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Viewing cable 10CAIRO257, DASD Kahl Meeting with Egyptian Military Officials

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10CAIRO257 2010-02-28 13:01 2011-02-16 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Cairo

DE RUEHEG #0257/01 0591345
O R 281345Z FEB 10
C O N F I D E N T I A L CAIRO 000257 


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/02/28 
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.