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Viewing cable 09CAIRO1350, GENERAL PETRAEUS' MEETING WITH DEFENSE MINISTER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1350 2009-07-14 11:11 2011-02-16 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO6741
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1350/01 1951146
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 141146Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3185
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001350 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/30/2019 
TAGS: PREL PARM MASS IR IZ KPAL IS EG
SUBJECT: GENERAL PETRAEUS' MEETING WITH DEFENSE MINISTER 
TANTAWI 
 
Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. Key Points: -- (S/NF) During a June 29 meeting with CENTCOM Commander General Petraeus, Minister of Defense Tantawi discussed bilateral military cooperation, counter smuggling, and Iraq. -- (S/NF) Tantawi thanked General Petraeus for opposing Congressional conditioning of U.S. assistance to Egypt and looked forward to an expanded Bright Star military exercise in October 2009. -- (S/NF) On counter smuggling, Tantawi said Egypt was "doing what could be done" to counter arms smuggling on the Egypt-Sudan border and Major General Fouad al-Helmi, Assistant Minister of Defense, outlined Egypt's efforts to detect and destroy smuggling tunnels along the Egypt-Gaza border. -- (S/NF) Tantawi welcomed a request by General Petraeus for future discussions on evolving regional threats and its implications for bilateral military assistance. -- (S/NF) On Afghanistan, Tantawi said "the time was not right" to send additional Egyptian troops to Afghanistan, but would support "reinforcing" Egypt's field hospital in Bagram. -------------------- Military Cooperation --------------------

2. (S/NF) After recounting his experience crossing the Suez Canal during the 1973 war with Israel, Tantawi thanked General Petraeus for opposing Congressional conditioning of U.S. assistance to Egypt and increasing the size of the Bright Star military exercise scheduled for October 2009. General Petraeus stressed the importance of incorporating unconventional threats in the exercise, adding that Lieutenant General Webster of the U.S. Third Army would soon visit Egypt to discuss details related to the field exercise. ----------------- Counter Smuggling -----------------

3. (S/NF) On counter smuggling, Major General Fouad al-Helmi, Assistant Minister of Defense said the Border Guard Force discovered 346 tunnel openings near the Egypt-Gaza border this year, noting that they were on pace to surpass the 500 tunnel openings discovered in 2008. Al-Helmi noted that the installation of the FMF-funded border security and tunnel activity detection system (BTADS) was on schedule to be completed by early 2010. Al-Helmi added that MOD began installation of a 19-meter deep and 2 centimeters thick subterranean steel wall along the Egypt-Gaza border, stressing that MOD was working closely with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the wall did not interfere with the BTADS sensors. Al-Helmi assessed that it would be difficult for smugglers to cut through the steel wall, but added that BTADS would pick up any attempted breach (Comment: OMC Cairo direct observation confirms that installation of the subterranean wall has not yet begun. Other MoD officials have provided OMC with an installation schedule showing that work will begin in early October 2009 and continue for almost one year. End Comment).

4. (S/NF) Director of Military Intelligence, Major General Mourad Mowafi, said that Egypt had only discovered food and consumer products being smuggled through the tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, and had yet to discover any small weapons or rockets. Tantawi said Egypt was "doing what could be done" along the Egypt-Sudan border to prevent arms smuggling, but believed that few weapons came into Egypt from Sudan. General Petraeus said the U.S. tracked arms shipments from Iran, through Yemen, across the Red Sea, into Sudan, and up through mainland Egypt, across the Sinai Peninsula, and into Gaza. He noted that U.S. forces occasionally discovered small quantities of small arms aboard dhows in the Red Sea, but had yet to intercept a large arms cache.

5. (S/NF) General Petraeus advocated for increased intelligence cooperation on arms smuggling. Mowafi said Egypt - U.S. intelligence cooperation was "good," but stressed the need to receive actionable intelligence. Tantawi explained that Egypt was also cooperating with Yemen, CAIRO 00001350 002 OF 002 Saudi Arabia, and Sudan on countering arms smuggling in the Red Sea. Egypt also cooperated with Israel, Tantawi continued, and noted that during Israeli Defense Minister Barak's recent visit to Cairo, he promised to send MOD Pol-Mil Director Gilad to Egypt to discuss further cooperation on countering arms smuggling.

6. (S/NF) Al-Helmi stressed that Minister Tantawi quickly approved any Foreign Military Financing case involving border security, saying more than $165 million worth of FMF-purchased helicopters, patrol boats, coastal radars, all-terrain vehicles, and communications equipment had either already been delivered or ordered. ------------------- Chief of Staff Enan -------------------

7. (S/NF) During a separate meeting, Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sami Enan shared his viewed on the recent CENTCOM Chiefs of Defense conference, noting that regional countries "shared the same analysis" of the Iranian threat. General Petraeus noted that Hezbollah's electoral defeat and Egypt's success at constraining Hamas all helped counter Iranian interference in the region. Enan commented that Gulf states were very concerned about Iran, adding that their "major concern" was that improved U.S.-Iran relations would grant Iran a greater role in regional affairs. General Petraeus noted President Mubarak's deep suspicion and mistrust of Iran (septel), and stressed that the U.S. would proceed cautiously.

8. (S/NF) General Petraeus expressed optimism that Iraqi security forces could handle the security situation after U.S. troops withdrew from Iraqi cities. Enan noted that the Iraqi Minister of Defense recently visited Cairo for "extensive meetings" and expressed Egypt's willingness to support the Iraqi military.

9. (U) General Petraeus cleared this cable. SCOBEY