As Egyptians prepare for massive protests against the U.S. government-backed Muslim Brotherhood regime of Mohamed Morsi, the Obama administration is set to deploy hundreds of American troops to Egypt. While more than a few analysts have argued that U.S. forces will be used to continue propping up “Islamofascists” in the Middle East, authorities from both governments claim the soldiers are merely being sent as part of a nine-month international “peacekeeping” scheme.
According to official accounts, the so-called “Multinational Force and Observers” (MFO) mission, composed of troops serving 13 governments, is aimed at controlling riots and violence. Another primary purpose, government spokesmen claimed, is enforcing the 1979 peace treaty between Israeli and Egyptian authorities. News reports and official statements suggest the American troops, serving under MFO command, will be operating security checkpoints and responding to threats.
The exact date of deployment has not been announced yet, but U.S. troops spent some six months training at Fort Hood and Fort Irwin for the mission and will reportedly be ready to go in the “near future.” Local U.S. media reports, citing military officials, said American forces had been trained for riot control featuring exercises with Molotov cocktails and other “dangerous items” in anticipation of violent protests. Another possibility would be protecting the border with Israel, according to reports.
Two soldiers quoted in a KCEN-TV report offered few details as video of U.S. troops wearing police riot gear flashed on the screen. "Just what I've seen over the course of the past week, this unit is already far more ready for this type of threat than we were a week ago," said Lt. Matthew Wilkinson without elaborating on the nature of the threat. Another, PFC Perez Alexander, explained: "We want to be as professional as possible so that, whatever situation we encounter, the opposing force knows that we mean business and we know what we're doing."
The American soldiers, whose training ended last week, are set to be deployed in the dangerous and volatile Sinai Peninsula. Security has continued to deteriorate throughout the region following the uprising that swept longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak from power, with some analysts suggesting the escalating unrest could spark problems for both Israel and the increasingly hardline Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo.
In a June 19 press release, the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division confirmed that a battalion “task force” from the 3rd Brigade Combat Team would indeed be heading to the Sinai this summer to participate in the international “peacekeeping force.” According to the statement, the more than 400 troops will be based on the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula, near Sharm-el-Sheikh, manning “observation posts” and checkpoints along the southeast coast.
Egyptian officials, meanwhile, were quick to downplay the American deployment. "The 400 U.S. soldiers coming to Egypt as mentioned in the media are part of the periodical renewal routine for the U.S. faction of the 13-state multinational force deployed in Sinai since the peace treaty. They are not armed with military operations gear," Egyptian military spokesman Ahmed Ali was quoted as saying. "We are providing this clarification as we respect the right of the great Egyptian people to know the truth from its original sources and to prevent distortion of information by any instigators."
The timing of the news, however, has made analysts and commentators suspicious. An Egyptian group known as “Rebels” or “Rebellion,” described in media reports as “secular” and “liberal,” announced over the weekend that it had gathered some 15 million signatures to impeach Morsi, who was elected after Mubarak was forced out. The petition cites a number of grievances including lack of security, widespread poverty, shortages of basic goods, and more.
“We’ve had enough of Morsi… He has done nothing, he’s only helped his own people,” said Ghada Naguib, a member of the organization’s coordinating committee, in an interview with the Global Post. “We don’t need him to do anything anymore. We just need him to leave… We will finish our revolution.” The group is calling for massive, nation-wide protests against the elected government on June 30, and counter-demonstrations are expected.
Writing in FrontPage magazine, analyst Arnold Ahlert blasted the deployment of U.S. troops to Egypt as “yet another remarkable display of Obama’s determination to secure the Middle East for Islamofascists.” Ahlert also slammed the “spectacular absurdity” of using American forces to augment Egyptian police and defend Morsi’s “thuggish” Islamist Muslim Brotherhood regime from popular protests calling for its ouster.
An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily, entitled “Now Obama Using Troops To Prop Up Cairo's Islamofascists,” came to similar conclusions, saying the president was sending U.S. forces to “protect a regime that supports terrorists.” Citing news reports, the editorial said Obama’s effort was meant to help the “Islamofascist regime there repel its own citizens protesting increasing human-rights violations.”
More than a few analysts have also highlighted what they perceive as problems with Morsi’s Islamist rule. Among the most serious: media censorship, increasing attacks on the Coptic Christian minority, packing government organs with Islamic extremists, cracking down on protesters, issuing lawless “decrees” that critics call dictatorial, ramming through an Islamist constitution, prosecuting foreign government-funded “democracy” groups, and more.
Because of those issues, U.S. lawmakers tried to make American aid to the Egyptian government contingent on political reforms. Despite federal law, however, the Obama administration waived the human-rights requirements and continued to shower billions of U.S. taxpayer money on the Muslim Brotherhood regime, providing everything from “economic assistance” to advanced military weaponry — not to mention the latest deployment of American troops. Of course, the U.S. Constitution does not authorize any of it.
“With this action, the Obama Administration reinforces the Muslim Brotherhood even as it steps up its blasphemy prosecutions against Egypt's Christians and even as Egypt's president appointed an actual terrorist leader as governor of an important region,” Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow with the American Center for Law and Justice said in an e-mail blasting the new $1.3 billion “cash stimulus” for the Muslim Brotherhood supplied by Secretary of State John Kerry. “Speak up. Tell the Administration, tell Congress, there should be no taxpayer money for jihad.”
In quietly skirting the restrictions on foreign military aid to Egypt imposed by Congress, Kerry claimed doling out the taxpayer money was necessary to maintain a channel to Egyptian military leaders. Critics in Congress and among commentators, however, blasted the decision, saying the assistance would be used to protect the regime while advancing the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in the region. So far, the administration has remained quiet about the troop deployment.
Egyptian officials, though, rebuffed widespread reports suggesting that U.S. forces were being sent to protect the regime from an uprising. “They are only training as a precautionary measure,” Major Ahmed Shaaban told Daily News Egypt, adding that it was routine. “They are only training to protect themselves as a matter of high-level security. I don’t think these trainings are necessary because the peacekeeping force is not even authorized to conduct any military operations; they are only there to observe and report.”
The 1979 agreement between the governments of Israel and Egypt, brokered with help from U.S. President Jimmy Carter, saw Israeli troops withdraw from the Sinai in exchange for peace, official recognition, demilitarization of the peninsula, navigation rights, and more. When the United Nations refused to provide “peacekeeping” troops, the Rome-based MFO was created to help monitor compliance, with the U.S. government among the foreign powers agreeing to provide military forces.
It remains unclear what provision of the Constitution the U.S. government believes authorizes the deployment of troops to Egypt and the provision of billions in aid to foreign governments. Details of the American mission in Sinai remain murky, as well. What is apparent to analysts, though, is that putting supposedly unarmed U.S. troops in such a volatile area could easily and quickly result in disaster.
Photo of U.S. troops training at Ft. Irwin
Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at
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