US delivers F-16 fighter jets to Egypt


An Egyptian military fighter jet and helicopter pass low over Tahrir Square on Jan. 30, 2011 in Cairo, Egypt. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)


Peter Macdiarmid

The United States delivered four new F-16 fighter jets to Egypt today, said the White House, marking the event with a ceremony praising their young partnership. 

The US has been cautious toward Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood-led leadership following the ousting of US ally Hosni Mubarak two years ago. 

The country's ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, on Monday said Washington hopes to see Cairo continue to be "a force for peace, security, and leadership as the Middle East proceeds with its challenging yet essential journey toward democracy," according to the White House

But the reminder of US military support for Egypt's authorities may anger Egyptians freshly outraged by a recent video allegedly showing police beating a naked civilian and, separately, the death of an activist after being held in police custody. 

GlobalPost senior correspondent Erin Cunningham said that the army so far is not involved in some of the serious abuses carried out by riot police in the last week.

But the move signifies a confidence on the part of the Obama administration that Egypt is stable enough to receive US weapons, despite the turmoil.

The White House has condemned the violence in Egypt but largely stayed quiet, Cunningham said, and many protesters believe the US is throwing its weight behind the Muslim Brotherhood.

Furnishing Egypt with F16s could be construed by some as support for the crackdown, or at least support for Morsi, who is in theory head of the armed forces.

The US State Department on Monday responded to the reports of violence, with spokeswoman Victoria Nuland telling reporters: "Egyptians participated in their revolution in order to bring democracy, in order to bring rule of law and freedom for all - not more violence, not sexual assault, and not looting," reported Reuters.

"We strongly condemn the recent violence and the attacks that have taken place in Egypt," she continued, saying the US leaders are "extremely disturbed by these incidents, including sexual assaults against women and the beating of a defenseless man last week," according to Reuters

Meanwhile, Egypt's defense minister, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on Monday welcomed US military support and said Egypt is hoping America will help the country modernize its combat forces, said the Egypt Independent

The aircraft are part of an annual $1.3 billion military aid deal between the US and Egypt.

Because the US long supported Egypt’s former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, it looks to Egyptians like US policy toward Egypt is more of the same, Cunningham said from Cairo.

... and that includes placating the army with aid and weapons so it keeps the peace treaty with Israel in tact.

Erin Cunningham contributed to this report from Cairo.