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[*] posted on 22-7-2017 at 11:54 AM
Egypt and all of its ramifications


Release of IMF loan recognises Egyptian reform efforts, but unlikely to improve business environment while increasing protest risks

Jack Kennedy - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

21 July 2017

Residents of al-Warraq island protest against the government at the funeral of a citizen killed while trying to repel security forces from demolishing illegal buildings on 16 July 2017. Source: PA

Key Points

- IMF loan conditions require a prolonged period of Egyptian subsidy reform that is likely to prolong inflation, disproportionately affecting Egypt's poorest citizens.

- Egyptian companies will be less competitive domestically compared to military-owned or operated enterprises.

- Increasing the hardship of citizens is likely to lead to a gradual increase in localised protests and provide recruitment for Islamist terror groups.

EVENT

On 13 July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) released the second tranche of a USD12 billion loan to Egypt, worth USD1.25 billion.

The loan was received by the Egyptian Central Bank on 18 July.

Its release followed a review by the IMF. The Egyptian government has been assessed as willing to implement a programme of structural adjustments to the state subsidy system, increase taxation, and raise interest rates. In a statement, the IMF clarified that in approving the loan, the executive board had waived the unmet June targets set for the Egyptian government. The waiver is conditional on the government undertaking stronger fiscal adjustments over the course of the next two years.
Subsidy reform

The Egyptian government committed to a succession of subsidy reforms in June to comply with IMF conditions. Fuel subsidies were cut on 29 June, raising the price of the fuels most commonly used by Egyptian motorists and public transport, diesel and 80-octane gasoline, by 55%. The price of butane gas cylinders, used for cooking, increased 100%. On 6 July, electricity tariffs were raised by up to 42% for households and up to 46% for companies and commercial usage. The value added tax (VAT) rate was increased from 13% to 14% on 1 July.

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[*] posted on 24-8-2017 at 07:14 PM


US withholding aid to Egypt

Zachary Fryer-Biggs - IHS Jane's Defence Industry

23 August 2017

The United States is cutting USD96 million in aid from Egypt and withholding USD195 million in funds for military assistance as a result of humanitarian concerns, Reuters first reported on 22 August. Although US officials have yet to confirm the decision publicly, an Egyptian official criticised the move in a 23 August statement.

“Egypt sees this measure as reflecting poor judgement of the strategic relationship that ties the two countries over long decades and as adopting a view that lacks an accurate understanding of the importance of supporting Egypt's stability,” the statement from Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry as reported by the BBC.

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[*] posted on 28-11-2017 at 08:19 PM


Islamic State’s likely responsibility for attack in Egypt’s north Sinai risks losing its local tribal support

Ludovico Carlino and Jack Kennedy - IHS Jane's Intelligence Weekly

27 November 2017


A picture taken on 25 November 2017 shows Al Rawdah mosque, about 40 km west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, after a gun and bombing attack. Source: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

- Although no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, it was most likely carried out by militants associated with the Sinai wilayat (province) of the Islamic State.
- The Al Rawdah attack on a Sufi mosque is unlikely to achieve its intended effect of provoking religious and sectarian conflict in Egypt, as well as insurgency, but, instead risks backfiring on the Islamic State.
- The attack is, however, an indicator of the Islamic State in Egypt’s intent, particularly in attracting returning jihadists from Iraq and Syria, as the Caliphate continues to be degraded in the Levant.

Event

On 24 November, approximately 30 jihadist militants attacked the Al Rawdah mosque in North Sinai, killing 305 civilians and wounding 128.

This incident is the deadliest terrorist assault on civilians in Egypt’s modern history. The Al Rawdah mosque is in North Sinai, approximately 40 kilometres west of al-Arish city, on the desert coastal road from Bir al Abd town. According to eyewitness accounts, the attack began at the start of Friday prayers, when the building was at its fullest.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detonated outside, and a combination of automatic weapons and grenades were used when the worshippers began to flee the building.

Photographs from inside the mosque after the attack did not indicate any obvious structural damage to the building. The militants set up improvised road blocks by using burning cars to obstruct the survivors’ escape.

The militants, some of them masked, were wearing military uniforms mixed with black shirts, and waited to ambush first responder emergency services to maximise the final death count, before escaping in off-road vehicles. The first reaction of the military has involved airstrikes concentrated in several mountainous areas surrounding Al Rawdah mosque where militants were believed to be hiding out, according to security sources.

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[*] posted on 1-12-2017 at 01:03 PM


Russia negotiates deal for its warplanes to use Egypt bases

By: Vladimir Isachenkov, The Associated Press   5 hours ago


Under Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, the country has expanded economic ties with Russia and shown a renewed interest in Russian arms. (Mohammed Abdel Moatey/MENA via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia has approved a draft agreement with Egypt for Russian warplanes to use Egyptian military bases, according to a document released Thursday. Such a deal would allow Moscow to further increase its military footprint in the Middle East.

The directive, signed by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and published on the official portal of legal information, endorses the draft prepared by the Russian Defence Ministry and instructs it to sign the deal with Egypt when it’s ready.

The Russia-Egypt deal, which would allow each country’s warplanes to use air bases of the other, is to last five years and could be extended further if agreed.

For Egypt, the deal is significant as President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s government has expanded military ties with Russia and signed deals to buy Russian fighter jets, helicopters and other weapons.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Cairo on Wednesday, noting that military cooperation between the two countries has increased recently as Egypt placed new orders for Russian weapons.

“We are pleased to note stable positive dynamics in the military-technical sphere,” Shoigu was quoted as saying during a meeting of an inter-government commission on military-technical cooperation.

He also offered condolences for the massacre at a village mosque in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula last week that killed 305 people during Friday prayers — the deadliest attack by Islamic extremists in Egypt’s modern history.

Shoigu emphasized the need to strengthen cooperation in fighting terrorism.

“We believe that it’s necessary to fight this evil together using all accessible means,” he said.

The local affiliate of the Islamic State group has not formally claimed responsibility for the mosque attack, though the gunmen that mowed down the worshippers carried the black banner of the militant group. The ISIS affiliate has claimed responsibility for the October 2015 downing over Sinai of a Russian passenger jet that killed all 224 people onboard, mostly Russian tourists.

ISIS said it blew up the plane with a bomb smuggled onboard, a claim confirmed by Russian investigators. The bombing prompted Russia to cut commercial flights with Egypt, a heavy blow that decimated the country’s vital tourism industry.

Moscow and Cairo have held talks on boosting airport security and resuming the air link, but no agreement has been reached so far.

Egypt was Moscow’s closest Arab ally in the 1950s and 1960s, when nationalist leader Gamal Abdel-Nasser turned away from the United States and secured Soviet backing. Nasser’s successor, Anwar Sadat, broke ties with Moscow and evicted Soviet military advisers.

Under el-Sissi, who developed friendly ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Egypt has expanded economic ties with Russia and shown a renewed interest in Russian arms.

Russia has raised its profile in the Middle East region with a military campaign in Syria that has turned the course of war in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s favor. Russia has an air base and a naval supply facility in Syria, which it plans to expand.

El-Sissi has struggled to subdue the Islamic insurgency in Sinai.

On Wednesday, he gave his security forces a three-month deadline to restore “security and stability” in the troubled northern part of the peninsula and authorized his new chief of staff to use “all brute force” against the militants.
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[*] posted on 30-12-2017 at 04:48 PM


December 30 2017 - 11:52AM

Gunmen kill multiple people at church near Cairo

Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Amr Abdallah

Cairo: A gunman killed at least 11 people in attacks on a Coptic Orthodox church and a Christian-owned shop near Cairo before he was wounded and arrested, the Egyptian interior ministry and church officials said.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, in a statement by its Amaq news agency, though it provided no evidence for the claim.

Police have stepped up security measures around churches ahead of Coptic Christmas celebrations on January 7, deploying officers outside Christian places of worship and setting up metal detectors at some of the bigger churches.

Islamist militants have claimed several attacks on Egypt's large Christian minority in recent years, including two bombings on Palm Sunday in April and a blast at Cairo's largest Coptic cathedral in December 2016 that killed 28 people.


Policemen surround Mar Mina church, in Helwan, Cairo, Egypt where at least 11 people, including eight Coptic Christians, have been killed. Photo: AMR NABIL

Earlier reports by security sources and state media said at least two attackers were involved in the attack, and that one was shot dead and another fled the scene. The interior ministry did not explain the reason for the different accounts.

US President Donald Trump spoke by phone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and condemned the attack, the White House said in a statement.

The Coptic Church said the gunman first shot at a Christian-owned shop 4 km away, killing two people, before proceeding to the Mar Mina church in the southern Cairo suburb of Helwan. The Interior Ministry said he opened fire at the entrance to the site and tried to throw an explosive device.

The gunman killed at least nine people, including a policeman, at the church, according to Interior Ministry and Coptic Church accounts. The Church said a young woman had died later from her wounds, bringing the civilian death toll at the church to eight.


Relatives of Coptic Christians grieve as they carry the coffin of Nermin Sadek, one of the victims of the militants attack on Mar Mina church. Photo: AMR NABIL

The ministry said security forces had "immediately dealt with the [attacker] and arrested him after he was wounded." It added, "Legal measures have been taken," without elaborating.

Investigators have identified the gunman, it said, adding that he had carried out several attacks since last year. Egypt is also grappling with a deadly Islamic State insurgency in the North Sinai region.

The health ministry said five people had been wounded, including two women who it said were in a serious condition.

A joint funeral for eight of those killed was held on Friday evening at the Virgin Mary church in Helwan.

The head of the Coptic Church, Pope Tawadros II, led mourning for the victims. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also offered his condolences to the families and ordered security forces to increase safety measures at sensitive sites, his office said in a statement.

"The shooting began at 10:30 am and carried on for more than 15 minutes ... There was more than one attacker," Mohammed Hussein Abdelhadi, who lives close to the church, told Reuters.

A witness who did not want to give his name said the policeman was killed while he was closing the church gate to stop the gunman getting in.

Reuters
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[*] posted on 6-1-2018 at 02:11 PM


Islamic State unlikely to successfully challenge Hamas; greater frequency of rocket attacks into Israel likely

Jack Kennedy - IHS Jane's Country Risk Daily Report

05 January 2018

Event

The Islamic State’s affiliate in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula (Wilayat Sinai) released a video on 3 January 2018 declaring war on Hamas, the Islamist militant group that controls the neighbouring Gaza Strip.

The video included the execution of an alleged former Islamic State member accused by the group of having smuggled weapons to Hamas’s military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassem Brigades, and cited as justification Hamas’s failure to effectively respond to the US recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and an ongoing crackdown by Hamas on Islamic State and Salafist fighters in Gaza. Hamas, in collaboration with Egypt, has been securing the Sinai border since June 2017 – restricting access to weapons and recruits for Wilayat Sinai’s insurgency against the Egyptian state.

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[*] posted on 11-1-2018 at 01:32 PM


‘Make Egypt Great Again’: Israeli experts question neighbor’s military buildup

By: Noa Amouyal   6 hours ago


An Egyptian commando jumps from a helicopter to the Nile in front of the Great Pyramids during a Nile military parade in Cairo, Egypt, on Oct. 17, 2007. (Amr Nabil/AP)

JERUSALEM — For a country that is in economic chaos and lacks a state enemy teeming at its border, the rapid buildup of Egypt’s military arsenal has raised eyebrows in Israel.

Egypt has acquired a long shopping list of arms over the years, and its amped-up arsenal has elicited more questions than answers among Israeli experts. The purchases — most of which occurred under Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi — indicate an Egypt dedicated to returning to its former glory and declaring to the rest of the region that it is a force to be reckoned with.

Some items on the list with the most hefty price tags include the acquisition of 387 M1 Abrams tanks since 2010 as well as 762 mine-resistant, ambush-protected, armored trucks; a $1 billion deal for an S-300VM anti-aircraft system; and 50 Mikoyan MiG-29 twin-engine fighter jets in a $2 billion deal expected to be completed by 2020.

That is a partial list of items Egypt has recently obtained, according to a paper by Yagil Henkin, a military historian with the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.

“The problem with assessing Egypt’s military build-up is that people assume they know why Egypt is doing it. They built a very convenient explanation, but I don’t know the real answer. We should consider several factors,” he cautioned.

One obvious explanation is that Egypt wants to project a sense of power in a region of tumult. According to the commander of the Egyptian Navy, Adm. Osama Rabie, the shopping spree is intended to protect Egypt’s newfound natural gas resources and implement counterterrorism measures.

According to Henkin, however, that justification doesn’t hold water.

“This is quite surprising, to say the least, because it differs radically from concepts, such as the Israeli one, in which gas fields are protected by speedboats and anti-missile systems, and not by attack and reconnaissance helicopters flown from large, lightly armed helicopter carriers that are able to carry hundreds of their soldiers and land them on their enemies’ shores, all of which is not very relevant to protecting gas fields at sea,” Henkin wrote of Egypt’s new pair of French Mistral-class helicopter carriers.

Ofir Winter, a research fellow for the Institute for National Security Studies, said Egypt wants to become “a leading force in the Arab world.”

“Other explanations that I’ve heard is this need to boost the image of the regime — to ‘Make Egypt Great Again,’ ” he said, referring to U.S. President Donald Trump’s campaign tagline “Make America Great Again.”

The third reason, Henkin suggested, could have vast geopolitical consequences for the region, if true: creating a safe haven for Russian deployment in the region.

The baseline for such a cooperation is already underway, with Russia signing a deal with Egypt in November to allow Russian military jets to use its bases and airspace.

“What Egypt has done is try to diversity its suppliers and is in effect going from being a client of American power back to being a great power on its own. It is going back to the days of [former President Gamal Abdel] Nasser [Hussein], who understood non-commitment may be a better solution,” Henkin explained.

Henkin said much has been learned from the failed Phalcon radar deal between its neighbor and China, where the United States nixed the deal at the 11th hour and backed Israel into a corner.

Egypt does not want to be beholden to a single supplier. And as such, the country purchased a diverse array of arms from France, China and the United States, as well as Russia.

The fourth and perhaps most worrisome explanation for Israelis is the possibility that a cold peace with Egypt may break out into a conflict down the line.

Both Henkin and Winter believe this is a far-fetched scenario, but one that cannot be dismissed.

“Of course there is the Israeli legitimate fear that Israel still perceives Egypt as an enemy. I can see why Israel has a certain fear regarding some of its purchases, even though I don’t think it’s possible for them to have any plans in the future to have a conflict with Israel,” Winter said.

“If there is a moment they are on our borders, that would be a moment to get concerned, and it will probably [be] too late. Now is a moment to get concerned,” Henkin warned.

“We allowed Egypt to put into Sinai more than is allowed in our peace agreement with them,” he said, citing Israel’s willingness to ignore clauses in the peace agreement that forbid mobilizing Egyptian troops for the joint goal of defeating the Islamic State group. “ISIS is a force to be reckoned with. The arms control clause in the peace agreement is now an empty shell, and that’s cause for concern.

“Taking all these delicate concerns into account, the upshot is that Israel must maintain basic capacity for mechanized warfare against modern armies. It must not assume the present situation, in which Israel had a crushing material military advantage against its enemies ... will remain the same against other possible adversaries.”

In any event, Egypt certainly isn’t trying to be discrete about its newfound military prowess. “Everybody who follows Egypt can notice this trend over the last years. They don’t hide it,” Winter said.
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[*] posted on 4-2-2018 at 09:51 PM


February 4 2018 - 11:40AM

Israelis have secret pact with Egypt to take on ISIS

Greg Jaffe

Washington: Unmarked Israeli warplanes and helicopters have carried out dozens of covert attacks against the Islamic State and other terrorist groups inside the Egyptian Sinai in recent years, said two former senior US officials.

The airstrikes by Israeli planes are conducted with the support of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who has led an often brutal campaign inside Egypt to wipe out the jihadist groups but has struggled to defeat them.


An Israeli Air Force F-15 plane in flight during a graduation ceremony for new pilots in 2016 Photo: AP

In November, the Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State launched a brazen attack in which nearly 40 gunmen stormed the al-Rawdah mosque in Egypt's sparsely populated Sinai, killing more than 300 worshipers.

The terrorist group first came to widespread public attention for its suspected role in the downing of a Russian airliner in 2015, in which 224 people were killed. Egypt's military has struggled for years to destroy the group, which briefly seized control of the northern Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid and has launched dozens of attacks on soldiers, police and Coptic Christian churches.

The covert alliance between Egypt and Israel on counterterrorism shows how the rise of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups have helped forge quiet partnerships between Israel and its longtime Arab adversaries.

Israeli security officials say their regional security concerns increasingly align with those of the Persian Gulf states. In 2016, Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said Israeli officials were secretly meeting with counterparts from the gulf in "closed rooms" united against a common "bad guy" - Iran.

A former US official described the covert counterterrorism alliance between Israel and Egypt as a "big deal" but said that in recent years, counterterrorism relationships have become "a little bit insulated from ups and downs" of the region's tumultuous politics.

"The public perception of those two countries and how they relate is not in sync with how they work together privately on counterterrorism," said the former official, who was granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive alliance.

An Israeli military spokesman declined to comment on the alliance or confirm the existence of Israeli military operations inside Egypt.

Although there was an awareness of the strikes within the US government, the former official said, the United States did not play a significant coordinating or supporting role. The official described the cooperation between Egypt and Israel as "organic."

The Israeli aircraft operating in Egypt are unmarked and fly circuitous routes so it does not appear as if they are flying from Israel, reflecting the sensitivity of the program, according to the Times' report.

On Twitter, Israeli journalists hinted that they had been unable to report the story because of censorship restrictions. Israeli journalists are required to submit articles related to matters of national security to a military censor before publication, with regulation also covering social media posts.

Egypt, Israel and Hamas broadly began to tighten security cooperation two years ago, forming an unlikely alliance as the Islamic State's offshoot in Sinai began to stage more sophisticated, sustained attacks.

Under pressure from Egypt, Hamas has tightened its border with Sinai amid concerns in Cairo that Gaza could be used by Islamic State members as a staging ground. The Islamic State has lost much of its self-declared caliphate in Iraq and Syria over the past three years but remains a threat. Some U.S. counterterrorism experts warn that the group could step up terrorist attacks to prove its relevance, despite the collapse of its armies in Iraq and the loss of Raqqa, its capital in Syria.

U.S. officials have been carefully monitoring some of the group's more significant affiliates, such the branch in Sinai, to see how they may be affected by the broader collapse of the core group.
Washington Post
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[*] posted on 20-2-2018 at 12:57 PM


US Hindering Completion of Egypt-France Rafale Deal: La Tribune (excerpt)

(Source: Egypt Independent; posted Feb 18, 2018)

By Taha Sakr

The French weekly financial newspaper La Tribune reported on Friday that a deal between Cairo and France over the sale of 12 Rafale jet fighters to Egypt has been blocked because the US is refusing to export a component of a cruise missile that is part of the [deal].

French sources quoted in the report asserted that the delay in the deal is due to the shortage of the American component of the scalp missiles and not a funding issue as in the past.

La Tribune noted that Dassault Aviation and MBDA declined to confirm reports about the Scalp cruise missile, a low-observable air-launched cruise missile.

In response to the report, the Egyptian army’s official spokesperson Tamer El-Refa’ai told Egypt Independent on Sunday that the issue of the missing American component of the Scalp cruise missile is considered as French “internal affairs.”

The newspaper added that France has previously approved the export of the Scalp cruise missiles to Egypt, though the US’s refusal to provide the manufacturer with the American component obstructed this step.

This refusal triggered outrage among Egyptians who are insisting on receiving the Scalp cruise missiles before completing the Rafale deal. (end of excerpt)

Click here for the full story, on the Egypt Independent website.

http://www.egyptindependent.com/us-hindering-completion-egyp...

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[*] posted on 16-5-2018 at 01:47 PM


Russia and Egypt Strengthen and Expand Relations in Military Sphere

(Source: Russian Ministry of Defence; issued May 14, 2018)

Today, General of the Army Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Acting Defence Minister, held negotiations with Colonel General Sedki Sobhy, the Defence Minister of Egypt.

“We see stable progress of expanding cooperation in military sphere. We salute Egypt’s aspiration to equip its armed forces with modern armament and military hardware made in Russia”, Sergei Shoigu stressed.

At the same time he pointed out that Russia is interested in Cairo’s leading position in strengthening regional security and stability.

“We see evident progress in the bilateral relations”, Sergei Shoigu said.

He also noted that Russia highly appreciates the Egyptian government’s concern for development of bilateral relations in all spheres, including the military one.

Sergei Shoigu considered the regular meeting in “two plus two” format between defence ministers to be a key element of cooperation. During such event, Russian and Egyptian attaches have a unique opportunity to make sure we are on the same page on topical issues of the bilateral cooperation.

"We shall develop all that has been achieved, and we hope for greater achievements in all areas of military cooperation, including joint exercises," Sedki Sobhi assured in his turn, noting that these issues will be discussed in the course of 5th meeting of the Russian-Egyptian joint commission for military and technical cooperation, which is to be held in Moscow in August.

At the same time, Sedki Sobhi emphasized the fact that the complicated situation in the region, characterized, in particular, by high terrorist activity, has a significant impact on the development of the Armed Forces of Egypt.

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