Kerry woos Egypt looking for help in fighting ISIS
It doesn't take a masters degree in international relations to figure out that Egypt is the key to fighting ISIS - without committing American ground troops to the war. The military government will likely not contribute a sizable number of troops to the battle, but they are going to be the best trained, and best equipped in any coalition force.
Egypt has a large, well equipped army of about half a million men of unknown fighting qualities. Their last major deployment was during the first Gulf War where they acquitted themselves fairly well. Their equipment is a mish mash from several nations, including some ancient arms from the old Soviet Union, as well as more modern weapons of French, British and US origin.
Kerry is in Egypt today and will be touring the Middle East all week trying to create an army that will fight ISIS.
After meeting with Mr. Kerry in Cairo, Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister, declared at a joint news conference that “Egypt believes it is very important for the world to continue their efforts strongly to fight this extremism.”
But Egyptian officials declined to specify what help they would provide in the campaign against ISIS, and Mr. Shoukry made it clear that he also had in mind fighting Islamist militants at home and in neighboring Libya.
Mr. Kerry has already visited Baghdad; Amman, Jordan; and Ankara, Turkey; and he attended an emergency meeting of regional governments in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, in which Arab nations endorsed a coordinated military and political campaign against ISIS. Saudi Arabia has pledged to allow the training of Syrian rebel forces opposed to ISIS at bases in its territory, but no country in the region has publicly detailed what military support it might provide.
Early Sunday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott of Australia committed aircraft and military advisers to the effort. He said in a statement that the commitment was a response to a formal request from the United States, adding that combat troops would not be deployed. “The ISIL death cult threatens the people of Iraq, the region and the wider world,” Mr. Abbott said, referring to the group by the acronym for an alternate name, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.
The Obama administration is keen to enlist material support from regional powers with Sunni Muslim majorities like Egypt, Turkey and Saudi Arabia to avoid the impression that the United States is intervening in a sectarian war on behalf of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government against its opponents in the Sunni minority, some of whom have lent support to ISIS.
Egypt is not expected to make an important military contribution; rather, American officials want Cairo to use its clout as the traditional capital of Sunni Islam — and home to the Al Azhar center of Sunni scholarship — to mobilize public opinion in the Arab world against ISIS. “As an intellectual and cultural capital of the Muslim world, Egypt has a critical role to play,” Mr. Kerry said.
The government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is not feeling too friendly toward the United States these days. After Barack Obama supported efforts to topple President Musharraf, the US president then embraced the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood, who came into power promising to "reform" the military. This set off alarm bells in the army whose general officers have grown fat and rich by owning arms factories and getting juicy contracts from the government.
But Egypt receives about $1.5 billion in aid from the US every year - most of it in modern military equipment. So they will swallow their anger and support the US in our efforts to fight ISIS.
Just where are all these boots on the ground going to come from? The Arab states appear willing to stand on the sidelines and cheer us on as we take on the terrorists. That's why it's only a matter of time - probably after the election - until President Obama makes a 180 degree turn and authorizes US ground troops in Iraq.