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Monday, January 31, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Egyptian forces seen using American weapons against protesters

WASHINGTON — The administration of President Barack Obama is said to be examining whether Egypt is using U.S. weapons and equipment to quell nationwide protests.


Officials acknowledged that Egyptian security forces loyal to President Hosni Mubarak were seen using American equipment in their attempt to quell bloody riots throughout the country. Egypt receives $1.3 billion in annual military and security aid, including F-16 multi-role fighters and MA1A main battle tanks, Middle East Newsline reported.

Officials said Congress has demanded that the Defense Department and State Department monitor the equipment used by Egypt's military and security forces. They said leading members of Congress have warned of a cutoff in U.S. military aid should Egyptian security forces employ American weapons against protesters.

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"This could have very serious consequences," Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said. "They run the risk, if they overreact, of cutting ties with a country they need."

On Jan. 30, Obama again telephoned Mubarak and the two men discussed the anti-regime protests in Egypt. Obama has called for democratic changes in Egypt, and over the last two days expressed dissatisfaction with the Cabinet shakeup by Mubarak.

Earlier, Egyptian defense and military leaders met the Obama administration to discuss both programs as well as American concerns over the pro-democracy demonstrations. In late January, Egyptian Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi was said to have briefed Pentagon chiefs on the unrest as Egyptian Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Sami Einan discussed training and exercise plans.

"At each of these meetings, the administration urged the military not to attack civilians," an official said.

The Pentagon addressed the anti-Mubarak unrest on Jan. 28 as the Egyptian delegation concluded its visit to Washington. Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. military was monitoring the situation and planning for a range of scenarios in Egypt.

"We're a military, so we plan, and we go through all sorts of contingencies," Cartwright told a briefing. "But the key activity here, I think, that's really important is to exercise restraint and to do so both on our part but also on the part of our counterparts in the Egyptian military."

Officials said the administration would have to review a range of military options with Egypt over the next few months. They included whether Washington should suspend Egypt's order of 20 F-16 Block 52+ fighters from Lockheed Martin as well as delay major exercises and strategic dialogue.

Still, Cartwright stressed that the Egyptian unrest did not comprise a formal subject on the agenda of annual U.S.-Egyptian military talks. The general said the U.S. military did not advise its Egyptian counterpart over how to handle the anti-government demonstrators.

"We didn't say anything to them about how they should handle it, and they didn't tell us how they were going to handle it, because at the time that they were here, it really hadn't emerged," Cartwright said. "It's spiraled up very quickly."

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