CIA leaks about Egyptian arms supply to Russia reduce Sisi’s credit in Washington

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According to the Washington Post, a leaked U.S. intelligence document claimed that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi ordered the production of up to 40,000 missiles to be secretly shipped to Russia, which is engaged in a fierce war against Ukraine.

The Egyptian government denied the document’s authenticity, stressing that its position since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine “is based on not getting involved in this crisis and a commitment to maintaining an equal distance with both sides.” While experts fear the repercussions that Cairo will face if the document’s authenticity is proven.

Leak details

The document, published on the social media platform Discord, is among documents allegedly leaked from the U.S. Department of Defense (Pentagon), dated February 17, and details an alleged conversation between Sisi and senior Egyptian army commanders, in which he refers to plans to supply Moscow with 40,000 missiles in addition to artillery shells and gunpowder. The document describes Sisi issuing instructions on February 1 for keeping the supply of rockets secret in order “to avoid problems with ‘the West,'” telling a person referenced only as Salah al-Din that factory workers should be advised the projectiles are intended for the Egyptian army. Salah al-Din is probably Mohamed Salah al-Din, the minister of state for military production. The document said that the gunpowder offered to Russia would come from Factory 18, which is the name of a decades-old chemical manufacturing plant.

Egypt strongly denies

In response to questions about the document and the authenticity of the conversations it describes, the Washington Post quoted a spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Abu Zaid, as confirming that “Egypt’s position from the beginning was based on not getting involved in this crisis and is committed to maintaining an equal distance with both sides while emphasizing Egypt’s support for the United Nations Charter and international law in the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly.” He added: “We continue to urge the parties to cease hostilities and to reach a political solution through negotiations.” For its part, Al-Qahera News Channel, which is close to the state, quoted an official Egyptian source, denying the allegations of U.S. media production of missiles to be shipped to Russia, adding that what was published by the “Washington Post” quoting a leaked U.S. intelligence document is “informational nonsense.” He stressed that Egypt follows a balanced policy with all international parties.

Egyptian-American relations are in danger

The document’s authenticity has not yet been proven, as the “Washington Post” quoted a U.S. government official saying that they had no information indicating that what the document talked about had been implemented. While the Pentagon spokeswoman, Sabrina Singh, said that the Ministry of Justice had opened an investigation into the leaking of classified documents without further clarification. If the document’s contents are true, Egypt’s relationship with the United States will be in great danger. Washington, which considers Cairo one of its closest allies in the Middle East, and which has provided it with more than $40 billion in military aid over the past four decades, will not accept that Egypt is a rogue country that supports Russia in its confrontation with the West in Ukraine. “Egypt is one of our oldest allies in the Middle East,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations committees. “If it’s true that Sisi is covertly building rockets for Russia that could be used in Ukraine, we need to have a serious reckoning about the state of our relationship.”

Sarah Margon, director of U.S. foreign policy at the Open Society Foundations and the Biden administration’s onetime nominee for the State Department’s top human rights post, said that “an intentional sale and delivery of rockets to the Russian government, which has committed such explicit war and other atrocity crimes, is just beyond the pale, especially for an ostensibly close U.S. ally.” The revelations in the document, if true, raise the question of whether the United States “should continue to defend and support” Egypt if Sisi’s government is seeking a sale that would “serve Cairo’s immediate needs but is likely to have a serious negative global impact,” she said. Michael Hanna, director of U.S. programs at the International Crisis Group, noted that the Biden administration had been leading Western efforts to deny Russia and its mercenaries technology and arms needed for its war in Ukraine and punishing American adversaries such as Iran and North Korea, who have done so. “The idea that it would be Egypt in this role — that’s an embarrassment to the U.S.,” he said.