The modern military doctrine of Egypt is defensive in nature. It is based on the “principle of deterrence”, maintaining military balance with the surrounding states “on land, in the air and at sea” in order to force them to abandon the use of force against the ARE. It is believed that the military organization of the state “must ensure the territorial integrity of the country, protect its population, maintain sovereignty, ensure the achievement of strategic goals, prevent external and internal threats and fight terrorism”. At the same time, now the Egyptians estimate the possibility of direct military aggression by another state as low. At the same time, instability among neighbors (Libya, Sudan, Palestinian territories) can lead to the outbreak of border conflicts with the escalation of them into local and large-scale wars. At the same time, in Cairo, they believe that in the next 10-20 years the situation in the region can change drastically and inter-state conflicts will again become a reality. Moreover, these conflicts will become more dangerous than threats from insurgents or terrorists. Therefore, more important is preparing for wars with regular armies. Egypt itself is not going to start military operations without a direct threat to national security.
The very serious challenge is the actions of extremist and terrorist groups directly on the territory of Egypt, which represents a direct threat to the security and stability of the ruling regime. We also note that the official views on the use of the armed forces allow their use inside the country to suppress anti-government protests, riots and eliminate the consequences of man-made and environmental disasters.
In Cairo, they believe that the Egyptian army should be a reliable guarantor of regional security and stability — “it is this role [of the army] that should be the main one”. The ARE leadership considers building up the power of the national armed forces and the military-industrial complex the most important condition for solving the tasks posed in the field of defense and security. To date, the Armed Forces of Egypt (486 thousand people) are the largest in the Arab world and Africa. They are mostly technically well equipped, and the Egyptian military industrial complex occupies one of the first places in the Middle East. The armed forces are an important foreign political resource of Egypt. Cairo uses the status of the most militarily strong Arab and African country to enhance the prestige of Egypt in the region, as well as attract foreign aid.
The possibility of an armed conflict with Israel is not completely ruled out, although such a scenario is considered to be extremely unlikely. This is not desired either in Egypt or in Israel. However, the main grouping of the APE Armed Force is deployed in the area between the Suez Canal and Cairo with the task of repelling an Israeli attack. From the point of view of Egypt, Israel’s military dominance in the region creates a potential for instability, serving as a lever for political pressure on the Arabs. From this it is concluded that peace with Israel rests on maintaining the balance of power, and if this balance is upset, then peace can collapse. The special concern and worry of the Egyptians is the presence of nuclear weapons in Israel, which is not in doubt.
The military doctrinal views of the ARE leadership do not exclude the possibility of the participation of the Egyptian army in local wars and armed conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. Here, the most important task is to ensure the water security of the country, to prevent encroachments on its water resources. In regional armed conflicts, the actions of the ARE Armed Forces are envisaged both independently and as part of coalition groups. Cairo considers Arabian monarchies to be friendly states in the region, primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Jordan. Egypt also does not intend to abandon the development of strategic partnership with the United States, and will “continue close military and intelligence cooperation” between the two countries. Relations with Russia are developing, including in the military sphere.
According to the views of the military-political leadership of Egypt, the state’s defensive strategy should be based on the combined strength of the armed forces, including: the ground forces “able to defend and protect the Egyptian borders throughout and protect the national interests of the country; the air force and air defense forces capable of protecting national airspace; the Navy and coastal defense forces capable of defending the Egyptian coast, vital sea routes in the Mediterranean and Red Seas, and protecting the ports of the country”. With all this, the structure and deployment of the Egyptian armed forces must meet the emerging “strategic balance” in the region.
The Egyptian leadership believes that the national armed forces should be maintained in a high degree of combat capability and combat readiness. This is due to the persistence of threats and challenges to Egypt in the region, Israel’s military superiority over Egypt, the need for a “defense umbrella” for the economic development of the country and the implementation of major economic projects, the need for international use of force in the Middle East and Africa.
According to Egyptian estimates, the main factor determining the size of the country’s armed forces is the regional balance of power. The number and quality of armaments, plans for operational use of the Armed Forces, strategic goals of the state, relations with other countries in the region, and the presence of effective military-political alliances also have an effect on the size of the army. Of great importance in determining the necessary defense needs is the ability of the state to find sources of assistance at the regional and international level. In general, today the Egyptian army largely retains the traditional look, focused mainly on the conduct of hostilities with the regular armies of other states. It is noted that in preserving this image of the Egyptian armed forces “the inertia of the thinking of the generals, who are used to preparing the army for a big war, plays an important role”. At the same time, large batches of heavy weapons purchased abroad are “ineffective within the framework of the Egyptian security forces’ struggle against terrorist challenges in the Sinai and in the Libyan border area”. Moreover, “in fact, only a few of the recent arms deals directly relate to the real needs of the army in Sinai, where the Egyptian troops mainly campaign with capabilities and equipment outdated morally and technically”.
At the same time, at present, the north of Sinai is actually a theater of military operations. The Egyptian army and other power structures are trying to clear the peninsula of numerous armed and terrorist groups, to cut the ways in which the militants and weapons fall into Sinai. At the same time, despite the measures taken by the authorities, it is still not possible to achieve significant success in the fight against jihadists and their allies. The military is not in a position to destroy large terrorist bases of support and block their supply routes. The development of the situation on the peninsula indicates that the struggle here will be protracted.
President A.F. Al-Sisi has repeatedly stated that the security of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf zone and the protection of navigation in the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait are a priority for Egypt’s national security. ARE participates in the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, which since 2015 has been conducting a military operation against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. At the same time, Cairo did not send troops to this country, limiting itself to sending a small detachment of warships to the region of Aden. Egypt also declares its commitment to a political settlement of the Yemeni conflict. At the same time, there is information that Cairo does not want to participate in the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA, “Arab NATO”), the creation of which is lobbied by the current US administration. The MESA is planned to include six Gulf countries (Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, KSA), as well as Egypt and Jordan. Experts emphasize that Egypt “would not want to become an eternal satellite of the KSA and the United Arab Emirates, despite the partnership with the Arabian monarchies”. In addition, “in Cairo, they are not sure that Trump, who started the game with the Arab NATO, will be re-elected for a second term”.
In general, military doctrinal provisions adopted in Egypt are unlikely to undergo significant adjustments in the near future. Under the conditions of permanently complex and unstable situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the ARE leadership will continue to further strengthen the defense capability of the Egyptian state and increase the military power of its army.
Institute of the Middle East.
On changes in the military-political situation in the Middle East and North Africa (May 27 — June 2, 2019).