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 billion.

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.

The Pentagon 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 attack helicopters.

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 the South.

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 countries.

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