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U.S. Lawmaker Opposes Further Tank Sales to Egypt

Jul. 19, 2011 - 03:45AM   |  
By KATE BRANNEN   |   Comments
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Freshman U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., is opposing the latest proposed sale of M1 Abrams tanks to Egypt, a deal with an estimated cost of $1.3 billion.

On July 1, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the potential sale.

If it goes through, the sale would include 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits for co-production and associated weapons, equipment, parts, training and logistical support, according to the DSCA notice.

In a July 18 letter, West, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the Tea Party Caucus, said he opposes any military sales to Egypt as long as the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party, "remains active in the political process" there.

West sent the letter to Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Fla., the House Armed Services Committee chairman. Copies of the letter also were provided to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and other House leaders.

Last month, the U.S. said it would resume direct contact with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has become an influential political force in Egypt since former President Hosni Mubarak was forced out of office earlier this year.

"We believe, given the changing political landscape in Egypt, that it is in the interests of the United States to engage with all parties that are peaceful and committed to nonviolence that intend to compete for the parliament and the presidency," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said June 30 on a trip to Budapest.

Since Mubarak's departure, the Egyptian military has formed an interim government, which recognized the Brotherhood's political party in June. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for this fall, and a presidential election could take place by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, West says the proposed tank sale to Egypt could "seriously jeopardize" Israel's security.

"We must exercise caution with regards to military sales and support to the Egyptian Government until a government is formed absent of the radical elements of the Muslim Brotherhood that will maintain active peace with Israel," West writes.

Founded in 1928, the Brotherhood has never been classified a terrorist organization by the U.S. While the group renounces violence, it has verbally supported Hamas, which has carried out attacks against Israel.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the U.S.-Egyptian co-production of the M1A1 Abrams tank, which began in 1988, is "one of the cornerstones of U.S. military assistance to Egypt."

Egypt plans to acquire a total of 1,200 tanks. Some of the tank's components are manufactured at an Egyptian facility, while the remaining parts are produced in the U.S. and then shipped to Egypt for final assembly. The prime contractor is General Dynamics, located in Michigan.

"The proposed sale of this equipment and support will not alter the basic military balance in the region," the DSCA notice says.

By law, the government is required to notify Congress of any foreign military sale over a certain value. Depending on the country and the sale, Congress has between 15 and 30 days to block the sale by a joint resolution of disapproval.

To date, no sale has ever been blocked by this method, although Congress came very close during the 1980s with an arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Congress can also pass legislation to stop or modify sales at any time up to the point of delivery.

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