Egypt continues to push the limits after having originally received permission from Israel to bring troops into the Sinai under the pretense of going after nests of terrorists there.
Bryen writes about the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) that has existed in the Sinai since 1981. Its mission is to:
supervise the implementation of the security provisions of the Egyptian-Israeli Treaty of Peace and employ best efforts to prevent violations of its terms. [emphasis added]The 1,656 soldiers from 12 nations are entrusted with:
- Operation of checkpoints
- Reconnaissance patrols and observation posts
- Verification of continued implementation of various arms limitations in the Sinai
- Ensuring freedom of navigation through the Strait of Tiran
- Monitoring the deployment of border guards along the Egyptian side of the Gaza/Egypt border to ensure that it meets the terms agreed to by Israel and Egypt in 2005.
So when Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta changes the mission of the Multinational Force, it sets off alarms.
So how odd it is that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has announced that the U.S. "is providing additional military assistance to peacekeeping forces in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula to strengthen security in the region."Read the whole thing.
Panetta said no additional troops had been sent to Sinai, but that the U.S. was working closely with Egyptian leaders "to determine what additional help they may need in order to ensure that the area is secured."
To change the mission of the MFO from monitoring the Israel-Egypt peace treaty to helping Egypt secure the Sinai from terrorists/jihadists/al Qaeda is a change that cannot be undertaken lightly – and should not be taken unilaterally. To change the force from the touchstone for both Israel and Egypt into an ally of Egypt in military operations will undermine its status in the future.
...Secretary Panetta is not talking about how the force protects itself while it does the job it was designed to do. He is talking about helping Egypt do something forbidden by the Camp David Accords – bring large-scale military forces into Sinai. [emphasis added]
This comes after statements coming out of Egypt that indicate they will use the recent terrorist attack as an excuse to exercise full control and sovereignty over the Sinai at a time that recent Egyptian operations against terrorism indicate Egypt has just been going through the motions.
By changing the mission of the MFO, Panetta is pulling the rug out from under Israel, making it that much more difficult to negotiate the already delicate negotiations that will be necessary for Israel to ensure that Egypt pulls back those extra troops and does not continue to violate its peace treaty with Israel.
One might have thought it would be in the interest of the Obama administration to preserve the status quo and avoid additional tensions, especially while Iran threatens Israel with nuclear weapons.
Apparently, one would be wrong.
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