Egypt’s new arms program is huge and expensive, and it raises many questions, starting with why? I discussed this a few minutes ago with host P.J. Maloney on KQV News Radio in Pittsburgh a few minutes ago.
Egypt is spending billions of dollars and euros on its new weapons systems, at a time when its economy is in crisis, people are hungry and unemployment is high. it’s clear that Russian MiG-19 fighters and French naval vessels will do nothing to help solve Egypt’s chronic economic problems, but from the point of view of its president. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the huge arms deals have some benefits.
First, it sends a message to the United States, which cut off military aid to Egypt after Sisi overthrew President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. The aid and acquisition programs have since been restored, but the message is clear–the US legal obligation, self-imposed, banning aid to governments that took power in a coup has backfired, and badly.
The main reason, though, can be found as part of the realignment of the Middle East that’s been in progress since Arab Spring in 2011. Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, have been propping up the Egyptian economy with billions in aid–and Egypt’s re-emergence as a regional military power is linked to that. The Sunni Arab states around the Gulf are in a power struggle with Shiite Iran, and they want the Mideast’s largest army to be ready to take part if necessary, even as a potential player. That’s Egypt’s, of course, and as a military man, Sisi is more than happy to play the role.
The U.S. has since restored all of Egypt’s weapons acquisition programs it suspended in 2013, but that won’t change the new Mideast picture. The region is turning inward, setting up its own alliances, instead of choosing superpower backers as in the old days of the Cold War. It’s time for the US and the rest of the West to get with the program.
This is probably to place to say that Israel has nothing to do with this. That’s pretty much the case with the whole regional realignment. Developments here are taking place despite the never-ending Israel-Palestinian conflict. What’s different now is that it’s become obvious that the little conflict in a corner of the region does not drive Mideast politics. It never did, but for decades it was a good excuse for no one to do anything. That’s no longer the case, and that’s something else for the West to begin to understand. The UN would be a good place to start, as its obsession with Israel has made it all but irrelevant.