms, damage to coastal fresh groundwater, changes to coastal habitats for fish and other species, and land lost
to coastal erosion and inundation.86 The Nile Delta is Egypt’s most important agricultural region and home to
significant population and economic centers such as Alexandria and Port Said. Scientists have warned that the Nile
Delta’s flood risk may increase in the years ahead due to a combination of factors.87 These include rising sea levels,
which general y are anticipated to increase in the coming decades with warming temperatures, and local
conditions contributing to land subsidence and loss, such as upstream dams capturing sediments needed for
maintaining the delta and land subsidence from groundwater, oil, and gas extraction.88 According to the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “The low-lying northern coast and Nile Delta region are a
high priority for adaptation to climate change.”89
The Egyptian government is taking some steps to address climate change. With support from the International
Finance Corporation, it has built one of the world’s largest solar parks at Benban in Aswan and aims to
dramatical y increase its national reliance on solar power. It also has built storm barriers along Alexandria’s shore
to stave off flooding, and has received funding from the United Nations Development Program to protect dams
along the Nile.
The parties subsequently convened for three rounds of talks in Washington DC between January
and February 2020, but an agreement has been elusive. Among the outstanding disagreements is
how many bil ions cubic meters (bcm) of the Blue Nile’s downstream annual flow (total of

83 See, International Crisis Group, “Bridging the Gap in the Nile Waters Dispute,” March 20, 2019.
84 See, International Crisis Group, “Calming the Choppy Nile Dam T alks,” October 23, 2019.
85 U.S. Department of the T reasury, Joint Statement of Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan, the United States, and the World Bank,
November 6, 2019.
86 For more information on how sea levels may effect coasts, see CRS Report R44632, Sea-Level Rise and U.S. Coasts:
Science and Policy Considerations
, by Peter Folger and Nicole T . Carter. Higher sea levels can impair drainage of
runoff from rainfall events.
87 Mohamed Shaltout, Kareem T onbol, and Anders Omstedt, “Sea-Level Change and Projected Future Flooding Along
the Egyptian Mediterranean Coast,” Oceanologia, vol. 57, no. 4 (2015); IPCC, IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and
Cryosphere in a Changing Clim ate
, in press, September 24, 2019, p. 4-61.
88 Esayas Gebremichael et al., “Assessing Land Deformation and Sea Encroachment in the Nile Delta: A Radar
Interferometric and Inundation Modeling Approach,” JGR Solid Earth, vol. 123, no. 4 (April 2, 2018).
89 IPCC, IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate, in press, September 24, 2019, p.
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49bcm) Ethiopia should use to fil the GERD’s reservoir and how much flow should be released
to Egypt. Ethiopia reportedly offered 31bcm to Egypt, which seeks a flow no lower than 40bcm.
The United States government proposed a compromise of 37bcm.90 In late February 2020,
Ethiopia and Sudan declined to sign a U.S.-drafted agreement,91 and Ethiopia asked for a
postponement in negotiations. In March, after a phone cal between President Trump and
President Sisi, President Trump “expressed hope that an agreement on the Grand Ethiopian
Renaissance Dam would be finalized soon and benefit al parties involved.”92 Since then, Ethiopia
has said that it is working on a new compromise, but on April 1, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy
Ahmed reiterated that Ethiopia would begin fil ing the GERD’s reservoir at the start of the
upcoming rainy season in June 2020, chal enging the Trump Administration’s position that fil ing
should not commence until an agreement is reached.
Egypt and Russia, close al ies in early years of the Cold War, have again strengthened bilateral
ties under President Sisi, whose relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin has rekindled,
in the words of one observer, “a romanticized memory of relations with Russia during the Nasser
era.”93 President Sisi first turned back toward Russia during the Obama Administration, when
U.S.-Egyptian ties were strained.94
Since 2014, Egypt and Russia have improved ties in a number of ways, including through arms
deals. Reportedly, Egypt is upgrading its aging fleet of legacy Soviet MiG-21 aircraft to a fourth
generation MiG-29M variant.95 Egypt also has purchased 46 standard Ka-52 Russian attack
helicopters for its air force, in addition to reportedly purchasing the naval version of the Ka-52 for
use on Egypt’s two French-procured Mistral-class helicopter dock vessels (see “France” below).
Egypt has further purchased the S-300VM surface-to-air missile defense system from Russia.96
Additional y, Egypt and Russia reportedly have expanded their cooperation on nuclear energy. In
2015, Egypt reached a deal with Russian state energy firm Rosatom to construct a 4,800-
megawatt nuclear power plant in the Egyptian Mediterranean coastal town of Daba’a, 80 miles
northwest of Cairo. Russia is lending Egypt $25 bil ion over 35 years to finance the construction
and operation of the nuclear power plant (this is to cover 85% of the project’s total costs). The
contract also commits Russia to supply the plant’s nuclear fuel for 60 years and transfer and store
depleted nuclear fuel from the reactors.
As Egyptian and Russian foreign policies have become more closely aligned in conflict zones
such as eastern Libya, bilateral military cooperation has expanded. Several years ago, one report
had suggested that Russian Special Forces based out of an airbase in Egypt’s western desert (Sidi

90 “Sources: US-Proposed GERD Deal sets Ethiopia Water Release at 37 bcm, Major Disputes Remain, Mada Masr,
February 17, 2020.
91 U.S. T reasury Department, Statement by the Secretary of the T reasury on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam,
February 28, 2020.
92 “T rump tells Sisi U.S. to Pursue Efforts for Deal on Ethiopia Dam: Egypt P residency,” Reuters, March 3, 2020.
93 “T he United States and the Future of Egyptian-Russian Relations,” The Caravan, Hoover Institution, March 9, 2017.
94 According to Jane’s, “T he two-year U.S. suspension of delivery of US F-16C/Ds in the wake of the Arab Spring
reinforced the notion among Egyptian leaders that Egypt should maintain a diverse defense supply base to avoid being
hamstrung by politically driven interruption of it s defense supply chain.” See, “ Analysis: Egyptian Air Force
Modernization,” Jane’s International Defence Review,” November 10, 2016.
95 See, Jane’s Sentinel Security Assessment, Air Force- Egypt, August 7, 2018.
96 “Egyptian S-300VM SAM Delivery Confirmed,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, June 6, 2017.
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Barrani) were aiding General Haftar.97 In November 2017, Egypt and Russia signed a draft
agreement governing the use of each other’s air space.98
While Egyptian-Russian ties have grown warmer in recent years, they are not without
complications. In the aftermath of an October 2015 terrorist attack against a Russian passenger jet
departing from Sharm El Sheikh, tourism to Egypt from Russia, previously the country’s largest
source of tourists, dropped significantly.99 Russian commercial aircraft have resumed direct
flights to Cairo but not to Sharm El Sheikh. Egypt and Russia also engaged in a trade dispute in
2016 over Russian wheat imports. Egypt is the largest global importer of wheat, and the largest
export market for Russian wheat.
Figure 7.Growing Russian and French Arms Sales to Egypt

Source: Stratfor, using Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database data.

97 “Russia Appears to Deploy Forces in Egypt, Eyes on Libya Role – Sources,” Reuters, March 14, 2017.
98 According to one report, “Russian and Egyptian war planes would be able to use each other’s air space and airfields
by giving five days advance notice, according to the draft agreement, which is expected to be valid for five years and
could be extended.” See “Russian Military Working on Deal to use Egyptian Air Bases: Document,” Reuters,
November 30, 2017.
99 Before 2015, Russian visitors accounted for 20%-30% of Egypt’s tourist arrivals. See, “Russian T ourist Numbers set
to recover slowly,” Economist Intelligence Unit, May 4, 2018.
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Like Russia, France stands out as a non-U.S. country with which President Sisi has sought to
build a diplomatic and military procurement relationship. In the years since 2015, as French-
Egyptian ties have improved, Egypt has purchased major air and naval defense systems from
French defense contractors, including the following:
 Four Gowind Corvettes (produced by Naval Group). This deal was signed in July
2014. As part of the French-Egyptian arrangement, some of the Corvette
construction has taken place at the Alexandria Shipyard in Egypt.100
 One FREMM multi-mission Frigate (produced by Naval Group). Named the
Tahya Misr (Long Live Egypt), this vessel was delivered to Egypt in 2015. This
ship has participated in an annual joint French-Egyptian naval exercise, known as
 24 Rafale multirole fighters (produced by Dassault Aviation). In 2018, French
officials said that the United States would not permit France to export the SCALP
air-launched land-attack cruise missile used on the Rafale to Egypt under the
International Trade in Arms Regulation (ITAR) agreement.101 The United States
may have been concerned over the transfer of sensitive technology to Egypt.
 Two Mistral-class Helicopter Carriers (produced by Naval Group). In fal 2015,
France announced that it would sel Egypt two Mistral-class Landing Helicopter
Dock (LHD) vessels (each carrier can carry 16 helicopters, 4 landing craft, and
13 tanks) for $1 bil ion. The LHDs were delivered in 2016. In 2017, Egypt
announced that it would purchase Russian 46 Ka-52 Al igator helicopters, which
can operate on the LHDs.102
U.S.-Egyptian Relations
At a broad level, the United States views the stability of Egypt as key to the stability of the
Middle East, and therefore maintains a decades-long security partnership to strengthen Egypt’s
armed forces and its ability to combat terrorism.103 During the Obama Administration, U.S.-
Egyptian relations became strained, particularly after President Sisi’s ascension to power in 2013.
Under the Trump Administration, the President and other high-level U.S. officials have largely
refrained from criticizing Egypt publicly over its poor human rights record.104 U.S. officials also

100 In fall 2018, it was reported that the German manufacturer T hyssenKrupp Marine Systems is competing with the
French company Naval Group for a possible new Egyptian Navy purchase of corvettes.
101 “France Could Replace US Parts in SCALP Missile to Circumvent IT AR Restrictions for Egypt, But at Some
Delay,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, August 2, 2018.
102 According to one report, the effectiveness of the Mistral as a helicopter carrier depends on whether the helicopters
on board have foldable rotors. If they don’t, it “ reduces the size of their air wings from 16 helicopters to the six that can
be carried on deck.” See, Jeremy Binnie, “ Egypt Deploys Ka-52s on Mistral LHD,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, January 7,
103 T he White House, President Donald J. T rump Remains Committed to Egypt and Middle East Stability, April 9,
104 One exception was during a 2019 hearing before Congress, when Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern
Affairs David Schenker remarked that “Egypt has a long way to go on human rights. ” See, House Foreign Affairs
Committee, Subcommittee on the Middle East, North Africa, and International T errorism, Hearing entitled, U.S.
Middle East Policy Objectives/Budget, October 29, 2019.
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have praised Egypt for the role it is playing in combatting terrorism, empowering women,
reforming the economy, and promoting religious freedom.105 The Trump Administration has been
more open than its predecessors in acknowledging that Egypt’s brand of authoritarianism does
not disqualify it from U.S. support due to its cooperation with the United States on countering
terrorism. In an April 2019 exchange with Senator Pat Leahy over Egypt’s human rights record,
Secretary of State Pompeo stated
Senator, there’s no doubt that it’s a mean nasty world out there, but [not] every one of these
leaders is the same. Some of them are trying to wipe entire nations off the face of the Earth.
And others are actually partnering with us to help keep America safe. There’s a difference
among leaders. You might call them tyrants; you might call them authoritarians. But,
there’s a fundamental difference. And therefore, a fundamental difference in the way the
United States should respond….The president gets to choose his own words, how he speaks
about these people. There’s no doubt the Egyptians have been an important security
partner, helping us take down terror threats in the Sinai that have reduced risks to the United
States of America. There’s no doubt about that. And for that, I am deeply appreciative of
President Sisi. He has also been remarkably good with respect to religious freedom. I had
a chance to travel there and see it. He has been a remarkable beacon in the Middle East for
religious freedom.106
President Trump has continued to request that Congress appropriate $1.3 bil ion in military aid to
Egypt (the same amount since 1987: see below), but he has not restored the Egyptian military’s
ability to benefit from “Cash Flow Financing (CFF)”—a mechanism granted by the President to
enable Egypt to purchase U.S. defense equipment on credit financed over several years.107
Moreover, President Trump reduced the FY2017 FMF obligation to Egypt by $65.7 mil ion as a
result of “Egypt’s ongoing relationship with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, lack of
progress on the 2013 convictions of U.S. and Egyptian nongovernmental organization (NGO)
workers, and the enactment of a restrictive NGO law that wil likely complicate ongoing and
future U.S. assistance to the country.”108 In April 2019, Egypt withdrew from the Trump
Administration’s Middle East Strategic Al iance (MESA) initiative, and it did not send a high-
level official to a 2019 MESA meeting in Washington DC.109

105 T he White House, President Donald J. T rump Remains Committed to Egypt and Middle East Stability, April 9,
106 Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, Hearing entitled, Fiscal 2020
Budget Request for the State Department , CQ Congressional T ranscripts, April 9, 2019.
107 On March 31, 2015, then National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan remarked that “ First,
beginning in fiscal year 2018, we will discontinue Egypt’s use of cash flow financing (CFF) – the financial mechanism
that enables Egypt to purchase equipment on credit. By ending CFF, we will have more flexibility to, in coordination
with Egypt, tailor our military assistance as conditions and needs on the ground change.” See, Comment from NSC
Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan regarding Egypt, March 31, 2015.
108 Congressional Notification T ransmittal Sheet, Mary K. Water, Assistant Secretary of Legislat ive Affairs, January
23, 2018.
109 “Egypt Withdraws from U.S.-Led Anti-Iran Security Initiative – Sources,” Reuters, April 10, 2019. See also, U.S.
Department of State, Middle East Strategic Alliance General Conference, November 13, 2019.
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One key U.S. component of U.S.-Egyptian
military cooperation has been expedited naval
Figure 8.The aircraft carrier USS
access through the Suez Canal. In May 2019,
Abraham Lincoln transits the Suez Canal.
amidst rising U.S.-Iranian tensions around the
Strait of Hormuz, the United States deployed
the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and
its strike group through the Suez Canal. The
Egyptian Navy facilitated the passage and,
according to the U.S. Navy, “The expedited
transit of ABECSG [Abraham Lincoln Strike
Group] through the Suez and into the 5th Fleet

area of operation demonstrates the flexibility
of a multinational, multi-platform unit to
Source: Department of the Navy.
respond whenever and wherever is required.”110
Though military-to-military relations remain the backbone of the bilateral relationship, Egypt is
increasingly seeking greater U.S. foreign direct investment in the private sector while the Trump
Administration supports a “fair and reciprocal” trade relationship built on cooperation and
“mutual benefit.”111 Despite having the largest population in the Middle East, Egypt ranks as the
region’s fifth-largest economy by GDP. By total 2019 volume of trade, Egypt ranks as the 59th-
largest U.S. trading partner at $8.5 bil ion in 2019. The United States has a trade surplus with
Egypt and exports wheat and corn, mineral fuel and oil, machinery, aircraft, and iron and steel
products. U.S. imports include apparel, natural gas and oil, fertilizers, textiles, and agricultural
products.112 According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Egypt Country Commercial
Guide, U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Egypt was $9.4 bil ion in 2017 (latest data
available), a 25.5% decrease from 2016.113
Other Issues in U.S.-Egyptian Relations
Possible Muslim Brotherhood Designation
In late April 2019, media reports suggested that the Trump Administration was considering
designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).114 According to
one unnamed senior U.S. official, “The President has heard the concerns about the Muslim
Brotherhood from our friends and al ies in the Middle East, as wel as here at home….Any
potential designation would go through a robust, deliberate, and inclusive interagency process.”115
Opponents of designating the Muslim Brotherhood movement as an FTO have argued that it
would be difficult because “[t]here is no single thing cal ed the Muslim Brotherhood, but instead
a number of organizations, movements, parties, associations, and informal groups that take some

110 U.S. Navy, Abraham Lincoln T ransits Suez Canal, Story Number: NNS190509-07, May 9, 2019.
111 Op.cit. White House, April 9, 2019.
112 U.S. Department of State, U.S. Relations with Egypt, Bilateral Relations Fact Sheet, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs,
September 20, 2019.
113 U.S. Department of Commerce, International T rade Administration, Egypt Country Commercial Guide, Updated
August 9, 2019.
114 “T rump Pushes to Designate Muslim Brotherhood a T errorist Group,” New York Times, April 30, 2019. See also,
CRS In Focus IF10613, Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), by John W. Rollins.
115 “T rump Weighs Labeling Muslim Brotherhood a T errorist Group,” Reuters, April 30, 2019.
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link to page 28 link to page 28 Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

inspiration, sometimes direct and sometimes remote, from the original movement founded in
Egypt in 1928 and the core texts its founder produced.”116 Some legal scholars have argued that
“[b]y statute, only foreign organizations that engage in, or retain the capacity and intent to engage
in, terrorist activity that threatens U.S. nationals or U.S. national security can be designated as
FTOs. On their face, these prerequisites disqualify nonviolent Muslim Brotherhood affiliates as
wel as those based in the United States.”117 H.R. 2412, the Muslim Brotherhood Terrorist
Designation Act of 2019, would cal on the Secretary of State, in consultation with the
intel igence community, to report to Congress on whether the Muslim Brotherhood meets the
criteria for designation as an FTO under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8
U.S.C. 1189).
The April Corley Case
In September 2015 in Egypt’s western desert, an Egyptian-operated, U.S.-supplied Apache
helicopter attacked a group of tourists, resulting in the deaths of 12 people. During the attack,
American citizen April Corley was severely injured.118 Based on the severity of Corley’s wounds
and ongoing medical treatment, Egypt offered her what she claims was an inadequate amount of
compensation. Corley has publicly advocated for the withholding of U.S. aid to Egypt (see Table
2) until she is fairly compensated and an amendment has been made to the Foreign Sovereign
Immunities Act, “which currently prevents private citizens from suing Egypt or other countries in
U.S. courts.”119
Some lawmakers have supported Corley’s cause. Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations
Committee Senator Leahy has asked the State Department to withhold $105 mil ion in FY2018
FMF funds “over Cairo’s detention of former New York taxi driver Mustafa Kassem as wel as
Corley’s medical bil s.”120 In April 2019, House Committee on Appropriations Chairwoman Nita
Lowey wrote in a letter to President Sisi that “Until this American citizen is provided
compensation that is commensurate with her pain, suffering, and loss, I regret to inform you that I
wil have to oppose any additional sale or upgrades of any AH-64E Apache helicopters to
Egypt.”121 In May 2020, as mentioned above (see footnote 8), the United States approved a
foreign military sale to Egypt of 43 refurbished Apache helicopters for $2.3 bil ion. According to
R. Clarke Cooper, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, “We have been very
clear with our Egyptian counterparts and interlocutors about the death of Mustafa Kassem and
about the case with April Corley and that settlement….Those have not gone away and they have
not gone off the table.”122

116 “Black Label”, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, January 25, 2017.
117 “How T rump Might Designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a T errorist Organization,” Lawfare (Brookings
Institution), May 13, 2019.
118 Corley’s legal representation has posted information on her case at
119 “Egypt Almost Killed Me Four Years Ago. T he U.S. Must Hold its Government Accountable,” Washington Post,
October 2, 2019.
120 “Key Senator Looks to Block Apache Sale to Egypt Over Injured American,” Al Monitor, March 28, 2019.
121 Congresswoman Nita Lowey, Lowey Calls on Egyptian President to Fairly and Swiftly Resolve April Corley Case,
Press Release, April 8, 2019.
122 “US Approves Helicopters to Egypt but Says Rights Concerns Remain,” Al Monitor, May 8, 2020.
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Recent Action on U.S. Foreign Aid to Egypt
For FY2021, the Trump Administration has requested a total of $1.4 bil ion in bilateral assistance
for Egypt. In FY2018 and FY2019, Congress appropriated $1.4 bil ion in annual bilateral aid for
Egypt. Nearly al of the U.S. funds for Egypt come from the FMF account and are in turn used to
purchase U.S.-origin military equipment, spare parts, training, and maintenance from U.S. firms.
Table 2. U.S. Bilateral Aid to Egypt: FY2016-FY2021
current U.S. dol ars in mil ions
Source: Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Congressional Budget Justifications
(FY2017-FY2021), P.L. 116-94, and CRS calculations and rounding.
Notes: In 2016, the Obama Administration notified Congress that it was reprogramming for other purposes
$108 mil ion of ESF that had been appropriated for Egypt in FY2015 but remained unobligated. In 2017, the
Trump Administration also reprogrammed approximately $37 mil ion in FY2016 ESF for Egypt to support, among
other things, water programs in the West Bank. Funding levels in this table include both enduring (base) and
Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds. ESF=Economic Support Fund; FMF = Foreign Military Financing;
IMET = International Military Education & Training; INCLE = International Narcotics Control + Law
Enforcement; NADR = Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining, and Related
Egypt’s record on human rights and democratization has sparked regular criticism from U.S.
officials and some Members of Congress. Since FY2012, Congress has passed appropriations
legislation that withholds the obligation of FMF to Egypt until the Secretary of State certifies that
Egypt is taking various steps toward supporting democracy and human rights. With the exception
of FY2014, lawmakers have included a national security waiver to al ow the Administration to
waive these congressional y mandated certification requirements under certain conditions.
When Congress appropriates FMF to Egypt, it typical y makes funds available for two years only.
FY2019 FMF is currently available until September 30, 2020. To date, the Trump Administration
has obligated $1 bil ion in FY2019 FMF for Egypt. $300 mil ion in FMF remains withheld until
the Secretary issues a determination pursuant to Section 7041(a)(3)(B) of P.L. 116-6, the FY2019
Consolidated Appropriations Act.
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Appendix. Background on U.S. Foreign Assistance
to Egypt

Between 1946 and 2018, the United States provided Egypt with $79.9 bil ion in bilateral foreign
aid (calculated in historical dollars—not adjusted for inflation).123 The 1979 Peace Treaty
between Israel and Egypt ushered in the current era of U.S. financial support for peace between
Israel and its Arab neighbors. In two separate memoranda accompanying the treaty, the United
States outlined commitments to Israel and Egypt, respectively. In its letter to Israel, the Carter
Administration pledged that it would “endeavor to take into account and wil endeavor to be
responsive to military and economic assistance requirements of Israel.” In his letter to Egypt,
former U.S. Secretary of Defense Harold Brown wrote the following:
In the context of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, the United States is prepared
to enter into an expanded security relationship with Egypt with regard to the sales of
military equipment and services and the financing of, at least a portion of those sales,
subject to such Congressional review and approvals as may be required .124
Al U.S. foreign aid to Egypt (or any country) is appropriated and authorized by Congress. The
1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is a bilateral peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, and the
United States is not a legal party to the treaty. The treaty itself does not include any U.S. aid
obligations, and any assistance commitments to Israel and Egypt that could be potentially
construed in conjunction with the treaty were through ancil ary documents or other
communications and were—by their terms—subject to congressional approval (see above).
However, as the peace broker between Israel and Egypt, the United States has traditional y
provided foreign aid to both countries to ensure a regional balance of power and sustain security
cooperation with both countries.
In some cases, an Administration may sign a bilateral “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU)
with a foreign country pledging a specific amount of foreign aid to be provided over a selected
time period subject to the approval of Congress. In the Middle East, the United States has signed
foreign assistance MOUs with Israel and Jordan. Currently, there is no U.S.-Egyptian MOU.125
Congress typical y specifies a precise al ocation of most foreign assistance for Egypt in the
foreign operations appropriations bil . Egypt receives the bulk of foreign aid funds from three
primary accounts: Foreign Military Financing (FMF), Economic Support Funds (ESF), and

123 U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants, Obligations and Loan Authorizations, July 1, 1945 -September 30, 2018.
124 See Letter From the Secretary of Defense (Brown) to-the Egyptian Minister of Defense and War Production (Ali),
March 23, 1979, “United States Sales of Military Equipment and Services to Egypt.” Ultimately, the United States
provided a total of $7.3 billion to both parties in 1979. T he Special International Security Assistance Act of 1979 ( P.L.
96-35) provided both military and economic grants to Israel and Egypt at a ratio of 3 to 2, respectively, though this
ratio was not enshrined in the treaty as Egypt would later claim.
125 In July 2007, the George W. Bush Administration had announced, as a part of a larger arms package to the region,
that it would begin discussions with Egypt on a proposed $13 billion military aid agreement over a 10 -year period.
Since Egypt was already receiving approximately $1.3 billion a year in military assistance, the announcement
represented no major change in U.S. aid policy toward Egypt. No such bilateral MOU on U.S. military aid to Egypt has
been reached by the Bush, Obama, or T rump Administrations with the Egyptian government.
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International Military Education and Training (IMET).126 The United States offers IMET training
to Egyptian officers in order to facilitate U.S.-Egyptian military cooperation over the long term.
Military Aid and Arms Sales
Since the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty, the United States has provided Egypt with large
amounts of military assistance. U.S. policymakers have routinely justified this aid to Egypt as an
investment in regional stability, built primarily on long-running military cooperation and
sustaining the treaty—principles that are supposed to be mutual y reinforcing. Egypt has used
U.S. military aid through the FMF to (among other things) purchase major U.S. defense systems,
such as the F-16 fighter aircraft, the M1A1 Abrams battle tank, and the AH-64 Apache attack
Frequently Asked Question: Is U.S. Military Aid Provided to Egypt
as a Cash Transfer?
No. Al U.S. military aid to Egypt finances the procurement of weapons systems and services from U.S. defense
.127 The United States provides military assistance to U.S. partners and al ies to help them acquire U.S.
military equipment and training. Egypt is one of the main recipients of FMF, a program with a corresponding
appropriations account administered by the Department of State but implemented by the Department of Defense.
FMF is a grant program that enables governments to receive equipment and associated training from the U.S.
government or to access equipment directly through U.S. commercial channels.
Most countries receiving FMF general y purchase goods and services through government-to-government
contracts, also known as Foreign Military Sales (FMS). According to the Government Accountability Office, “under
this procurement channel, the U.S. government buys the desired item on behalf of the foreign country (Egypt),
general y employing the same criteria as if the item were being procured for the U.S. military.” The vast majority
of what Egypt purchases from the United States is conducted through the FMS program funded by FMF. Egypt uses
few of its own national funds for U.S. military equipment purchases.
Under Section 36(b) of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), Congress must be formal y notified 30 calendar
days before the Administration can take the final steps of a government-to-government foreign military sale of
major U.S.-origin defense equipment valued at $14 mil ion or more, defense articles or services valued at $50
mil ion or more, or design and construction services valued at $200 mil ion or more. In practice pre-notifications
to congressional committees of jurisdiction occur, and proposed arms sales general y do not proceed to the public
official notification stage until issues of potential concern to key committees have been resolved.
Special Military Assistance Benefits for Egypt
In addition to substantial amounts of annual U.S. military assistance, Egypt has benefited from
certain aid provisions that have been available to only a few other countries, listed below.

126 Egypt also receives, though not consistently, relatively small sums from the Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism,
Demining, and Related Programs (NADR) account and the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement
(INCLE) account. NADR funds support counterterrorism training through the Antiterrorism Assistance Program.
INCLE funds support police training and respect for h uman rights in law enforcement. The Administration typically
requests these funds, but they are not usually specifically earmarked for Egypt (or for most other countries) in
legislation. After the passage of a foreign operations appropriations bill, federal agencies such as the State Department
and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) allocate funds to Egypt from these aid accounts. T hey
then submit a country allocation report (653a Report) to Congress for review.
127 For the relevant legal authorities, see §604 of the Foreign Assistance Act as amended (22 U.S.C. 2354) and §503 of
the Foreign Assistance Act as amended (22 U.S.C. 2311).
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Early Disbursal and Interest-Bearing Account: Between FY2001 and FY2011,
Congress granted Egypt early disbursement of FMF funds (within 30 days of the
enactment of appropriations legislation) to an interest-bearing account at the
Federal Reserve Bank of New York.128 Interest accrued from the rapid
disbursement of aid has al owed Egypt to receive additional funding for the
purchase of U.S.-origin equipment. In FY2012, Congress began to condition the
obligation of FMF, requiring the Administration to certify certain conditions had
been met before releasing FMF funds, thereby eliminating their automatic early
disbursal. However, Congress has permitted Egypt to continue to earn interest on
FMF funds already deposited in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
The Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program provides one means by which the
United States can advance foreign policy objectives—assisting friendly and
al ied nations through provision of equipment in excess of the requirements of its
own defense forces. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) manages
the EDA program, which enables the United States to reduce its inventory of
outdated equipment by providing friendly countries with necessary supplies at
either reduced rates or no charge. As a designated “major non-NATO al y,” Egypt
is eligible to receive EDA under Section 516 of the Foreign Assistance Act and
Section 23(a) of the Arms Export Control Act.

128 By law, Egypt and Israel are permitted to earn interest on congressionally appropriated Foreign Military Financing
(FMF). During the late 1990s, the Clinton Administration (especially the U.S. Defense Department) and the Egyptian
government sought to increase U.S. military aid to Egypt. One proposal had been to grant Egypt a benefit alr eady
enjoyed by Israel—the use of an interest -bearing account in which unspent FMF funds can accumulate interest to be
used for future purchases. During Senate consideration of legislation to provide Egypt access to an interest -bearing
account, Sen. Mitch McConnell remarked that “ In the State Department briefing justifying the request, U.S. officials
urged our support because of Mubarak’s need to address the requirements of ‘his key constituents, the military.’
Frankly, I think Mr. Mubarak needs to worry less about satisfying the military and spend more time and effort shoring
up democratic institutions and civic society.” See Congressional Record-Senate, S5508, June 21, 2000. In October
2000, Congress passed P.L. 106-280, the Security Assistance Act of 2000, which authorized FY2001 FMF funds for
Egypt to be disbursed to an interest -bearing account in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. T he law required that
none of the interest accrued by such account should be obligated unless first notified to relevant congressional
appropriations and oversight committees. In November 2000, Congress passed P.L. 106-429, the FY2001 Foreign
Operations Appropriations Act, which included an interest-bearing account for Egypt in appropriations legislation.
Since then, this provision has remained in annual appropriations legislation, most recently in P.L. 114-113, the
Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016.
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Figure A-1. The Military Aid “Pipeline”

Source: Information from Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Graphic created by CRS.
Economic Aid
Over the past two decades, U.S. economic aid to Egypt has been significantly reduced. Beginning
in the mid to late 1990s, as Egypt moved from being an impoverished country to a lower-middle-
income economy,129 the United States and Egypt began to rethink the assistance relationship,
emphasizing “trade not aid.”130 Congress began to scale back economic aid both to Egypt and
Israel due to a 10-year agreement reached between the United States and Israel in the late 1990s
known as the “Glide Path Agreement,” which gradual y reduced U.S. economic aid to Egypt to
$400 mil ion by 2008.131 U.S. economic aid to Egypt stood at $200 mil ion per year by the end of
the George W. Bush Administration, whose relations with then-President Hosni Mubarak

129 See World Bank historic data at: -world-bank-
130 Ahmed Galal, Robert Z. Lawrence (editors), Building Bridges: An Egypt-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Brookings
Institution Press, 1998.
131 In January 1998, Israeli officials, sensing that their economic growth had obviated the need for that type of U.S. aid
at a time when Congress sought to reduce foreign assistance expenditures, negotiated with the United States to reduce
economic aid and increase military aid over a 10 -year period. A 3:2 ratio that long prevailed in the overall levels of
U.S. aid to Israel and Egypt was applied to the reduction in economic aid ($60 million reduction for Israel and $40
million reduction for Egypt), but Egypt did not receive an increase in military assistance. T hus, Congress reduced ESF
aid to Egypt from $815 million in FY1998 to $411 million in FY2008.
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suffered132 over the latter’s reaction to the Administration’s democracy agenda in the Arab
During the final years of the Obama Administration, wariness of U.S. democracy promotion
assistance led the Egyptian government to obstruct many U.S.-funded economic assistance
programs.134 According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of State
and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reported hundreds of mil ions of
dollars ($460 mil ion as of 2015) in unobligated prior year ESF funding.135 These growing
unobligated balances created pressure on the Obama Administration to reobligate ESF funds for
other purposes. In 2016, the Obama Administration notified Congress that it was reprogramming
for other purposes $108 mil ion of ESF that had been appropriated for Egypt in FY2015 but
remained unobligated. The Administration claimed that its actions were due to “continued
government of Egypt process delays that have impeded the effective implementation of several
programs.”136 In 2017, the Trump Administration also reprogrammed FY2016 ESF for Egypt.
U.S. economic aid to Egypt is divided into two components: (1) USAID-managed programs
(public health, education, economic development, democracy and governance); and (2) the U.S.-
Egyptian Enterprise Fund.137 Both are funded primarily through the Economic Support Fund
(ESF) appropriations account.
Table A-1. U.S. Foreign Assistance to Egypt: 1946-2020
(calculated in historical dol ars—not adjusted for inflation)
Annual Total

132 See, Helene Cooper, “ With Egypt, Diplomatic Words Often Fail,” New York Times, January 29, 2011.
133 T he George W. Bush Administration requested that Congress cut ESF aid by half in FY2009 to $200 million.
Congress appropriated the President’s request.
134 House Foreign Affairs Committee, hearing entitled, “Egypt: Challenges and Opportunities fo r U.S. Policy,”
Prepared Statement by Amy Hawthorne, Project on Middle East Democracy, June 15, 2016.
135 EGYPT : U.S. Government Should Examine Options for Using Unobligated Funds and Evaluating Security
Assistance Programs, GAO-15-259: Published: February 11, 2015. Publicly Released: March 12, 2015.
136 “US Shifts Egypt Aid to Other Countries,” Al Monitor, October 16, 2016.
137 “Here’s One U.S. - Egypt Success Story,” Washington Post, April 5, 2019.
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Annual Total
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Annual Total
Source: U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants, Obligations and Loan Authorizations, July 1, 1945-September 30,
2018, and Congressional Budget Justifications (FY2019-FY20201).
Note: This chart does not account for the repurposing of assistance funds which had been previously obligated
for Egypt. Total numbers may be slightly higher than official sources since there is a time delay in government
agency reporting of obligated funds. It is unclear why FY2014 military assistance funds are significantly lower than
previous years.

Author Information

Jeremy M. Sharp

Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

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Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations

This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS). CRS serves as nonpartisan
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