Situations in the Sinai

On January 15, the US mobilised the Connecticut National Guard Detachment 2, Company I, 185th Aviation Regiment of Groton to be deployed to the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt, “to support the Multinational Force and Observers”.

The unit left Connecticut Jan. 15 for Fort Benning, Ga., for further training and validation. The unit operates C-23C Sherpa aircraft and has deployed three times in the last seven years in support of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The unit will provide an on-demand aviation asset to the Multinational Force and Observers commander to support its mission of supervising the security provisions of the Egypt/ Israel Peace Treaty.

Chief Warrant Officer Four James Smith of Ivoryton commands the aviation unit.

Here’s a list of US deployments in the Sinai and a breakdown of the constituency of the multinational force.

The US contributes three units collectively known as Task Force Sinai:[8]

* Force HQ – 40 personnel
* Infantry Battalion (USBATT – drawn from National Guard units)- 425 personnel currently members of the Illinois Army National Guard to be replaced in early 2011 by the Maryland National Guard[9]
* Support Battalion – 235 personnel consisting of:
o Headquarters
o Medical Company consisting of Dental, Medical, Physical Therapy, Veterinarian, and Preventative Medicine.
o Explosive Ordnance Disposal Detachment (EOD)
o Aviation Company

As far as I can discover, the deployment has yet to reach its eventual destination and was routine.

Considering the lengthy buildup to the present people’s revolution in Egypt however, and telltale Wikileaks cables, it is difficult to imagine that the US has not been prepared for such an eventuality and pre-planned with Israel and Egypt tactical contingency moves in the Sinai including the present jointly coordinated remilitarisation off the Sinai by Egypt, despite the multinational force’s role ostensibly being the enforcement of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.

As Yossi Gurvitz notes:

The entrance of Egyptian military forces into Sinai is prohibited by the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, to which the US is a guarantor. Lisa Goldman and myself tried to get a reply from the IDF Spokesman, to no avail. The spokesman of the Foreign Ministry, Yigal Palmor, gave Goldman the following response: “We will have to analyze the situation. We are under clear instructions not to make any comment on the Egyptian situation, no matter what. So it’s not as though we’ll have an answer later on. You’ll just have to wait and see, okay?”

According to Laura Rozen:

Several foreign policy scholars and former officials have been urging the U.S. administration for months to prepare for the end of the Hosni Mubarak era and the instability that would accompany it.

However, according to General James Mattis yesterday:

The United States has no plans to redeploy troops or ships in response to the unrest roiling Egypt and the instability in Tunisia and Jordan, the head of the U.S. Central Command said Tuesday.

On a visit to London, Gen. James Mattis said military leaders and lawmakers were closely watching developments, but stressed that he had no orders to rearrange his forces in response.

“These issues do not call for a military solution right now,” Mattis said. “There’s no reason right now for any shift in military forces, or anything like that. I’ve not received any orders.”

Mattis spells out the primary US strategic interest:

… he said it was unlikely events in Egypt would lead to difficulties for ships passing through the Suez Canal – another major concern for lawmakers and businesses.

The canal is the key route to the Mediterranean and used to avoid the longer and perilous path around Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.

“When you look at the fiscal impact of that on whoever is in a position of authority in Egypt, I just can’t imagine a motive to shut that down,” said Mattis, who succeeded Gen. David Petraeus as head of the military’s Central Command in August.

Related Links

With the anger, Bedouin youth now present a face of triumph. “It is a revolution,” one says simply.
US embassy cables: Egypt’s strategic importance to the US

President Mubarak and military leaders view our military assistance program as the cornerstone of our mil-mil relationship and consider the USD 1.3 billion in annual FMF as “untouchable compensation” for making and maintaining peace with Israel. The tangible benefits to our mil-mil relationship are clear: Egypt remains at peace with Israel, and the U.S. military enjoys priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace. We believe, however, that our relationship can accomplish much more. Over the last year, we have engaged MOD leaders on developing shared strategic objectives to address current and emerging threats, including border security, counter terrorism, civil defense, and peacekeeping. Our efforts thus far have met with limited success.

Israel + Egypt (+ the US too) coordinating Sinai moves
Rights NGO claims that Israeli planes carrying crowd dispersal weapons have arrived in Egypt
Report: Egypt request crowd dispersion equipment from Israel
Israel denies sending riot gear to Egypt
Why is the Egyptian Army in Sinai?
Made in the USA: Tear Gas, Tanks, Helicopters, Rifles, and Fighter Planes in Egypt Funded and Built Largely by US Defense Department and American Corporations
Israel agrees to some Egyptian troops in Sinai
Three Decades of Weapons, Training for Egypt Keep U.S. in Loop

The key question is, will the localized incident in
Mahalla spark a wider movement? The government is clearly
focused on containing unrest. Even while the riots were
still winding down, PM Nazif traveled to Mahalla, paid
bonuses to factory workers and praised those who did not join
in the riots (ref D). The government has also accelerated
arrests of activists in Cairo (ref E). The organizers of the
April 6 strike — distinct from Mahalla — have already
called, via Facebook, for a follow-on national strike on May
4, Mubarak’s eightieth birthday. Even regime insiders have
acknowledged the political savvy behind this tactic —
channeling current outrage towards the next big event. The
GOE responded with a press release announcing that President
Mubarak will give a May 5 speech to “underline Egypt’s keen
to desire to protect the rights of laborers and accentuate
the role they can play in the development process …. and to
reiterate the government’s commitment to safeguard the
interests of workers against any backlashes they might face
as a result of the economic reform program.” More broadly,
the government continues to address the shortage of
subsidized bread by using military bakeries and distribution

Egypt Links

In Pictures: Egypt protests
Why Are Americans Blocked From Watching Al Jazeera English?
U.S. Scrambles to Size Up ElBaradei
Live blog Feb 1 – Egypt protests
Protesting At Tahrir Square
Al Jazeera report from Tahrir Square 8:30am, February 1
A Virtual “March of Millions” in Solidarity with Egyptian Protestors
On the eve of the ‘march of a million people’
The human wall protecting Cairo museum.
The widening double standard
An Egyptian Woman Speaks Out
Australians in Egypt frustrated by embassy
Live blog Feb 1 – Egypt protests
Erdogan Tells Egypt’s Mubarak He Should Listen to His People

Palestine / Israel Links

Hope ends here: The children’s court at Ofer Military Prison
Could US abandon Israel too?
Settlers start to cultivate Palestinian land east of Al-Khalil
Unprovoked attack on local shop, pregnant woman gassed
Google unveils Web-free ‘tweeting’ in Egypt move
Israeli critics open up on US ‘abandonment’ of Mubarak – ziofascists:

Another strain of this criticism, articulated most forcefully by Yediot Aharonot columnist Eitan Haber, who was a top aide to Yitzhak Rabin, is that this sends a dreadful message to Israel.

Obama threw Mubarak “to the dogs,” Haber wrote in a column that appeared on Monday.

“America, which waves the banner of ‘citizens rights,’ ‘democracy,’ and ‘freedom of information,’ turned its back in a day on one of its most important allies in the Middle East.

Obama sold Mubarak for the pot of lentils of popularity among the Egyptian masses,” Haber wrote, adding that the US president did this without a true understanding of the Middle East.

“Our conclusion in Israel needs to be that the man sitting in the White House is liable to ‘sell’ us over night.

The thought that the US might not stand by our side in the day of need causes chills. God help us.”

This theme was also picked up by former Mossad head Danny Yatom, who said in an Israel Radio interview that the US treatment of Mubarak was a dangerous message to Washington’s allies in the region – including Israel – that they could not rely on America.

Yatom said Washington’s first error was not in more aggressively supporting the opposition in Iran when it took to the streets against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the summer of 2009.

By contrast, Yatom said, “there is an important relationship” between the US and Egypt, with Egypt an important layer in Washington’s regional policy.

“The way Obama and Hillary Clinton abandoned Mubarak at once is very problematic, and I think hints to other allies – for instance Israel – that these things can happen under certain grave circumstances to us as well, and to others.”

Yatom said the US erred in talking – as Clinton did on Sunday – of an orderly transition to lasting democracy, and should have instead sufficed with demanding reform.

They should have supported him [Mubarak], but demand more reform,” he said. “I think he would have responded.”

Israel shocked by Obama’s “betrayal” of Mubarak
Can Israel only make peace with dictators?
Netanyahu must prepare for a new regional order
Bernard-Henri Lévy Indicted! – Tariq Ali
U.S. Interests in Egypt: A Proposed Statement of U.S. Policy – the AIPAC/WINEP mix
It’s never been about Palestine – neocon John Podhoretz
Amnesty International Condemns Makhoul Sentence

Wikileaks Links

Whistleblower ‘isolated’ in US jail
Julian Assange calls for support from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard
Assange’s lawyer says FOI inspired WikiLeaks

Other Links

Afghan elite ‘plundered $900m’ from leading bank
United Nations must intervene to protect Sri Lanka’s media
Government accused as Sri Lankan news office is torched