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Viewing cable 10CAIRO181, Scenesetter for Admiral Mullen

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO181 2010-02-09 15:03 2011-02-16 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Cairo

DE RUEHEG #0181/01 0401511
O R 091511Z FEB 10
S E C R E T CAIRO 000181 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/09 
SUBJECT: Scenesetter for Admiral Mullen 

CLASSIFIED BY: Margaret Scobey, Ambassador, DOS, EXO; REASON: 1.4(B), 

1. (S/NF) Key Points: 

-- Since your last visit, the U.S. and Egypt initiated a 
senior-level Strategic Dialogue that built upon the improved 
bilateral atmosphere following President Obama's June 2009 speech 
in Cairo. We have seen improved cooperation in multilateral fora, 
in addition to close cooperation on regional issues including 
Arab-Israeli peace and Sudan. 

-- While the U.S.-Egypt military relationship remains strong, the 
Egyptian military has been resistant to our efforts to adjust its 
focus to reflect new regional and transnational threats. 

-- While Egyptian leadership continues to view Iran as the greatest 
strategic threat to the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian 
conflict and Sudanese instability are immediate concerns for Egypt. 

-- Egypt has increased counter smuggling efforts, including the 
construction of a subterranean steel wall along the Egypt-Gaza 
border that has provoked intense domestic and regional criticism of 
perceived complicity in the Israeli blockade of Gaza. 


Renewed Cooperation 


2. (C) Admiral Mullen, welcome back to Egypt. Building upon the 
optimism generated by a new U.S. administration and President 
Obama's well-received June 4 speech in Cairo, we resumed in June 
our Strategic Dialogue and set in place a new framework for regular 
bilateral meetings with the Egyptians to explore areas for 
cooperation and coordination, including examining our respective 
assessments of strategic threats such as Iran. The most recent 
meeting was hosted by Under Secretary Burns in December in 
Washington. We are exploring other ways to translate this sense of 
goodwill into concrete action, including a renewed focus in our 
bilateral assistance programs on human capacity development and 
strengthening Egypt's ability to compete in education, science, and 

3. (S/NF) Our goal remains to widen our military cooperation 
discussion beyond the annual flow of Foreign Military Financing 
(FMF). At the end of 2009, we conducted our two premier bilateral 
military events - the annual Military Cooperation Committee (MCC) 
meeting and the Bright Star military exercise. During the MCC, 
Egypt agreed to implement specific measures to improve their 
ability to protect U.S. technology. During Bright Star, the 
Egyptians canceled several joint-operations that would have 
broadened the exercise's scope. We are working hard to ensure that 
Bright Star 2011 will involve full-spectrum operations. Tantawi 
and his senior leaders recognize and appreciate increased 
engagement with the U.S. military, which provides us an opportunity 
to highlight for them the need to sharpen and focus the Egyptian 
military's mission to reflect new regional threats. Egypt's offer 
to train Iraqi and Afghan military officials provides an 
opportunity for the Egyptian military to play a greater role in 
supporting regional security. Egypt also has plans to significantly 
increase its peace-keeping presence in Africa, including a new 
deployment to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and we hope to 
support their efforts through Egypt's inclusion in the Global Peace 
Operations Initiative. We have requested meetings for you with 
President Mubarak, MinDef Field Marshall Tantawi, CoS LTG Anan, and 
EGIS Chief MGen (ret) Soliman. 


Regional Security 


4. (S/NF) President Mubarak sees Iran as Egypt's -- and the 
region's -- primary strategic threat. Egypt's already dangerous 
neighborhood, he believes, has only become more so since the fall 
of Saddam, who, as nasty as he was, nevertheless stood as a wall 
against Iran. He now sees Tehran's hand moving with ease throughout 
the region, "from the Gulf to Morocco." The immediate threat to 
Egypt comes from Iranian conspiracies with Hamas (which he sees as 
the "brother" of his own most dangerous internal political threat, 
the Muslim Brotherhood) to stir up unrest in Gaza, but he is also 
concerned about Iranian machinations in Sudan and their efforts to 
create havoc elsewhere in the region, including in Yemen, Lebanon, 
and even the Sinai, via Hezbollah. While Tehran's nuclear threat is 
also a cause for concern, Mubarak is more urgently seized with what 
he sees as the rise of Iranian surrogates (Hamas and Hezbollah) and 
Iranian attempts to dominate the Middle East. 

5. (S/NF) The Egyptians have stepped up their cooperation with the 
Iraqis considerably, primarily through establishment of a "joint 
committee" which covers the full range of economic, social, 
military and political bilateral development. In November 2009, the 
Egyptians returned an ambassador to Baghdad. MOD is also 
requesting USG approval to sell Iraq 140 M1A1 tanks manufactured in 
Egypt under a co-production agreement. On Afghanistan, the GOE has 
agreed to explore expanding its scope and breadth of programs 
there, including in the areas of education, women's empowerment 
and communications. Egypt has operated a military field hospital 
at Bagram since 2003 with approximately 60 personnel. 

6. (S/NF) Egypt's top priority in Africa is the future of Sudan. 
The GOE would like to maintain Sudanese unity because it believes a 
break-up will increase refugee flows into Egypt and threaten 
Egypt's access to Nile waters. However, the GOE is hedging its 
bets by providing South Sudan with development assistance including 
building and staffing medical clinics, helping to clear aquatic 
plants from the White Nile and building power stations and a 
university. Egypt is the fifth-largest peace keeping contributor in 
the world, with the majority of its troops deployed to southern 
Sudan and Darfur. They have also agreed to deploy a large 
contingent to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

7. (S/NF) Egypt continues to support our efforts to resume 
negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians and maintains a 
regular dialogue with all sides. Egyptian sponsored negotiations on 
Palestinian reconciliation are ongoing. Egypt's objectives are to 
avoid another Gaza crisis while eroding Hamas' power and ultimately 
returning the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. 

--------------------------------------------- ----- 

Mil-Mil Cooperation: Counter Smuggling 

--------------------------------------------- ----- 

8. (S/NF) President Mubarak and military leaders view our 
military assistance program as a cornerstone of our mil-mil 
relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF as 
untouchable compensation for making peace with Israel. 
Decision-making within MOD rests almost solely with Defense 
Minister Tantawi. In office since 1991, he consistently resists 
change to the level and direction of FMF funding and is therefore 
one of our chief impediments to transforming our security 
relationship. Nevertheless, he retains President Mubarak's 
support. You should encourage Tantawi to place greater emphasis on 
countering asymmetric threats rather than focusing almost 
exclusively on conventional force. 

9. (S/NF) Egypt continues to use a wide range of military, 
security, intelligence, and diplomatic efforts to combat the flow 
of arms to Gaza. The effectiveness of these efforts is difficult to 
assess, and our visibility into these programs is limited. However, 
Egypt has reported success in identifying and intercepting arms 
smuggling networks from Sudan to Cairo, as well as interdicting 
illicit funds destined for Gaza. Israeli officials have also 
reported some satisfaction with increased Egyptian efforts. MOD is 
also participating in a USG-financed project - led by EGIS - to 
install 15 x-ray scanners along the vehicular entrances to the 
Sinai to search for arms and explosives. 

10. (S/NF) Tantawi continues to resist U.S. offers of additional 
counter smuggling assistance. Sovereignty concerns are likely 
driving his hesitation, along with concerns that FMF funds may be 
directed away from more high-profile programs like M1A1 tanks and 
aircraft. You should encourage Tantawi to focus more U.S. 
assistance on border security, especially along the remote 
Egypt-Sudan border. You should also remind Tantawi that no single 
technology can stop smuggling. Success will depend on how well 
Egypt uses all available tools and resources to identity and 
disrupt smuggling networks. He will likely reply that BTADS - 
currently on-hold because of security concerns - and the 
subterranean steel wall MOD has begun to install along the 
Egypt-Gaza border, will provide a sufficient counter-smuggling 

11. (S/NF) Tantawi will likely express concerns over releasability 
issues and frustration with Egypt's inability to procure restricted 
weapons systems. However, concerns over Egypt's end-use 
performance, especially in Congress, continue. You should stress 
that decisions to release advanced weapons systems are made on a 
country-by-country basis, but continued cooperation to improve 
Egypt's protection of American technology and signing a CISMOA 
would be welcome steps in our dialogue on releasability. 


Internal Politics and Economics 


12. (C) We continue to promote democratic reform in Egypt, 
including the expansion of political freedom and pluralism, and 
respect for human rights. While Egypt has made some limited gains 
over the last several years, such as on freedom of the press, 
progress overall has been slow. We continue to press the GOE to 
replace the State of Emergency, in place almost continuously since 
1967, with counterterrorism legislation that protects civil 
liberties. Designed to target violent Islamist extremist groups, 
the GOE has also used the Emergency Law to target political 
activity by the Muslim Brotherhood, bloggers and labor 
demonstrators. The Interior Ministry suppresses political 
opposition through arrests, harassment and intimidation. 

13. (C) The GoE remains skeptical of our role in democracy 
promotion, arguing that any efforts to open up will result in 
empowering the Muslim Brotherhood, which currently holds 86 seats 
-- as independents -- in Egypt's 454-seat parliament. Elections 
for the upper house of the parliament, or the Shura Council, are to 
be held in June 2010 and elections for the lower house of 
parliament or the People's Assembly are now scheduled for October 
2010. Presidential elections will be held in 2011. It is still 
unclear whether President Mubarak, in power for over 25 years, will 
decide to run again. Some believe that he is grooming his son, 
Gamal Mubarak, to succeed him as President. 

14. (SBU) Economic reform is ongoing although Egypt still suffers 
from widespread poverty affecting 35-40% of the population. 
Egyptian-U.S. trade more than doubled between 2005 and 2008, before 
slumping in 2009 amidst the global economic crisis. Bilateral trade 
volume was roughly $7.5 billion in 2009, and the U.S. exports to 

Egypt more than twice as much as it imports. Egyptian banks 
operate very conservatively and have been spared involvement in 
risky financial products, but the effects of the global economic 
crisis on Egypt are beginning to be felt. As the global credit 
crunch worsens, Egypt remains vulnerable as exports, Suez Canal 
revenues, tourism, and remittances - its largest sources of revenue 
-- are all down and will likely to continue to fall.