The drums of war on the Libyan-Egyptian border are not beating in the way we are familiar with. Their echo is resonating everywhere in the world. Although not conventional, these drums of war are growing louder and louder.
Last month, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi warned of the readiness of his country’s army to intervene both within and outside its borders, in a clear reference to the conflict in neighboring Libya. By saber-rattling on Egypt’s western border with Libya, El-Sisi wanted to send clear and strong messages to all: The Egyptian forces are ready to enter any confrontation, and with any party, in order to protect Egypt’s national security.
“Any direct intervention in Libya will be aimed at securing the border,” the president said, adding that “any direct intervention by Egypt now has international legitimacy,” and that “some think they can trespass on the Sirte or Al-Jufra front lines. This, for us, is a red line. As long as the neighboring countries are stable, Egypt is stable. This is what the distant and near history has taught us, and so did the Egyptian military doctrine, which only intervenes if asked. This happened in the 1948 war in Palestine against Zionist gangs and in the 1991 war for the liberation of Kuwait.”
Egypt has always prioritized Egyptian security first and then Arab security in shouldering its responsibilities and playing its national role, not caring about losses and profits, in support of its well-established values, principles and doctrine.
History is now repeating itself, with Turkey’s flagrant threat to Egypt’s red lines, both in Libya and in the Mediterranean.
El-Sisi’s saber-rattling on Libya, urging his military to be ready to carry out any mission outside the country and beating of the drums of “war preparedness,” is well grounded. As per the Egyptian military doctrine, Egypt will never be the initiator or the aggressor. We are not lost on the high price we paid for our commitment to this doctrine during the Six-Day War in 1967. Egypt then adhered to the calls and demands of the Arab leaders not to be the initiator of war, so Israel surprised us with its strikes. Egypt, by now asserting its readiness and preparedness for war, is not saying that war is coming. However, it is trying to send various signals on a large number of fronts. The first signal is purely political, as Egypt seeks during this period to restore its great and positive role in the Arab and African regions. The participation of the Egyptian president and state officials in more than one political meeting in this context confirms this point.
It goes without saying that political and diplomatic meetings need strong support. The Egyptian military’s strength — it is ranked ninth in the world according to the Global Firepower Index — comes in support of the political stature that Egypt is now building.
“Oh Egypt, your golden sun has returned,” is not just a song title by the iconic Lebanese singer Fairuz, but is also a reality imposed by the events since 2014, with an important and vital presence established at all levels. A large number of the countries of the world now support what the Egyptian state is instilling in Libya through its continuous calls for peace and legitimacy there. Another reality that solidifies and emphasizes the prominent role that Egypt plays in our time is its just position on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
The second signal is internal, addressed to the Egyptian people. The strength of the Egyptian military has become clear to the Egyptians after criticism of the government’s spending priorities. A large group of Egyptians were criticizing the issue of the country spending so much money on weapons they described as unused, referring in this context to the purchases of French Rafale aircraft, Mistral-class German ships and others. They advised the Egyptian state to instead direct this spending to some dying sectors, such as health and education.
These critics lack a clear vision, as they have been unable to see what the Egyptian leadership is trying to prove by balancing spending on important and vital services with spending on armaments, which has become a necessity in this volatile region.
President El-Sisi’s parading before the armed forces undoubtedly sent a message of reassurance to the Egyptian people, who are now well aware of the strength of their army and its ability to tackle the many dangers it faces during this period.
Following the Jan. 25, 2011, revolution, Egyptians were left with doubts about the strength of their army and its ability to face threats to national security. The Muslim Brotherhood, which ruled Egypt between 2012 and 2013, is to be blamed for kindling these doubts, which the new government, El-Sisi and the military leaders have tirelessly tried to suppress. The Egyptian people regained confidence in their army after seeing it on many occasions, on televisions and in newspapers, parading with their new equipment and weapons. The most recent exhibition was when El-Sisi visited the military detachment in Egypt’s western region near the border with Libya.
The readiness to fight at any time or place and under any circumstances is a well-established doctrine of the Egyptian army. The image of the Egyptian government, people and army standing united sends a very important message of deterrence to anyone who believes that confrontation with Egypt is easy or who wants to exploit a fictitious division of opinions on the nature of the tasks and priorities of the Egyptian state. All Egyptians stand united, in heart and soul, when it comes to their security. The message of deterrence is very important as Egypt already has a shield to protect it and a sword on the necks of those who are thinking of attacking it by land or sea. Egypt also has a strong diplomacy that is globally effective, can clarify the Egyptian right before all forums, and ensure international legitimacy for all its actions.
As per the Egyptian military doctrine, Egypt will never be the initiator or the aggressor.
Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy
Finally, by showcasing its readiness to fight anywhere, at any time, Egypt is sending a signal to foreign countries and to the Turkish and Ethiopian leaderships in particular. Egypt and its military will never be silent about threats to its national security, whether at the territorial level in Libya or at the level of water rights amid the continuing Ethiopian procrastination and prevarication during the GERD negotiations.
The signals are not only military, but also political, which is characteristic of the Egyptian administration today, as it can operate on many fronts with the same efficiency and adeptness.
- Dr. Abdellatif El-Menawy