President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi in February planned to produce 40,000 rockets for Russia and instructed officials to keep production and shipment secret ‘to avoid problems with the West.
President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt, one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East and a major recipient of U.S. aid, recently ordered subordinates to produce up to 40,000 rockets to be covertly shipped to Russia, according to a leaked U.S. intelligence document.
A portion of a top secret document, dated Feb. 17, summarizes purported conversations between Sisi and senior Egyptian military officials and also references plans to supply Russia with artillery rounds and gunpowder. In the document, Sisi instructs the officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret “to avoid problems with the West.”
The Washington Post obtained the document from a trove of images of classified files posted in February and March on Discord, a chat app popular with gamers. The document has not been previously reported.
In September, U.S. officials announced they would withhold $130 million from Egypt’s annual allotment of $1.3 billion in security aid over Cairo’s human rights record. They cited steps toward releasing political prisoners in their decision not to withhold more aid, part of the administration’s attempt to balance concern about human rights with U.S. and regional security interests.
Successive American administrations have valued Egypt’s role in brokering agreements to contain violence in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In March, representatives from Israel and the Palestinian territories met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in an attempt to cool tensions around the latest flare-up of violence.
But for its part, Egypt has grown increasingly dissatisfied with its U.S. relationship, including the conditions Washington places on human rights and democratization. Cairo believes its position is weakened if it grows over-reliant on the United States and has sought to use its long-standing relationship with Russia as a way to exert leverage, said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“The military feels taken for granted by the U.S.,” he said.
Hanna said the fact that the two countries’ partnership had withstood intense disagreements in the past may have encouraged the Egyptian government to believe it could risk a move that would be sure to be met with intense disapproval in Washington.