The US signaled last week that it plans to continue business as usual when it
comes to arms sales to the Egyptian military, despite the recent revolution in
Egypt and continued anti-government demonstrations there.
On Friday, the
Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of a possible sale of 125
M1A1 Abrams tank to Egypt – the first large arms deal since Hosni Mubarak was
ousted from power in February – including associated weapons, equipment, parts,
training and logistical support at an estimated cost of just over $1.3
If approved, the deal would increase the number of Abrams tanks
in Egypt from around 1,000 to 1,130.
According to the notification to
Congress, Egypt would receive 125 tanks, parts of which would be produced in
Egypt, as well as M256 Armament Systems, M2 .50 caliber machine guns, 7.62mm
machine guns, spare parts, maintenance, support equipment, personnel training
and other related elements of logistics and program support.
told Congress – which has 30 days to object to the deal – that the sale of the
tanks would “contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the
United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has
been and continues to be an important force for political stability and economic
progress in the Middle East.”
The sale would “provide Egypt with a modern
tank fleet, enhancing its capability to meet current and future threats,” the
Pentagon further stated.
News of the deal raised eyebrows in Israel,
which has carefully watched arms sales to Egypt ever since Cairo began to
receive annual military aid of some $1.3b. from the United States following the
peace treaty the two neighbors signed in 1979.
Israel has in the past
lobbied Congress against specific arms deals to Egypt. In the past few years,
Egypt has purchased 24 F-16 fighter jets, Hellfire missiles, Harpoon antiship
missiles, TOW anti-tank missiles, Chinook transport helicopters and Apache
Israel is concerned that Egypt might take a radical
shift in elections expected to be held in the fall and might once again turn
into an enemy state, depending on the identity of the new president and the
number of seats the Muslim Brotherhood wins in parliament.
The IDF has
taken a cautious approach to the developments in Egypt, with Chief of General
Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz choosing a long-term plan formulated by the Planning
Directorate, under which the army would grow over a number of years and not
launch an immediate procurement plan to counter the possible threat evolving in
Gantz’s thinking is based on the assumption that any war with
Egypt would not take place any time soon, and that an immediate procurement plan
announced by the IDF could be detrimental and increase tension between the
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