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Egypt, Yet Again

JINSA Report #: 

February 13, 2002

We have characterized Egypt in previous JINSA Reports and won't do it here, except to note that CIA Director Tenet reported this week that Egypt continues to cooperate with North Korea in ballistic missile programs, meaning the Egyptian Foreign Minister lied last month when he said in Washington they that weren't.

Nevertheless, the Administration is rejecting Congressional efforts to redirect U.S. foreign aid from military aid to economic aid and after announcing its intention to sell MLRS and Harpoon Block II missiles to Egypt (terrible ideas - see JINSA Reports #213 and #225-227), DoD this week said it would sell them components for artillery rockets.

We are sympathetic to their problem with Egypt. Really. We are. Stop laughing.

There is no great belief in the Administration that Egypt is a strong ally, no serious thought that they are actively participating in the war against terrorists and those who support them. There is some appreciation for the meager overtures from the Egyptian to the Israeli government last week. (It was nice that the Israeli Ambassador to Cairo presented his credentials along with 10 Arab Ambassadors who were forced to listen to "Hatikva.") But there is great concern that if Egypt (or Saudi Arabia, or Pakistan) falls to its internal opposition (which is large and nasty) while we are fighting the war, we will be faced with problems we don't want now and don't have time for now. So it suits the Administration for now to pretend Egypt is an ally that deserves American support.

OK, we agree that the U.S. has a lot on its plate in a difficult part of the world and that the fall of Mubarak today or tomorrow wouldn't be helpful. However, there are two buts.

First, the U.S. cannot continue to support dictatorial regimes with no internal legitimacy and whose populations revile us in part because we support the dictatorship. At some point those dictatorships will fall -because, as the President so rightly said, the U.S. will work to establish freedom, liberty and tolerance around the world, and the Arab and Islamic world isn't exempt. When they fall, we want to be on the side of the people.

Second, while we are propping up dictatorships of limited utility and limited viability, the United States should be VERY CAREFUL not to do anything with long-term dangerous ramifications for itself or its allies specifically in this case Israel. Selling Egypt high-tech military equipment and overlooking Egypt's relationship with A-E (Axis of Evil) member North Korea could result in that equipment falling into the hands of a future Egyptian government even less friendly to the U.S. and Israel than the current one. Harpoon Block II missiles could threaten U.S. carriers in the Med or Red Sea, MLRS could be used against Israel if Egypt crosses the Suez Canal (particularly if the U.S. withdraws the multinational forces in the Sinai), and the artillery rockets won't be used against Saddam, but more likely against Israel.

Egypt isn't a member of the A-E, but it isn't one of the good guys either. Economic aid, OK. But no Harpoons, no MLRS, no artillery rocket components.

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