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Cablegate: Defense Minister Tantawi On Mil-to-Mil Relations

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DE RUEHEG #2801/01 2591537
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P 161537Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6898
INFO RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1549
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 0869
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 002801

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2012
TAGS: PREL EAID KPAL EG IS
SUBJECT: DEFENSE MINISTER TANTAWI ON MIL-TO-MIL RELATIONS


Classified By: Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone for reasons
1.4(b) and (d).

Summary
--------

1. (C) On September 16, Minister of Defense Field Marshal
Tantawi and the Ambassador discussed the impact of the FMF
debates on the overall relationship, the state of mil-to-mil
relations, border security, the under-disbursement of FMF in
FY07, and the peace process. Tantawi said that the U.S. and
Egypt must work to strengthen the mil-to-mil relationship
despite occasional differences on individual issues. He also
warned that Egypt's history with colonialism, occupation and
war still impacts Egypt's foreign relations. On border
security, Tantawi reiterated his long-standing request to
deploy and equip another unit of Border Guard Forces (BGF) to
counter smuggling on the Gaza border. Assistant Minister of
Defense MG Fouad abd el Halim said that factors out of
Egypt's control led to the under-disbursement of FMF this
year, but predicted that Egypt would spend all available
funding in FY08. The Ambassador encouraged Egypt to play a
strong and supportive role as the U.S. works to advance the
peace process. (Note: Just two hours after the meeting, MG
Fouad advised us that the Minister has ordered that all
border security-related procurement be placed at the top of
Egypt's prioritized list of cases for FY08. End note.) End
summary.

FMF: The Ten-year Package and Conditioning FMF
--------------------------------------------- -

2. (C) Minister of Defense Field Marshal Tantawi told the
Ambassador on September 16 that the mil-to-mil relationship
had always been the leading component of the broader
bilateral relationship and said, with some lament, "I don't
know what happened." The Ambassador highlighted BRIGHT STAR
and the MCC as opportunities for positive engagement and
reaffirmed the Administration's commitment to sustaining FMF
at USD 1.3 billion for another ten years beginning in FY09.
The Ambassador also reminded Tantawi that Senate
Appropriations staff member Paul Grove told the Minister in
July 2007 that the FMF amount is not sacred -- it is not
guaranteed and could be adjusted up or down -- and that there
must be a solid annual justification for the assistance.
Commenting on the decision to increase FMF for Israel,
Tantawi said "my advice is that the U.S. should maintain a
balance;" the "main job of the Embassy," in his view, is to
convince Congress of the importance and uniqueness of the
relationship with Egypt. Assistant Minister of Defense for
Armament MG Fouad abd el Halim also said the U.S. should
maintain the traditional 3-to-2 assistance ratio between
Israel and Egypt.

3. (C) Tantawi said that the assistance debates impact not
only the military and other government officials, but also
the Egyptian people, who are "intelligent and sensitive."
Referring to the 2007 amendment by Representative Obey,
Tantawi said that "those in Congress who would try to
pressure Egypt through the military on issues regarding the
judiciary, police or borders should know this will not work."
President Mubarak was very angry about this development,
Tantawi explained -- it was carried out as though Egypt is
weak and can be ordered to do things. "It could have been
handled another way," he said, again highlighting the
sensitivity of the Egyptian people to what they perceive as
foreign interference. Tantawi then recounted that when he
was a boy, a British officer ordered him to leave the public
sidewalk in central Cairo and to cross the street so as to be
out of the way. "This was in my own country," Tantwai said;
"I was not doing anything wrong." "Colonialism, the wars and
Israeli occupation of Sinai are historic issues that we can't
leave behind."

Mil-to-Mil Cooperation
----------------------

4. (C) The Ambassador and Tantawi acknowledged that there
are issues in the mil-to-mil relationship on which the U.S.
and Egypt differ. Tantawi said that at times "circumstances
will not allow us to be flexible," but he urged the
Ambassador to advise him of issues in which the U.S. would
like more cooperation. Tantawi recalled a 1977 incident in
which he was the Defense Attache in Islamabad when Egypt's
Minister of Defense, who was passing through Islamabad,
learned that China claimed not to have MIG parts that Egypt's
Minister of Defense had requested. Tantawi approached his
U.S. counterpart for guidance on how to handle the
"impossible" explanation by the Chinese, and said that
"within hours" the U.S. contact had provided him a full list
of all of the parts the U.S. knew the Chinese would have.

5. (C) Border security, the Ambassador said, remains a high
priority for the USG, and asked the Minister to increase to
750 the number of Border Guard Forces (BGF) on the border
with Gaza and to do everything else possible to stem
smuggling. Tantawi repeated his long-standing request that
Israel agree to allow Egypt to deploy another border guard
unit (with equipment), noting that the current number of
troops is insufficient to patrol the 14 kilometer border with
Gaza, and even less the 28 kilometer Mediterranean Sea coast
of Zone C. "Israeli PM Olmert promised me last year that he
would work on this," Tantawi said, but nothing came of it.
"Instead of tying our hands behind our backs and then
demanding that we do something," Tantawi said that the
Israelis should explain how they would do a better job on the
border. (Note: MG Fouad called poloff after the meeting to
report that the Minister had ordered that all border
security-related procurement cases be ranked as the highest
priority cases for FY08. End note).


FMF Management
--------------

6. (C) The Ambassador cautioned that the FY07
under-disbursement of FMF must be addressed quickly. MG
Fouad explained that he is confident that with a Financial
Management Review (FMR) in early 2008, the U.S. and Egypt
will succeed in scheduling disbursement of over USD 2 billion
in FY08 to make up for the shortfall in FY07. Egypt cannot
control most of the factors that cause the problem, Fouad
said. Poorly performing cases, State's slow processing of
36b congressional notifications for the Beechcraft, Stingers,
APCs and M1A1, and the fact that the services have held over
"200 Letters of Request" (all still requiring Letters of
Acceptance) have all led to a shortfall in FY07 spending.
Although Egypt has only spent 900 million thus far in FY07,
Fouad said, MoD expects nonetheless to spend USD 1.1 billion
by Oct. 1. Fouad promised to present at the FMR a complete
list of prioritized cases (already approved by the Field
Marshal) for FY08.

Peace Process
-------------

7. (C) The Ambassador stressed the importance of Egypt's
support for the U.S. efforts to advance the peace process,
always a matter at the core of the U.S.-Egyptian partnership.
Lately, however, Egypt's role has appeared more passive than
that of other Arabs, including the Palestinians themselves.
RICCIARDONE

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