IDF keeps a wary eye on Egypt

Anxiety over the stability of President Hosni Mubarak's regime is growing within the defense establishment.

mubarak 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mubarak 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
While the IDF's main concerns for 2007 focus on Lebanon, Syria and Iran, there is growing anxiety within the defense establishment regarding the stability of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's regime and the possibility that an Islamic takeover there could lead to war with Israel. The IDF's work plan for the coming year includes a section dedicated to "finding answers to counter Western military equipment in the region." While refraining from directly mentioning Egypt, but strongly hinting to it, high-ranking officers warned this week that while certain countries in the region might appear to be stable, they could easily collapse. What is most troubling for Israel is that Egypt, the recipient - like Israel - of $1.3 billion in annual US military aid, has in recent years built up a powerful and massive, Westernized military force. Egypt recently increased its defense expenditures by some 30 percent and has ballistic missiles from North Korea and missile patrol boats from Germany, as well as F-16 combat jets, Abrams tanks and Apache helicopters. Egypt has 450,000 regular troops as compared to Israel's tens of thousands. "What is going on in Egypt is certainly a point of concern," said a defense official, who asked to remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of the issue. He wondered out loud why Egypt needed such a strong military when, except for Israel, its neighbors - Libya and Sudan - barely had functioning militaries. As long as Mubarak remains in power, the official said, Israel doesn't need to worry. "But the moment he falls and the Muslim Brotherhood takes over we could find ourselves facing a new front," he warned.