About a month ago, Cairo announced an agreement to buy 30 French Rafale fighters, a deal that came according to analysts in the context of diversifying sources of armament and raising the efficiency of Egypt’s military arsenal.
In light of this deal, and the Egyptian shift in arms deals towards other European and eastern markets; American fears and warnings have escalated that Washington as a major supplier of arms to Egypt may be displaced in favor of other markets, such as Moscow, Beijing and Paris.
The last of these warnings was an analysis published a few days ago by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (based in Washington), on what it described as the collapse of US arms sales to Egypt in the past six years, compared to the previous period.
It also warned that removing Washington from its position at the forefront of arms suppliers to Egypt might lead to a diminishing of its influence with Egypt, which might undermine the basic interests of the national security of the United States and its Israeli counterpart.
Far from the criticism of Egyptian opponents of the priorities of billions of military spending, two military experts – one Egyptian and the other Jordanian – agreed in two separate statements to Al Jazeera Net that Washington “pays a big price” after forcing Egypt to resort to others in armament, which may partially reduce its role, which remains He is the main active force in the region.
The Egyptian-American relations are often described as strategic, especially at the military level, as Washington provides Cairo with about 1.5 billion dollars in annual aid, including 1.3 billion in military aid, since Egypt signed the peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
numbers and indicators
The United States, which topped global arms sales, including the Middle East, from 2016 to 2020, faces other competitors led by Russia and France, according to a previous report by the Stockholm International Research Institute.
With regard to Egypt, its arms imports tripled during the aforementioned period, compared to the period between 2010 and 2014, according to the previous source. It also ranked third globally among the largest importers of arms in the world after Saudi Arabia and India.
Stockholm Institute data indicate that US military sales to Egypt accounted – from 2009 to 2014 – about 47% of Egypt’s arms imports, but fell to 14% from 2015 to 2020, and the beneficiaries were Russia and France.
There is an American dilemma, which is how to achieve a balance between security interests and human rights concerns in Egypt, when it comes to arms sales, but on the other hand, these balances are not important to the other competing camp.
While Cairo has not issued any official statements or statements in recent years, explicitly indicating a decline in arms deals with the United States in favor of others, Egyptian officials affirm the right of their country to diversify the arms markets, in line with its own agenda and in light of its security needs.
The Information and Decision Support Center (affiliated with the Egyptian Council of Ministers) published an article last February on the prospects for Egyptian-American cooperation in 2021, in which it stated that Egypt pursues a policy based on diversifying its sources of armament as a natural strategic option for a country in its size and location, while maintaining relations strategy with the United States.
He stressed that it cannot be overlooked that the US CAATSA law, which imposes sanctions (of varying severity) on countries that conclude major arms deals with Russia, requires entering into a serious dialogue with the US administration so that Egypt can maintain the required balance.
The article noted a significant erosion of the purchasing power of US military aid to Egypt, which has been steady at $1.3 billion since the 1980s.
In October 2018, the Egyptian military spokesman, Tamer Al-Rifai, stressed his country’s keenness on diversifying the sources of armament, referring in televised statements at the time to regional threats that necessitated the armed forces to develop types of weapons.
Safwat Al-Zayat, a military expert and retired brigadier general in the Egyptian army, confirmed that there are indications of a decline in the supply of American weapons to Egypt, stressing that Washington is facing great challenges.
He said that the decline is mainly due to an American decision, explaining that when former President Barack Obama resumed aid to Egypt in 2015, he set conditions, including not selling major combat systems, and limiting the sale to weapons systems specific to protecting the borders with Israel and fighting terrorism in Sinai, noting that Washington has succeeded for decades in depriving Egypt of qualitative development in armaments.
As for his country’s motives for switching to the eastern market for weapons, al-Zayat attributed it to efforts to develop armaments, in a way that addresses problems imposed by Washington with the limited arms sold to Egypt, to preserve Israel’s qualitative strength, in addition to Egypt’s need for long-range combat systems capable of carrying out missions outside the borders. , as is the case in the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt fears of its repercussions on its water share.
challenges and interests
The Egyptian military expert considered that the decline in US armament is an indication of the decline in relations that are experiencing a major crisis with his country, led by human rights files, and Egypt’s pursuit of strategic and solid relations with Russia and China.
Safwat al-Zayat also pointed out that there are Egyptian policies against its American counterpart in the region, as happened in the Libyan and Sudanese theaters, the Syrian crisis, and the Gulf crises.
He denounced Cairo’s delay in realizing the importance of diversifying the sources of armament, which represents a danger in relying on one source, after the American success in trimming the long arms of Egypt and carrying out tasks outside the borders.
He believed that the dilemma currently is not how Egypt can benefit from the American concern about disposing of its weapons in favor of other powers. Rather, will Washington leave Cairo outside the framework and determinants of its influence in the region to preserve Israel’s military diversity? He pointed out that it is a question that is asked more within the corridors of the American administration than within the Egyptian regime.
With regard to Egypt’s gains, he said that his country found its way to obtain some military equipment, which may address – and not decisively fix – the imbalance in the military balance in favor of Israel, in addition to the start of its possession of some combat systems capable of working remotely for solid forces outside the borders.
The same thread was picked up by the Jordanian military and strategic expert, Fayez Al-Duwairi, explaining that diversifying the sources of Egyptian armament may partially but not completely reduce the American presence in the region.
However, he added that America will remain the main and active force in the Middle East, and its presence is the most dangerous and important, whether in Egypt or the rest of the countries in the region, regardless of the changes.
Al-Duwairi pointed out that the Egyptian army after the era of former President Anwar Sadat (1970-1981) did not update much of its combat capabilities, but after Sisi came to power (summer 2014) it began to rehabilitate and develop the army, based on local, regional and international threats.
He stressed the existence of American pressures to amend the combat doctrine of the Egyptian army, so that it is not based on the fact that the most dangerous strategic direction is the direction from Sinai to Israel.
He added that the American positions were different about the nature of the development of Egyptian military capabilities, and that Washington did not agree to sell some aircraft system to Egypt.
Al-Duwairi attributed the American position to the fact that Washington believed that the prospects for Egyptian military development lie in the development of special operations, air transport, reconnaissance, monitoring and command and control platforms, in order to deal with the threat of terrorism coming from Sinai, and that there is no need to develop capabilities in other areas that may pose a danger to the future. Israel.
Accordingly, the Egyptian leadership, according to Douiri, resorted to diversifying the sources of armament, and among the most important of these deals were made with Russia, France, Germany, Italy and China.
He also stated that some explain the Egyptian tendency to obtain arms deals to cover up human rights crimes, pointing out that the French president explicitly said that he does not link arms deals with Egypt with human rights, or that arms deals with Italy are related to the case of the killing of researcher Giulio Regeni in Egypt.
He stressed that whatever the estrangement between Egypt and America, the relations will return based on regional challenges and the pivotal role of Egypt, citing what took place in the recent aggression on Gaza, noting that the ceasefire was with an Egyptian-Qatari contribution more than any other country, which makes Egypt a difficult number not Washington can bypass it.