Free Markets, Free People
This is just not very smart politics or foreign policy:
While everyone in Washington was concentrating on the debt crisis this week, the Obama administration attempted to slip through a questionable arms deal that requires serious scrutiny. Though it got little attention, the Defense Department officially notified Congress on Friday that it was authorizing the sale of 125 M1A1 tanks to Egypt as well as other weapons, equipment, parts, training and logistical support. While most of the military sales to Egypt have sailed through without objection in the more than 30 years since it signed a peace deal with Israel, this is the first such sale since the fall of the Mubarak regime earlier this year. Which is exactly why the sale ought to be held up until the unsettled situation in the most populous country in the Arab world is better understood.
In the wake of Mubarak’s fall from power, the Egyptian military seems to have retained a firm grip on power. But the army seems intent on sharing power with a resurgent Muslim Brotherhood movement that threatens the foundation of the relationship between the United States and Egypt. Since the 1979 Camp David Accords, the Egyptian military has gotten all the high-tech and expensive equipment it wanted so long as it was clear their new toys would not be used to threaten or attack Israel. But as Egypt lurches toward the election of a new government that will probably be made up of Islamist elements, that peace is in jeopardy.
Emphasis mine. We have no assurance or reason to believe that won’t happen given the direction of the country and the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, an avowed enemy of Israel whose representatives have repeatedly said the treaty Egypt has with that country must be voided.
So here we are going along as though nothing has happened and preparing to sell 125 of the world’s most advanced battle tank to a country which could conceivably turn around and use them against Israel. Since, as I noted in another post, we seem to have little if any leverage there and it appears the Muslim Brotherhood has little desire to talk with us, I would think we’d be leery of such a deal and perhaps use it as a method of gaining some leverage. No?
Yes, I know we might see another country try to fill the gap by offering their tanks and equipment, but such a switch (Egypt is presently equipped with US military equipment) isn’t as easy as it sounds and it would be quite expensive. It may be worth it to a Russia or a China (given the Suez Canal, etc.) to do that.
But at the moment this sale makes no sense – at least until the political situation is much more settled than it is at the moment. 125 tanks may not be enough to get the Brotherhood to change it’s mind, but it does represent more leverage than we currently have with their military – the institution that may be able to moderate the Brotherhood’s stance on Israel. Why give away that sort of leverage for nothing?