Egypt and the Race for Arms and Stability
Wikileaks has revealed that Egypt is being hauled into the US’s problems and threats in the Middle East as calls come from Dr. Colin Kahl (Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East) for higher level military strategy in the region. Egypt, however, stresses that its military needs differ from those of the US.
Egypt reiterated to Kahl that its military is defensive and the first priority is protecting Egyptian land, and the Suez Canal. Egypt must also be on the alert against terrorism and it seeks to achieve stability in the region which includes concerns about the Nile Basin water rights and conflict in Darfur and southern Sudan. Similarly, Egypt maintains the balance of power with Libya which is seen as unpredictable. At the same time Israel, with its unconventional weapons and sophisticated conventional weapons, has created a regional imbalance and instability. Egypt’s stance is not to cause offence or aggression to any other country.
Under pressure from the US to reform its military doctrine, Egypt sees that threats facing the US differ from those facing Egypt that also believes Congress needs to be educated about Egypt’s military needs, not having the number of aircraft or tanks limited. Egypt was adamant to the US that its own national security was its first priority and that it would, if necessary, purchase its weapons and armaments from other than the US if necessary, noting that it preferred to remain close with its age old ally.
The US has learned some hard military lessons through its experience in Iraq and it now sees that there is no purely conventional military conflict in the world. The US sees that modern armies face the challenge to create a balance between conventional and irregular military forces and learn how to cope with things like roadside bombs, rather than regular battle. Effective and rapid communication and the ability to access the environment depend on technology, not just military equipment and the US sees that this technology has now become a vital element in war and that outdated armaments are not to be relied on in place of quality, modern day equipment.
In terms of Israel, Egypt’s role, according to the Camp David agreement, is to maintain a certain balance of power in the region so that other groups do not go to war and Egypt proudly believes it has fulfilled this role faithfully.
Egypt is wary about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and seeing Iran as a threat to the region, is concerned that it is contributing to instability and intensifying conflicts because if it succeeds in obtaining nuclear weapons this would encourage other countries in the region to do the same. Egypt also sees that since Obama pledged to pursue a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in the Middle East, the US should stop ignoring the Israeli nuclear program as it justified Iran’s own plans for nuclear development and emboldens its use of Hezbollah and HAMAS. The US justified its strong stance against Iran, rather than Israel, saying that Iran was the only country that threatened to erase another country off the map. The US’s plan to make the Middle East nuclear free could take twenty years but the world can not wait twenty years for Iran.
Egypt also sees that Iran successfully uses conflict in the Middle East for its own purposes, so it is essential to cut Iran’s connections and influence in regional conflicts in Lebanon, Israel and Palestine to decrease its influence. Both the US and Egypt see that it is necessary that all Arabs have a unified front to combat this.
The US is concerned about smuggling activity into the Gaza Strip and HAMAS’s efforts to rearm. Aware that this is a sensitive issue for Egypt, the US hopes Egypt will honor its agreement to counter smuggling and ensure border security, seeing the necessity of targeting smuggling networks and their financiers in Sudan and the Sinai. The US is willing to assist Egypt in its counter-smuggling efforts on the Sudanese border and the Red Sea, emphasizing that smuggling tunnels threatened Egypt’s security and that terror – in the form of HAMAS – could come from there. The US sees that once Egypt puts the steel underground wall – at a cost of $40 million – on the Gaza border, it will then be time to pressure Israel concerning the humanitarian situation in Gaza, noting that the US strongly encourages Israel to open crossings into Gaza to allow humanitarian goods to cross and that Egypt must take all necessary means to thwart illegal crossings.
The US wants Egypt to sign a Communications Electronics Security Agreement (CISMOA), however, Egypt is delaying its decision, and wants Dr. Kahl to convince Congress that Egypt is worth more than $1.3 billion a year, however, the US says it is undergoing difficult financial times and that it was unlikely that aid money would increase.