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Friday, February 4, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

After providing $40 billion in aid, U.S. in dark
on Egypt's military

WASHINGTON — Despite a relationship of more than 30 years and more than $40 billion in U.S. aid, the United States has little understanding of Egypt's military which has been regarded as the most stable and credible institution in the government.


Washington was shut out of Egypt's military, according to a leading analyst. The analyst, Robert Satloff, said this information deficit has hampered U.S. understanding of the role of Egypt's military as well as the resilience of the regime of President Hosni Mubarak.

"Despite billions of dollars in U.S. assistance, thousands of military exchanges, and dozens of joint exercises, there are large parts of the Egyptian military about which the United States knows very little," Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said.

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In a briefing on Feb. 2, Satloff and former government officials discussed Egypt's prospects and the role of its military, Middle East Newsline reported. They agreed that the fall of the Mubarak regime was an "unimagined challenge."

Satloff said President Barack Obama's call for Mubarak to resign was based on intelligence that senior Egyptian commanders would cooperate with Washington. But he said Egypt's military appeared divided over the future of Mubarak.

"At the moment, the military is undergoing a tug-of-war for its soul," Satloff said. "Military leaders are in a bind, but they must decide which route to take soon, because every day of inaction implicates them with the regime. And for President Obama, every day that passes without change further erodes an already weakened U.S. image."

Satloff said Mubarak still commands respect in the military. In January, the Egyptian president named leaders of the intelligence community, army and air force as senior members of the regime in an effort to ensure the loyalty of the military.

The Obama administration should continue U.S. economic and military aid to Egypt in an effort to influence the military and other institutions, Satloff said. But he added that such a decision must be reviewed should the military join Mubarak in quelling opposition protests.

"The administration is correct to maintain its current posture, continuing economic and military assistance to Egypt until it has greater clarity on the ground," Satloff said. "A time may come, if the military decides fully to side with Mubarak or shoot protesters, when Washington can decide whether to suspend aid, but for now it should maintain the limited leverage and influence it has."

Regardless, Satloff envisioned the end of Egypt as a U.S. pillar in the Middle East. He said Egypt, regardless of its leader, could take years until Cairo resumes a strategic relationship with Washington.

"Cairo's pillar status can be rejuvenated if the transition leads to a new government that both has popular support and sees value in continued strategic partnership with the United States — a difficult but not impossible configuration," Satloff said. "But that will take a long time."

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