17 members of the US Senate, from both parties, have demanded that Defence Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo act against the Egyptian regime. These moves in Congress are because of the Egyptian regime’s desire to acquire Russian Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft. Members of Congress are outraged that an ally country, which has received billions of dollars in US aid, has purchased weapons from a competing country.
American threats escalated recently, the most remarkable of which came from the Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs, Clark Cooper, who said that “The United States may impose sanctions on Egypt and deny it future military sales if it purchases Russian Sukhoi Su-35 warplanes.” The Egyptian regime’s acquisition of these planes is expected to provoke great anger in Congress, and it may push the Trump administration to implement the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) and impose sanctions on its Egyptian ally. Congress passed the CAATSA Act in 2017 with the goal of imposing sanctions on US enemies such as North Korea and Iran, but the goal was mainly Russia, its military sales, foreign relations, and specific sectors such as energy, military production, and the financial sector. The law adopts extensive sanctions against any country whose relations with Russia could harm US interests.
The Egyptian regime hopes that the US will not make a decision like that firstly because Washington has not yet imposed sanctions on Ankara for the purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system (S-400), and secondly because the Egyptian regime is a strong ally of Trump’s administration.
Observers have noted that Turkey has been removed from the joint F-35 strike programme, but this is a separate issue from the sanctions called for by the CAATSA Law, where the sanctions can be waived by the president, which is what has happened so far with Turkey; however, Ankara has been punished in other ways.