Cablegate: Dasd Kahl Meeting with Egyptian Military Officials
DE RUEHEG #0257/01 0591345
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O R 281345Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0433
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000257
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/28
TAGS: PREL MASS MARR IS IR IZ EG LY SU
SUBJECT: DASD Kahl Meeting with Egyptian Military Officials
CLASSIFIED BY: Donald A. Blome, Minister Counselor, DOS, ECPO;
REASON: 1.4(B), (D)
1. (C) Key Points:
-- On January 31, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the
Middle East Dr. Colin Kahl met with Major General Mohammad
al-Assar, Assistant to the Minister of Defense, Major General Ahmad
Moataz, Chief of the American Relations Branch, and Major General
Fouad Arafa, Consultant to the Military Intelligence Department.
-- During the meeting, Kahl discussed the need to incorporate a
military strategy that included symmetrical and asymmetrical
capabilities, pursuing a capabilities-based approach to security
assistance, FMF issues, balance of power in the region, nuclear
weapons in the Middle East, current U.S. policy towards Iran,
Egyptian efforts to counter-smuggling and interdict illicit weapons
destined for Gaza, and the release of advanced weapons systems.
-- The Egyptian defense officials continued to stress that the
threats facing the United States were different from Egypt's, and
Egypt needs to maintain a strong conventional military to counter
other armies in the region.
Egypt's Current Security Concerns and National Defense Policy
2. (C) During the 31 January 2010 meeting, al-Assar
constantly referred to the numerous unstable security situations in
the Middle East that influenced Egyptian military doctrine to
include: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon/Hezbollah,
Palestine/HAMAS, Yemen, Sudan/Darfur, Somalia, Eritrea, Piracy
issues, Algeria, and al-Qaida. Al-Assar emphasized that ethnic
conflict throughout the region and border issues could have a
negative impact on Egyptian sovereignty at any time. al-Assar
commented that he did not expect any of these security situations
to resolve in the near future; instead, he believed the list would
grow even larger.
3. (C) al-Assar outlined Egypt's National Defense Policy
which he stated was based on a defensive, capabilities-based
strategy instead of threat-based. The number one priority is the
defense of Egyptian land and the Suez Canal. Other goals include:
preparedness for unexpected threats such as terrorism; the
achievement of regional stability; interoperability with Egypt's
military partners; and a leading role for Egypt in the region.
Al-Assar provided the Egyptian military's list of regional
threats/concerns such as Nile Basin water rights and the conflicts
in Darfur and southern Sudan. He commented that one never knows
what Libya might do and that it was essential that Egypt maintain
the balance of power on its eastern border. He reiterated the fact
that Israel possesses unconventional weapons and sophisticated
conventional weapons, which creates a regional imbalance and
contributes to instability. He noted that stability in the region
cannot be attained without balance of power. He stated that the
Egyptian military doctrine did not intend to gain an edge on any
other country in the region or cause offense to anyone.
4. (C) Al-Assar complained that the Egyptian military
sometimes felt pressured by the United States to reform its
doctrine and capabilities to counter asymmetric threats. He
emphasized that the threats faced by the United States were
different from Egypt's. He commented that tanks and aircraft were
necessary to fight asymmetrical threats as well. He referred to
General Patreaus' Sadr City battle plan against extremists and
noted that this plan depended on the use of tanks and aircraft in
Iraq. He called on Dr. Kahl to educate Congress about Egypt's
military needs and not put limits on the numbers of aircraft and
tanks. He noted that the Egyptian military preferred to purchase
its weapons and armaments from the United States, but that Egypt's
national security was a red line and they could go elsewhere if
they had to.
Security Assistance and Modernization
5. (C) Dr. Kahl commented that the U.S. military had learned
some hard lessons about the promises and limits of technology
during the first years of the war in Iraq. Kahl stated that there
are no longer any purely conventional military conflicts in the
world and the last large conventional war was the First Gulf War.
The current challenge for modern armies is to find the right
balance between conventional and irregular forces and doctrines to
fight what Secretary Gates refers to as "hybrid wars." Kahl
commented that the U.S. lost more tanks in Iraq to roadside bombs
than in battles with Iraqi tanks. He also noted that information
technology in the modern war was just as valuable as military
equipment in order to have the ability to rapidly communicate and
assess the environment.
6. (C) Dr. Kahl reiterated that a modern military should rely
on quality equipment rather than a large quantity of outdated
armaments, and should place a greater emphasis on the scope of its
aggregate capabilities vice number of high-end weapons platforms.
7. (C) Major General Fouad Arafa interjected during the
discussion to note that the spirit of the Camp David accord was
that there would be a 2:3 balance between Egypt and Israel's
security assistance. Egypt's role was to keep a certain balance of
power in the region that would not allow other parties to go to
war. Egypt had fulfilled this role faithfully for the last 30
years. al-Assar added that the current ratio of 2:5 was a
violation of the Camp David ratio.
Yemen, Iran, and the Weapons Free Zone
8. (C) al-Assar noted that Iran effectively interfered in
the internal affairs of Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. He commented
that Iran's nuclear ambitions would significantly change the
balance of power in the region and was contributing to further
regional instability and intensifying the conflicts. Al-Assar
stated that Egypt views Iran as a threat to the region and its
conventional and unconventional weapons would only increase the
instability in the region. Al-Assar commented that if Iran was
successful in obtaining nuclear weapons, it would only encourage
other countries in the Middle East to pursue the same path.
9. (C) Al-Assar brought up President Obama's pledge to
pursue a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone (NWFZ) in the Middle East. He
called on the United States to not ignore the Israeli nuclear
program. He stated that Israel's nuclear program only gave Iran
justification for creating its own nuclear weapons. If Iran
obtained nuclear weapons, it would only embolden Iran to use
Hezbollah and HAMAS with impunity.
10. (C) Dr. Kahl stated that ultimate goal for the United States
was the creation of a NWFZ in the Middle East. However, it was not
possible to draw strict parallels between Iran's acquisition of
nuclear weapons and other Middle Eastern countries. Iran is the
only country in the world that was currently threatening to wipe an
entire country off the map, and Tehran reinforced this message
through destabilizing activities pursued by its proxies in the
region. The goal of a NWFZ in the Middle East could take 10-20
years to achieve; however, the international community could not
wait 20 years to address Iran's nuclear program and needed to
figure out ways to slow down the clock on the Iran's nuclear
11. (C) Major General Fouad Arafa joined the conversation stating
that Iran was using the various Middle East conflicts for its own
ambitions and was gaining power because of its interference in the
internal affairs of the Middle Eastern countries. It was essential
to cut Iran's connections and influence in the regional conflicts
in Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine in order to decrease the level of
influence Iran enjoyed in the region. Iran was effectively using
Arab public opinion to advance its goals. Dr. Kahl agreed and
reinforced the need for continued Arab engagement on this issue to
ensure a "unified front" on the part of the international
12. (C) Kahl stated that the United States had reached out to
Iran in 2009 through unconditional talks and that this was meant as
a test of Iran's willingness to prove that its nuclear program was
for peaceful civilian use. Iran, however, had not seized this
opportunity to resolve international concerns. Kahl speculated
that European countries and even Russia, which would not have
supported the sanctions in the past, were now ready to increase
pressure on Iran.
13. (C) Dr. Kahl extended his appreciation for Egypt's enhanced
counter-smuggling efforts in the past year, but expressed concern
over recent increases in smuggling activity into the Gaza strip and
HAMAS' efforts to rearm. Dr. Kahl emphasized that the United
States understands that this is an especially sensitive political
issue internally in Egypt, as well as in the region. Dr. Kahl
noted that the United States was looking forward to the positive
completion of the BTADs project and thanked the Egyptian Military
for its agreement-in-principle to sign a follow -on statement for
future BTADs support as this provided an opportunity for further
cooperation on counter-smuggling and border security. He also
underscored the importance of targeting smuggling networks and
their financiers in Sudan and the Sinai-not just their activities.
14. (C) Dr. Kahl renewed Secretary of Defense Gate's offer to
assist the Egyptian military in expanding its counter-smuggling
efforts on the Sudanese border and the Red Sea region.
15. (C) Al-Assar stated that the smuggling tunnels threatened the
national security of Egypt (highlighting HAMAS specifically) and
that "terror" could come to Egypt via these tunnels. Egypt has
spent approximately $40 million to purchase the steel for the
underground wall on the Gaza border, and Egypt was paying the cost
of this wall in terms of public opinion both within Egypt and the
region. He noted that once the wall was in place, the time would
come to pressure Israel to take responsibility for the humanitarian
situation in Gaza. Dr. Kahl reaffirmed that in all of engagements
with Israel, the U.S. officials strongly encourage Israel to open
crossings into Gaza to allow humanitarian goods to cross, and that
Egypt's focus must be affixed on thwarting the movement of illicit
weapons into the strip.
16. (C) Dr. Kahl encouraged Egypt to sign a Communications
Electronics Security Agreement (CESA aka CISMOA) with the Unites
States, which would pave the way for the transfer of advanced
technology to Egypt and greatly increase interoperability.
Al-Assar stated that Egypt had "its reasons to delay a decision on
a CISMOA." He noted that thousands of Egyptian military officers
have participated in training and education programs in the United
States and learned about U.S. technology and strategy. He
commented that the younger officers are frustrated with the delay
in obtaining political release for more advanced U.S. technology.
Specifically, al-Assar referred to TOW2B and JAVELIN, which he
commented had already been released to other countries. Al-Assar
noted that a CISMOA was not a condition for obtaining these
systems, but instead they were held up due to a "third party".
17. (C) Al-Assar commented that Egypt was in negotiations with
Iraq to supply the Iraqi military with approximately 140 tanks,
which are manufactured at the FMF tank facility. He noted that the
Egyptian Ministry of Defense was awaiting the United States
positive response to its request for approval of the transfer. Dr.
Kahl noted that the U.S. was considering this request and would
provide a response soon.
18. (C) Al-Assar encouraged Dr. Kahl to convince the U.S.
Congress that Egypt was worth more than $1.3 billion a year. Dr.
Kahl mentioned that Egypt receives the second largest amount of
assistance in the world, and that during these difficult financial
times in the United States, it was unlikely that annual flow of FMF
would increase. He did however reassure the Egyptian officials
that the USG would continue to advocate for current levels of FMF
and push back on any attempts to condition those funds.