¶3. (S) A serious political commitment, supported by dedicated and properly trained personnel, is key to progress. The Egyptians claim that they respond aggressively to Israeli intelligence leads, while both sides bicker over whether and how Egypt could deploy more Border Guard Forces. Meanwhile, the Egyptians continue to offer excuses for the problem they face: the need to "squeeze" Hamas, while avoiding being seen as complicit in Israel's "siege" of Gaza. Egyptian General Intelligence Chief Omar Soliman told us Egypt wants Gaza to go "hungry" but not "starve." Minister of Defense Field Marshal Tantawi and the Director of Military Intelligence MG Mowafy both pressed recently for the return of EUBAM monitors to oversee the crossing between Gaza and Egypt of Palestinians with urgent humanitarian circumstances. In their moments of greatest frustration, Tantawi and Soliman each have claimed that the IDF would be "welcome" to re-invade Philadelphi, if the IDF thought that would stop the smuggling.
¶8. (S) The Egyptians are surprised and alarmed at the turn their relations with both the U.S. and Israel have taken in recent months. Mubarak and his security chiefs viscerally want Hamas "to fail." They thought their self-interest in this objective was so obvious to us, to Abu Mazen, and to the Israelis -- as it is to Mubarak's domestic opposition -- as to be beyond all question. They are looking for a way to get things back on track with the U.S. and the Israelis and to do all they can to thwart Hamas, but the GOE is intensely uncomfortable at squeezing the people of Gaza in the face of opposition charges that Mubarak, as America's tool, is supporting Israel's "siege of Gaza." Also, it is unclear whether the MOD can get a full grip on the fundamental security concerns in the Sinai, especially smuggling, given the practical restraints of troop limits and the generally poor performance of the Egyptian armed forces overall. The GOE wants regular openings at Rafah, when circumstances allow, to reduce the economic pressure that sustains smuggling and to ease the Gazans' humanitarian crisis while keeping Hamas under pressure. They also want their discussions with the United States, particularly when it comes to Egypt's FMF, not to pass through a perceived "Israeli filter" (Ref D). Meanwhile, the Egyptians show no grasp of Israeli outrage at continuing mortar and rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza -- mirroring the Israeli failure to comprehend the GOE's dilemma over Gaza and Hamas.
¶2. (C) CENTCOM Commanding General John Abizaid, accompanied by the Ambassador, met on August 30 with Egyptian Minister of Defense Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to review U.S.-Egyptian mil-mil relations and discuss the regional situation. Abizaid and Tantawi agreed that the U.S.-Egyptian relationship is very strong; but, added Tantawi, "we want even more." General Abizaid thanked Tantawi for Egypt's cooperation in areas as diverse as granting overflight clearances to facilitating usage of the Suez Canal. Tantawi said it was important for the U.S. to remember that, while Egyptian political and military leaders understood the value of the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, "the simple people do not see it." We need to work together to convince them, too. The key, according to Tantawi, is the reinvigoration of the peace process. "It is not a peace process just for the Palestinians and Israelis, but for the region as a whole."
¶2. (C) Comment: The Egyptians had initially indicated they would make a decision on the LOR by December 15. This apparently very quick turnaround is welcome. Tanatawi had agreed in principle to similar but less specific recommendations a year ago and ended up not signing an LOR. The USACE report gave us the technical arguments needed, and the Egyptians are conscious of their standing in Congress if they take no action. While Tantawi still needs to actually sign the letter, we are optimistic the MoD will sign the LOR this time.
¶1. (C) Summary: In a recent meeting with poloff, independent parliamentarian Anwar Esmat El Sadat (protect), nephew of the former President, discussed presidential son Gamal Mubarak's possible succession of his father, and opined that Gamal increasingly views Minister of Defense Mohamed Hussein Tantawi and EGIS head Omar Suleiman as a threat to his presidential ambitions. Sadat alleged that Tantawi recently told him, in confidence, of his deepening frustration with Gamal. End summary.
GAMAL ANGLING TO "GET RID" OF HIS COMPETITION
¶2. (S) On March 29, Sadat noted to poloff his assessment that the recently approved constitutional amendments package is largely aimed at ensuring Gamal Mubarak's succession of his father, and "a more controllable, stable political scene when he does take the reins." Opining that "Gamal and his clique" are becoming more confident in the inevitability of Gamal's succession, and are now angling to remove potential "stumbling blocks," Sadat said that speculation among Cairo's elite is that there could be a cabinet reshuffle as soon as May or June, in which Minister of Defense Tantawi and/or EGIS head Omar Suleiman would be replaced. "Those two are increasingly viewed as a threat by Gamal and those around him," and thus Gamal is reportedly pushing Mubarak to get them out of the way, so they "could not pose any problems" in the event of a succession. Sadat speculated that "hitches" to a Gamal succession could occur if Mubarak died before installing his son: "Gamal knows this, and so wants to stack the deck in his favor as much as possible now, while Mubarak is firmly in control, just in case his father drops dead sooner rather than later."
¶3. (S) Sadat said Tantawi had commented to him in a recent private meeting that, "he has had it 'up to here' with Gamal and his cronies, and the tremendous corruption they are facilitating." "Tantawi told me he is having trouble sleeping at night," he continued, "and that he cannot stand what has happened to the country, and what may yet happen to the country." Disappointed by the recent constitutional amendments, and skeptical about the will of either Mubarak or Gamal to push forward meaningful political reforms, Sadat said he viewed a post-Mubarak military coup as "the best possible way out for Egypt ... we are in a terrible spot, and that is the best of all the bad options available." (Note: Sadat provided no further details about a possible coup scenario, and appeared to simply be theorizing about the future. To date, we have not heard other interlocutors speculate about a possible coup option. End note).
¶6. (C) A/S Welch responded that there would be four losers -- including the Palestinians. Tantawi agreed. The Egyptians have tried to get the PA and Hamas to work together to address the Gaza border issue, but they have very deep divisions. We are forced to deal with Hamas on the tactical level, Tantawi said -- they are the ones on the other side of the border. A/S Welch stressed that the United States believes in dealing only with the PA; we do not believe in dealing with Hamas. It is very important that Hamas not be seen as the authority. All the political credit for solving this crisis must go to Egypt, Israel, the U.S. and the PA -- not Hamas.
¶7. (C) Harel admitted that whether the IDF wanted to be in the humanitarian business or not, the IDF was obliged by law to continue to provide humanitarian support to Gaza, and the delivery of humanitarian supplies were a daily part of Cast Lead. It was HAMAS, Harel stated, that decided to continue to shoot even during the humanitarian pauses, and the recent seizure of humanitarian supplies from UNRWA by HAMAS further proves who cares more about civilians in Gaza. In response to a question on how the international community can get Gaza,s borders open, Harel said there were several conditions -- Gilad Shalit is released; there is a cease fire agreement in place; HAMAS stops all rocket fire into Israel; HAMAS slows its force build up; and mechanisms are in place to slow the smuggling into Gaza from the Sinai. Harel further stated that Israel must control who the aid is assisting, and that Israel is not ready for the free flow of goods into Gaza.