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Viewing cable 09CAIRO1377, COUNTER SMUGGLING UPDATE: EGYPT INCREASES EFFORTS

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1377 2009-07-16 14:02 2011-02-16 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Cairo
VZCZCXRO9193
OO RUEHROV
DE RUEHEG #1377/01 1971445
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 161445Z JUL 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3209
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC 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 001377 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/15/2019 
TAGS: PREL PARM MASS IS KPAL EG
SUBJECT: COUNTER SMUGGLING UPDATE: EGYPT INCREASES EFFORTS 
ALONG BORDER WITH SUDAN, RED SEA 
 
REF: A. CAIRO 747 B. CAIRO 160 C. SECDEF 71743 D. CAIRO 1350 Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d).
1. Key Points: -- (S/NF) Egypt has increased efforts to combat arms smuggling to Gaza, with a focus on stopping arms from entering Egypt from Sudan and the Red Sea. The Egyptians also report success at interdicting illicit funds destined for Gaza. -- (S/NF) The Egyptian military has increased its presence along the Egypt-Sudan border since March 2009. Egyptian authorities also report increased maritime patrols in the Red Sea. -- (S/NF) During a July 7 visit to the Egypt-Gaza border, the Egyptian military told DAO they are discovering fewer tunnel openings compared to the last several months. BTADS installation remains on the amended schedule and is expected to be fully operational by February 2010. MOD expects to begin construction of a subterranean steel wall along 9 kilometers of the Egypt-Gaza border in October 2009. -- (S/NF) Intelligence cooperation with the Egyptian military is improving, but Minister of Defense Tantawi continues to resist U.S. offers of additional technical assistance, saying MOD will use more than $165 million worth of FMF-funded border security equipment already delivered or ordered to enhance counter smuggling efforts. -- (S/NF) EGIS recently signed an agreement related to the U.S.- funded purchase of 15 x-ray scanners to monitor vehicles entering the Sinai for weapons and explosives. We expect to begin installation within the next several months. ------- Comment -------

2.(S/NF) Comment: Stopping the lucrative smuggling trade in commercial goods between Egypt and Gaza - which arms smugglers can exploit - presents political dilemmas for the Egyptians. A harsher crackdown on the well-armed Sinai Bedouin smugglers could provoke a violent response and strengthen public criticism of the GOE's "complicity" in enforcing the Israeli siege of Palestinians in Gaza. By employing a more comprehensive approach and increasing efforts away from the Egypt-Gaza border, including the Sudanese border and the Red Sea, the Egyptians can employ more aggressive tactics to prevent Hamas from rearming, which the Egyptians view as a serious national security threat.

3. (S/NF) Comment continued: Tantawi continues to resist U.S. offers of additional counter smuggling assistance, likely due to concerns over sovereignty and fears that FMF funds may be directed away from more high-profile programs like M1A1 tanks and aircraft. In any case, the Egyptian military has only one piece of counter smuggling operations - physical security on Egypt's borders. The Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) and State Security Intelligence Service (SSIS) retain responsibility for disrupting arms smuggling networks. Given Tantawi's concerns, and likely support from President Mubarak for his approach, it is unlikely that Egypt will agree to any direct U.S. assistance or presence along the Egypt-Sudan border or the Red Sea. U.S. efforts to help Egypt to improve border security should continue to focus on giving the Egyptians the tools they need - intelligence, equipment, and training - to enhance their own counter smuggling efforts. --------------------------------------------- - Stopping Arms, Money Before Reaching the Sinai --------------------------------------------- -

4. (S/NF) Egyptian authorities report increased maritime patrols and scrutiny of small crafts operating near the Sinai coast. Egypt has also identified and provided us with the details on smuggling routes from Sudan to Cairo and has shared information on their seizure of weapons and individuals being trafficked into southern Egypt. Egyptian authorities have targeted illicit funds as well as weapons, and reported several successful operations to interdict funds CAIRO 00001377 002 OF 002 destined for Gaza.

5. (S/NF) The Egyptian military says it has increased its presence along the Egypt-Sudan border and claims to have increased aerial surveillance in areas where the military lacks a physical presence (ref A). Egypt also plans to use more than $165 million worth of FMF-funded border security equipment - including helicopters, patrol boats, coastal radars, all-terrain vehicles, and communications equipment - already delivered or ordered to enhance counter smuggling efforts.

6. (S/NF) In January 2009, EGIS requested U.S. assistance to purchase X-ray screening to monitor all vehicular traffic into the Sinai for weapons and explosives (ref B). Congress approved using money from the Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund to support Egypt's request. On July 20, EGIS signed a memorandum of discussion verifying their commitment to pay for the related infrastructure costs and to waive customs duties for the equipment. With the memorandum in hand, we are now moving forward with purchasing 15 screening systems. We expect to begin installation within the next several months. ----------------- Egypt-Gaza Border -----------------

7. (S/NF) On June 17 and July 7, DAO visited the Rafah Terminal and toured the Egypt-Gaza border area. According to Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) officials posted at Rafah, the Border Guard Force (BGF) discovered approximately 300 tunnel openings since the beginning of the year and approximately 970 tunnel openings since October 2005, when the BGF assumed responsibility for the Egypt-Gaza border area. DMI said they were finding fewer tunnel openings compared with previous months for unspecified reasons.

8. (S/NF) From the third story of a BGF observation building, DAO observed considerable activity on the Gaza side of the border, including earth movers and dump trucks transporting dirt near the location of several white tents that are believed to cover tunnel openings. DAO also observed an increased Hamas security presence on checkpoints along the border. The overall security posture on the Egyptian side of the border and the town of Rafah remained the same compared with observations made during an Embassy trip one-month ago, but there appeared to be fewer civilian police checkpoints on roads leading away from the main highway into Rafah. --------------------------------------------- -------------- U.S. Engagement: Intel Cooperation and Technical Assistance --------------------------------------------- --------------

9.(S/NF) Since April, two CENTCOM intelligence analysts working in the Office of Military Cooperation have provided Egyptian military intelligence with increased information on arms smuggling activity, with a specific focus on the Egypt-Sudan border. During a June 29 visit to Egypt, General Petraeus proposed increased intelligence exchanges (ref D). U.S. and Egyptian military intelligence officers are now working together to produce a joint intelligence product on the political and security situation in southern Sudan.

10. (S/NF) In May, Secretary of Defense Gates offered Tantawi additional technical assistance to combat smuggling (ref C). In a June 16 letter to Tantawi, General Petraeus proposed additional U.S. assistance to bolster border security, including the development of a comprehensive counter smuggling program for the Sudanese border, Red Sea, and Sinai Peninsula that would include training and equipping Egyptian forces to enhance surveillance and interdiction efforts. He also offered assistance in developing joint maritime procedures in the Red Sea between the U.S. and Egyptian navies, an exchange of liaison officers between the Border Guard Force and U.S. Army Central (ARCENT), and help conducting a survey of the Egypt-Sudan border to make recommendations for strengthening border security. Tantawi has not yet provided an official reply to any offers of U.S. assistance. SCOBEY