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Cablegate: Defmin Tantawi Warns That Conditioning Fmf Will

VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHEG #0085 0171524
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 171524Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7920

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000085

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/14/2018
TAGS: PREL MASS PTER KPAL IR IZ IS EG
SUBJECT: DEFMIN TANTAWI WARNS THAT CONDITIONING FMF WILL
HARM RELATIONS

Classified By: DCM Stuart E. Jones for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

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Summary
-------

1. (C) On December 31, 2007, Minister of Defense Field
Marshal Mohamed Tantawi told the Ambassador and visiting
CODEL Voinovich that conditioning U.S. military assistance to
Egypt would harm bilateral relations, and would not be
understood by members of military or the average Egyptian.
Egypt has been committed to peace with Israel for 28 years,
yet Israel seems bent on harming not only its relationship
with Egypt, but Egypt's relationship with the United States.
Senator Voinovich expressed his hope that Secretary Rice will
waive conditions on Egypt's FMF, allowing U.S. military
assistance to Egypt to be fully funded. End summary.

--------------------------------
Conditioning Military Assistance
--------------------------------

2. (C) During their hour-long meeting on December 31, DefMin
Tantawi told the Ambassador and visiting CODEL Voinovich
(Senator Voinovich, R-OH; Rep. Turner, R-OH; Rep. Pearce,
R-NM; Rep. Bishop, R-UT; Rep. Gingrey, R-GA) that
conditioning Egypt's FMF assistance will harm bilateral
relations and would be rejected not only by Egypt's military
members, but by all Egyptians. "This (conditioning) is bad
for U.S.-Egyptian relations." The average Egyptian sees such
conditioning of military aid as U.S. interference in Egypt's
internal affairs, Tantawi said.

3. (C) Senator Voinovich said that he understood Tantawi's
concern, and stressed that the conditioning can be waived by
the Secretary of State; "I hope this can be worked out."
Unfortunately, Voinovich said, there are certain members of
Congress who do not consider all the ramifications of the
U.S.-Egypt relationship. "They don't see the big picture."
Turning to the issue of tunneling and smuggling under Egypt's
border with Gaza, Voinovich opined that "the sooner we solve
that problem, the better for our relationship."

-----------------
"Not About Money"
-----------------

4. (C) Tantawi stressed that "the issue is not about money."
The issue is about shared strategic interests, he said.
Egypt has been committed to peace with Israel for 28 years.
Egypt has obeyed the peace treaty consistently and to the
letter, he added, "but Israel breaks it every day." Egypt
understands that the United States and Israel have a special
relationship. "We know your relations with Israel are very
important, but that should not affect your relationship with
us." We have shared important interests in this region,
Tantawi said. We are committed to having good relations with
both the U.S. and Israel, but "every time Israel goes to
Congress in Washington it accuses Egypt" and tries to harm
relations with the U.S.

----
Iraq
----

5. (C) Turning to Iraq, Senator Voinovich asked if the U.S.
should withdraw its troops. "You must do it in stages,"
Tantawi replied. "Not all at once." America must be
prepared to stay in Iraq, "perhaps for a long time."

----
Iran
----

6. (C) On Iran, Tantawi said that Egypt "rejects completely"
the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. "We see
this (Iranian influence) as a direct threat to Egyptian
national security." However, Tantawi added, we believe that
differences with Iran must be solved "peacefully, and not
militarily." We must do all we can to curb Iranian expansion
wherever it occurs, whether in Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. "We
hope to see the entire Middle East as a WMD-free zone."

7. (C) Senator Voinovich asked if the Saudis saw Iran in the
same way, and if they communicated their concerns directly to
the Iranians. Tantawi said that the Saudis try to be
helpful. "We and the Saudis are close," he said. "We share
views and have the same attitudes."

8. (U) CODEL Voinovich did not clear this message.
Ricciardone

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