Egypt Is Expanding Its Military Capabilities. Should Israel Be Worried?

Dec. 30 2016

Shortly after being appointed defense minister by Egypt’s then-president Mohammed Morsi, Mohammed Abdel Fattah el-Sisi launched a large-scale rearmament program, which included the purchase of submarines from Germany and the implementation of previous arms deals with the U.S. After overthrowing Morsi in a coup, Sisi has continued to rearm, striking deals to procure helicopters, ships, aircraft, and more from France and Russia with the financial assistance of the Gulf states. Yet, note Yiftah S. Shapir and Kashish Parpiani, Egypt hardly needs such arms. It is already well-supplied by the U.S., and its major threats come from insurgents in the Sinai and guerrillas in Libya and Sudan, all of whom can be combatted without so extensive an arsenal. Shapir and Parpiani suggest an alternative explanation:

[T]he large arms acquisitions should be seen in the broader context of Sisi’s doctrine and vision for Egypt, in place from the moment he assumed power. This vision sees Egypt resuming its former position as a regional power in the Middle East, with the capacity to project its power throughout the eastern Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Africa. . . .

The mere possibility of sending a landing force armed with battle tanks and accompanied by attack helicopters to [Yemen] or even as far away as Iran should give Egypt a strong say in the region. Egypt achieved this capability [through its recent purchases], with a great deal of financial aid from the Gulf states—Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Kuwait. Thus this process should be seen in part in the context of the Saudi-led coalition against Iran. . . .

In turn, there are major implications for Israel. For decades Egypt has maintained its obligations under the peace agreement with Israel. Furthermore, since Sisi took power in Egypt, the bilateral relations as well as the level of cooperation have improved considerably. Egypt’s current rearmament, then, should not worry Israel in the near term.

However, Egypt’s rearmament and its drive to become a regional power once again should be viewed by Jerusalem with caution. After all, the IDF is the only major military on Egypt’s borders, and Israel cannot avoid seeing any such rearmament as a potential threat. The acquisition of modern aircraft such as the Rafale and the MiG-29M will erode Israel’s qualitative edge in the air. . . . Of particular military concern for Israel are the [Russian-made] Antey-2500 surface-to-air missiles, which could affect the Israeli air force’s freedom of action even over Israeli air space, and the Moskit missiles on board the Molniya corvettes, which could affect the freedom of action of Israel’s navy.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Egypt, General Sisi, Israeli Security, Middle East, Politics & Current Affairs

The State Department Seems to Be Covering Up Palestinian Incitement

July 26 2017

Last week, the U.S. State Department released its annual report on global terrorism in the year 2016, and, for apparently the tenth consecutive year, the report defended the Palestinian Authority in language identical or nearly identical to that used in years before. For example, the 2016 report notes that “The PA has taken significant steps during President [Mahmoud] Abbas’s tenure (2005 to date) to ensure that official institutions in the West Bank under its control do not create or disseminate content that incites violence.” That same sentence also appeared in the department’s reports for 2015, 2014 and 2013. Similar repetition of language from those years and years earlier can be found across the report.

What’s going on? “Two prominent former Israeli diplomats are charging that the State Department is recycling parts of its old reports in order to whitewash the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) incitement to violence,” Rafael Medoff writes, quoting the former Israeli diplomat Alan Baker:

[According to Baker], State Department officials seem to be “taking previous reports and copying them, making slight changes where they consider it relevant,” instead of objectively assessing the PA’s most recent behavior.

Baker said that not only has the PA failed to take “significant steps” against incitement, but “the opposite is the case—their own actions, statements and publications, naming streets and squares after terrorists, formally paying fees to terrorist families, all point to a distinctive step backward in violation of Palestinian commitments pursuant to the Oslo Accords.”

The result, Baker said, is that “the Palestinians see it as a license to continue and as support for their struggle. If the State Department closes a blind eye, this is tantamount to giving a green light.”

[According to a second Israeli diplomat], the State Department slants its reports about the PA because the department “fears that its own words will be used to buttress congressional efforts to cut aid to the PA. . . . ”

Read more at JNS

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Politics & Current Affairs, State Department