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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Admiral Mullen

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DE RUEHEG #0181/01 0401511
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O R 091511Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0204
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC

S E C R E T CAIRO 000181

SIPDIS
NOFORN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/09
TAGS: PREL MASS PARM ETTC EG
SUBJECT: Scenesetter for Admiral Mullen

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

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
technology.


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
capability.


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.
SCOBEY

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