For Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government, more battle tanks and jet fighters are on their way from the United States.
Cairo’s military link to Washington has remained intact, meaning the U.S. will continue to modernize the biggest military in Africa – even as President Mohammed Morsi has decreed near-absolute power for himself and his supporters and opponents battle outside his palace.
Analysts say Egypt’s military buildup presents risks for Washington – and Israel – with the growing influence of the Brotherhood, whose overriding goal is to establish Shariah, or Islamic, law worldwide.
A Pentagon statement to The Washington Times on Thursday said: “We are always reviewing our foreign assistance to make sure foreign assistance advances U.S. objectives and is being used for the right purposes.”
For now, Egypt is due 200 M1A1 Abrams battle tanks, the same mechanized firepower manned by American soldiers, bringing Egypt’s inventory to a robust 1,200.
Also in the pipeline is a squadron of the Air Force F-16 Falcon, a multipurpose warplane able to dogfight and drop ordnance.
The government awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a contract in March 2010 for 20 F-16s, the last to be delivered next year. That would increase Egypt’s total fleet to 240, according to a company press release at the time.
“Egypt has far and away the largest army in Africa,” said Egypt analyst Robert Springborg, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif.
The billions of dollars in U.S. military aid – in annual $1.3 billion stipends – have made the Egyptian air force the fourth-largest F-16 operator among 25 countries. Egypt’s 4,000 tanks, including the 1,000 or so M1A1s, make it the world’s seventh-largest tank army.
“This is a pretty substantial capacity that they have developed,” Mr. Springborg said.
‘A top regional priority’
In Cairo, the Egyptian army sealed off the president’s palace with M-60 tanks and barbed wire Thursday, a day after Morsi supporters and detractors clashed outside the residence. At least six people were killed Wednesday.
What’s more, another member of Mr. Morsi’s 17-member advisory board resigned to protest his handling of the growing crisis over his power grab and a controversial draft constitution approved by his Islamist allies. So far, seven people have resigned from his advisory panel.
A referendum on the constitution is scheduled for Dec. 15, and the Muslim Brotherhood is strongly advocating its ratification.
Meanwhile, Frank Gaffney, a senior defense policymaker in the Reagan administration, has been warning about the rise of the Brotherhood as it relates to the U.S.
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This post was edited on 12/7 at 9:52 am