Analysis: Egypt does not need 30,000 RPGs from North Korea



Mon, 02 Oct 2017 - 10:14 GMT


Mon, 02 Oct 2017 - 10:14 GMT

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House in Washington - REUTERS_Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the White House in Washington - REUTERS_Carlos Barria

CAIRO - 3 October 2017:The Washington Post reported on Sunday that a shipment of 30,000 rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) coming from North Korea was intercepted as it was passing through the Suez Canal. However, their article had several loopholes that went accounted for.

The article claimed in the beginning that the U.S. administration had warned Egypt of a vessel sailing through the Suez Canal with Cambodian flags, when it in fact sailed from North Korea.

Taking the tip into consideration, Egyptian officials waited for the ship only to inspect it and find that there in fact was a massive amount of weapons in it, the article said.

“A U.N. investigation uncovered a complex arrangement in which Egyptian business executives ordered millions of dollars’ worth of North Korean rockets for the country’s military while also taking pains to keep the transaction hidden, according to U.S. officials and Western diplomats familiar with the findings. The incident, many details of which were never publicly revealed, prompted the latest in a series of intense, if private, U.S. complaints over Egyptian efforts to obtain banned military hardware from Pyongyang, the officials said,” reported The Washington Post.

Now the problem with these claims is that most of them are hidden, and the article is built on an extremely fragile foundation of what they deem “evidence.” Not one source was actually announced, and the details were extremely vague. The article seems to be built more on assumptions than on actual, irrefutable evidence.

Their biggest loophole was declaring that U.S. President Trump had cut part of his aid to Egypt under allegations that he was curbing North Korean ties, especially those with Egypt.

Back in August, the U.S. justified its delay in delivering aid by claiming that Egypt had failed to progress in the field of human rights, and referred to the newly legislated law which restricted civil society.

During the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly, Trump insisted on meeting with Sisi after delaying aid tranche to ensure and emphasize their bilateral relations’ strength and solidity.

On September 10, the Bright Star 2017 military training camp that was a joint Egyptian-American endeavor commenced on the newly inaugurated Mohamed Naguib military base. Since military cooperation between the U.S. and Egypt had become solidified, it seems rather naïve to request an arms deal from the most isolated and opposed state on earth, rather than the U.S. itself, who has the state of the art military technology, of course.

U.S. and Egyptian armed forces members attend the Bright Star 2017 opening ceremony, Sept. 10, 2017, at Mohamed Naguib Military Base, Egypt. Bright Star is a combined command-post and field training exercise aimed at enhancing regional security and stability by responding to modern-day security scenarios with the Arab Republic of Egypt. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Battles) – Courtesy of U.S. Central Command

Furthermore, the article also outlined that the deal was supposedly made between Egyptian businessmen and North Korea. Said businessmen were not identified, which indicates another loophole in their argument. If those businessmen were not identified, it is very possible that the deal was not even legal. Another argument would question why custom officials would even check the shipment. If the government had truly ordered the shipment, why wouldn’t they issue orders allowing the shipment to be taken in immediately rather than be checked?

Why wouldn’t the government send back the shipment once it was spotted by the U.S., and was discovered to have come from North Korea? Surely, Egypt wouldn’t want to damper its strong relations with the U.S. that were initiated since Trump’s inauguration as president.

In an even simpler argument, one can easily conclude that since Egypt is not under the UN arms embargo, it has no use nor need for 30,000 RPGs from North Korea. In 2016, Egypt and France were set to ink an arms deal worth €1 billion, according to La Tribune. Three years earlier, in 2014, Russia and Egypt sealed a preliminary arms deals worth $3.5 billion, according to Reuters. That is not to mention that Egyptian-Russian bilateral relations have been strong for several years now, especially in the economic, military, and energy sectors.

In Defense Minister Sedky Sobhy’s visit to Seoul on September 11, he clearly dictated that Egypt has cut all ties to North Korea. It would be rather naïve for any government to declare that it has boycotted another country when it is expecting a shipment of arms from them to arrive just a few weeks later.

Egyptian Defense Minister Sedqi Sobhi and his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo in Seoul

The Washington Post did state at the end, “In any case, the February UN report on the incident sidesteps the question of who was meant to receive the rockets, saying only that the munitions were destroyed by Egypt under UN supervision, and that ‘the destination and end user of the equipment was investigated by the Egyptian general prosecutor.’”

So the shipment of weapons that was supposedly ordered by the government was authorized to be inspected by a civilian authority, which subsequently declared the contents of the shipment with all transparency. It even let a UN inspection team examine the cargo, and destroyed said cargo under that team’s supervision.

The Washington Post tried to recover from that argument by stating that “the most damning evidence was discovered on the crates. Each had been stenciled with the name of an Egyptian company, but someone had taken trouble of covering the lettering with a canvas patch. Diplomats familiar with the investigation confirmed the involvement of the Egyptian company, but declined to name it.”

It definitely failed at bolstering its argument there. The fact that diplomats “confirmed” but then “declined to name” the company is a lack of transparency on their behalf. If the aim of the article was to criminalize Egypt, it has failed to do so.

In its track record with the UN, Egypt has never been known to violate any of the Security Council’s resolutions. It has never been announced that Egypt traded arms with any state under the UN arms embargo, nor has it ever been declared that Egypt supplied any militias in civil wars or internal conflicts in general.

It seems as though The Washington Post either devised an incredibly thin argument, or the U.S. has started to falter in its promises of support to Egypt.



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