President Trump faced criticism in April over his announcement that he was "very much" in support of controversial Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a statement that made his administration's decision Tuesday to deny Egypt millions in aid and military funding all the more surprising for critics, The New York Times reports.
Sisi had not visited the White House in eight years prior to Trump's invitation because former President Barack Obama was critical of Sisi's undemocratic rule and record on human rights. Additionally, Egypt has been a longtime ally of North Korea. On Tuesday, though, the Trump administration slapped down Egypt's $96 million in aid and froze $195 million for the military over the country's "lack of progress in human rights and a new law restricting the activities of nongovernmental organizations," the Times writes, adding: "Asked if Egypt's robust relationship with North Korea played a role in Tuesday's action, a State Department official would say only that issues of concern have been raised with Cairo, but refused to provide details about the talks."
"It is unusual that the Trump administration would take a punitive measure against Egypt, given the president's outreach to President Sisi and his general embrace of this Egyptian government," said Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "I would not say reports of difficulties with Egypt's human rights situation or its connection with North Korea are new."