Are the U.S. government and military indirectly supporting war crimes? Yes, according to the non-profit Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Recently, the HRW released a report documenting war crimes committed by the Egyptian military and the Islamic State (ISIS) in North Sinai. The report accuses both warring parties of committing crimes against humanity. Although this is something to be expected from ISIS terrorists, the American-supported Egyptian government has little excuse.
According to the report, the fighting in the North Sinai qualifies as a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) and consequently, the laws of war are in effect. This means any combat irregularities committed by the Egyptian military are illegal. For a conflict to be categorized as a NIAC, it must meet certain conditions, such as lengthy duration, high intensity, significant severity, and existing and identifiable chains of command in the two warring parties.
According to the Military Times, an American diplomat acknowledged the existence and contents of the report but emphasized the strategic importance of the American-Egyptian military and political relationship. The unnamed State Department official said, “We continue to work with Egypt to advance our strategic partnership and address our common challenges, which includes encouraging respect for and protection of basic rights and freedoms.”
He added that successive U.S. governments have played a crucial part in the socioeconomic and military development of the North African country. As a result, America has a vested interest in Egypt being a regional power and source of stability. More importantly, according to the American diplomat, is Egypt’s role in countering Iranian influence in the region. The State Department official, however, did say that the U.S. government had raised the issue with its Egyptian counterpart and highlighted the importance of respecting human and civil rights.
The Pentagon echoed these statements. “Egypt remains an important security partner,” Commander Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement to the Military Times. “The U.S. strategic military-to-military relationship with Egypt remains unchanged.”
The above statements elucidate the issue and clarify the reason for America’s support for President el-Sisi’s regime, despite the rampant war crimes committed by the Egyptian military: Realpolitik. The enemy of my enemy is my friend regardless if his actions are contrary to the values and ideals I promote and defend with the treasure and blood of my people. It might sound ugly and immoral, but so are international politics and warfare. It only takes one cynic for all to become cynical.
Interestingly, the HRW report suggests the Israeli government has been helping out its longtime rival Egypt by providing intelligence and conducting airstrikes against Islamist targets. “Since 2013, Israel has not only allowed a build-up of Egyptian military presence in the area beyond the treaty stipulations,” states the report, “but also according to media reports and official statements, aided the Egyptian government forces and probably participated in airstrikes against ISIS-affiliated militants.”
You can read the full HRW report here.