Cablegate: Egypt: General Casey Meets with Chief of Staff Enan


DE RUEHEG #0143/01 0311342
O R 311342Z JAN 10

C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000143


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/31

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

1. (C) Key Points: -- During a January 19 meeting with visiting Chief of Staff of the Army General George W. Casey, Jr., Egyptian military Chief of Staff Sami Enan praised U.S.-Egypt military cooperation and sought support for Egypt's proposed sale of M1A1 tanks to Iraq. -- Enan shared concerns over Iran's interference in the region, including Iraq and Yemen. He said that an Iranian nuclear weapon would "damage the whole region" and noted that Egypt would continue to pursue its goal of a weapons of mass destruction-free zone in the Middle East that included Israel. -- Enan stressed that Egypt remained committed to combating arms smuggling to Gaza, but believed that smuggling would continue until Israel opened the border crossings to legitimate commercial traffic. -------------------------- FMF and M1A1 Tanks --------------------------

2. (C) During a January 19 meeting, Enan praised U.S.-Egypt military cooperation and noted that additional resources were needed to accelerate the pace of Egypt's modernization plan to replace Soviet-era equipment. Enan also asked for General Casey's "personal support for overcoming opposition" to Egypt's proposed sale of 140 M1A1 tanks to Iraq. Enan said he recently met with Iraqi Ministry of Defense officials who were "very eager" to proceed with the sale. ----------- Iraq, Iran -----------

3. (C) General Casey noted that with the drawdown in Iraq, the U.S. Army was looking forward to increased engagement with regional armies, including by sending additional troops to the Bright Star military exercise hosted by the Egyptians every two years. He briefed Enan on the current situation in Iraq, saying he remained optimistic that the overall security and political situation would continue to gradually improve. General Casey thanked Egypt for its efforts to rebuild ties with the Iraqi government and bring the country back into the Arab world, which was essential to combating Iranian influence in the region.

4. (C) Enan believed Iran would not easily surrender its influence in Iraq and expressed concern for the high-level of Iranian economic investment. Egypt wants a strong Arab state next to Iran, he continued, that can "strike a balance against Iran." He noted that Iran posed a greater threat to the Gulf states and stressed the importance of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in order to deny Iran an opportunity to "assert its role in the region." Enan said that during the last CENTCOM-sponsored Chiefs of Defense conference, the Gulf states expressed concern over Iran's ability to target petroleum infrastructure, but he believed that the U.S. has a successful program in place to protect against an Iranian strike. --------------------------------- Egyptian Security Concerns ---------------------------------

5. (C) General Casey asked Enan for his assessment of Egypt's greatest security threat. Enan replied that "anybody attempting to violate Egypt's borders was an enemy." He stressed that Egypt remained committed to the peaceful resolution of conflicts, but noted that any threat to Egypt would invoke "a violent response" by the Egyptian military. Enan highlighted President Mubarak's support for a Weapons of Mass Destruction-free zone in the Middle East, saying that a regional arms race would promote instability. Conflict in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq also posed a threat, he said.

6. (C) Returning to Iran, Enan believed Iran was using negotiations as a means to buy time while they continue to pursue their nuclear program and doubted that economic sanctions would be effective. The Ambassador stressed that any sanction regime must be universally respected, as cheating - like in the case of sanctions against Saddam's Iraq - would undermine any change of success. Enan questioned whether Israel would give sanctions time to work before launching an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. "We hope the issue will be resolved peacefully," he said, as an Iranian nuclear weapon would "damage the whole region." Egypt would continue to work for a WMD-free zone that included Israel, he said. ------------------------- Afghanistan, Yemen -------------------------

7. (C) Enan complimented the new U.S. strategy in Afghanistan for its comprehensive approach, including a new focus on economic development. Enan said Yemen was a "real problem," adding that both Iran and al-Qaeda (Arabian Peninsula and Pakistan-based groups) were providing direct support to the al-Houthi insurgents. Egypt believed it had a "duty and responsibility" to support the ROYG, he said. He also expressed concern that the al-Houthis were using Somali mercenaries. Asked how best to support the ROYG, Enan said he doubted that any regional states would be willing to train Yemeni security forces in Yemen. In any case, he believed Yemen would not accept foreign troops on its soil as their presence would inflame Yemeni public opinion. Countries should instead support the ROYG by providing ammunition, weapons, and other military equipment. ------------------------ Counter Smuggling ------------------------

8. (C) Enan highlighted Egyptian efforts to counter arms smuggling to Gaza, including installing FMF-funded counter tunneling equipment and constructing a 19 meter-deep subterranean steel wall along the Gaza-Egypt border. He said that Hamas, with support from Iran and Hizbollah, was trying to provoke public hostility against the wall. Enan said that Egypt had the right to take all necessary steps to protect its border. Egypt discovered 663 tunnel entrances in 2009, Enan said, adding that some tunnels were large enough to handle cars. Ultimately, Enan said that smuggling would continue as long as Gaza was "besieged" and called on Israel to lift the blockade and open border crossings to provide the Gazans with a "normal life." SCOBEY

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