by Nizar Manek
On 9 October the United States said it would suspend shipments of “certain large-scale weapon systems” to Egypt, such as tanks, helicopters and guns. But two veteran arms trade experts, Sergio Finardi and Peter Danssaert, said they had proof that, on 24 October, the US government then shipped 250 tons of defence equipment to Egypt. The $52m shipment was mostly spare parts and components for aircraft and battle tanks, according to the pair, who have developed databases from documents they receive from maritime and aviation sources and monitor the movement of ships and aircraft transporting military equipment across the world. “You can understand they are not some screws or bolts,” said Finardi, from TransArms, a Chicago-based military logistics consulting outfit.
The US has said it only put “on hold” its $1.3bn a year Foreign Military Financing (FMF) programme for Egypt. For this reason, Finardi calls the “certain large-scale weapon systems” statement no more than a “word game”, rendered even more “meaningless” by another US statement indicating that shipments of spare parts and components will not be suspended. Some major weapons systems, such as M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, are assembled or co-manufactured in Egypt, notes Danssaert, from the Antwerp, Belgium-based International Peace Information Service.
The $52m US arms shipment should come as no surprise. Marie Harf, US State Department spokesperson, said in a recent press briefing: “We’re just not delivering new things. They already have a lot of military equipment that supports counterterrorism. And as we said yesterday, we will continue to supply spare parts, replacement parts for what they already have”.