is deeply rooted in Egypt. The
Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political movement which advocates a
gradual process of Islamicization, was first established in Egypt in
1928 and still maintains a strong presence in Egypt.
Since 1992, these Muslim extremists have targeted
elements within Egyptian society they consider foreign or anti-Muslim.
Their activities have been characterized by deadly attacks on
tourists, journalists, secular intellectuals, government officials and
Coptic Christians. Since the onset of this wave of violence, almost
1,000 people have been killed. Following the conviction of Egyptian
cleric Sheikh Abdel Rahman in the New York City terrorist plot,
Egyptian followers vowed to seek revenge on American targets.
While Egypt remains formally at peace with Israel and honors
its Camp David commitments,
Cairo has nevertheless amassed a substantial offensive military capability
in recent years. Prudent Israeli military planners have no choice but
to carefully monitor Egypt's buildup, should regional events take a
dramatic turn for the worse. If the present regime in Cairo should be
overthrown, the prospect for continued stable relations with Israel
would diminish substantially.
Despite its status as a U.S. ally, Egypt has purchased
Scud missiles from North Korea and is thought to possess chemical
weapons. Its army, air force and navy now field a wide range of
the most sophisticated Western arms, many identical to Israel's own
weapons. Egyptian forces recently staged large-scale military training
exercises which included simulated operations crossing into the Sinai
against an unnamed adversary to the east.
In December 2003, Israel protested Egypt's use of unmanned
aerial vehicles, drones, to spy on Israeli military facilities. Israel
reportedly threatned to shoot down the drones whose flights violate
the peace treaty and prompted
increased concern over Egypt's military buildup.
A 2003 study by the Jaffee
Center for Strategic Studies reported that
Egypt's air force has undergone the most
significant modernization of any military
in the Arab world. "From the point of
view of weapon systems," the author
concluded, "the military-technological
gap between the Egyptian and Israeli Air
Forces is gradually narrowing."
In addition, the “Egyptian Air Force’s
increasing confidence is reflected in its
acquisition of aircraft for deep-penetration
strikes into enemy territory.”
Earlier in the year, Egypt requested F15 jets armed
with JDAM (joint direct attack munition) "smart" bombs. These
sophisticated weapons were used by U.S. forces in the 2003 war with
Iraq. The Bush Administration has not agreed to the request to date,
in part because of Israeli protests, and intelligence showing that Israel
was the "enemy" in all of Egypt's war games.
Egypt purchased $6.5 billion
worth of arms between 2001 and 2004. By
comparison, Israel spent $4.4 billion. Egypt
now has some of the most sophisticated U.S.-made
weapons, including Abrams tanks, F-16 fighter
planes, and Apache attack helicopters.
Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC); Jerusalem
Post, (December 21, 2003); Shai Feldman
and Yiftah Shapir, Eds.,
Middle East Military Balance, (Cambridge:
MIT Press, 2001); Anthony Cordesman, "Syrian
Military Forces and Capabilities," Center
for Strategic and International Studies,
(April 15, 2003); Shmuel L. Gordon,
of Quality A New Approach to Net Assessment
of Airpower,” Jaffee
Center for Strategic Studies, Memorandum No.
64, (May 2003);
Aluf Benn, “Israel
worried about possible new Russia-Syria arms
deals,” Haaretz, (October 26,