Friday,26 May, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1339, (6 - 12 April 2017)
Friday,26 May, 2017
Issue 1339, (6 - 12 April 2017)

Ahram Weekly

The army’s crucial role

The chief instrument of Egyptian unity has always been the Egyptian army, today under attack as part of plans to destroy the Arab societies

Throughout their long history, the Egyptian people have always worshipped the land they live on and the borders that define it. They have never thirsted for more, as if to take on other territory would be to commit a sacrilege towards the land that has always offered them its blessings, one of which is its geographical location at the crossroads of Asia and Africa and its close connection to Europe.

Similarly, the Egyptian people will always resist any attempt on the part of a colonial power or religious or political authority to partition or fragment the land they hold so dear or to sow sectarian or ethnic animosities among them. Even in antiquity, when some of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs attempted to divide the country into north and south, or Upper and Lower Egypt, another dynasty would soon come along to reunite it.

The chief instrument of this unity has long been the army, the central supporting pillar of the vast canopy that embraces all the Egyptian people, their guardian and the guardian of their land, the bulwark against aggressors and the defender of the vital interests of the Egyptian state.

The Egyptian people from ancient to modern times have always understood the value of a national army whose soldiers are drawn from their own ranks: farmers, workers, craftsman, tradesmen and all other segments and classes of society. It is for this reason that the army fights so tenaciously to protect the people and safeguard their territories and why the people are so determined to safeguard their army and its cohesion in return and to promote its development.

Ever since antiquity, Egypt has repeatedly taught the world a crucial lesson: a people that does not have a strong national army is vulnerable to fragmentation or collapse. This is certainly a lesson that many countries in the Arab region today have yet to grasp, even after contributing to the destruction of their own armies by fostering civil strife and hatreds and allowing foreign powers and terrorist groups to intervene in their territories and to fuel various forms of conflict.

Another reason why the Egyptian army has always enjoyed a special relationship with the Egyptian people is because it has never been used as an instrument of repression or as a means for a ruler to attain ambitions at home or irredentist fantasies abroad through military adventures. And it is because of this special relationship that the army has always stood by the people in their uprisings and revolutions, the most recent instances of which were the 25 January 2011 and 30 June 2013 revolutions.

As a result, it is little wonder that any power or group that harbours ill-will towards Egypt and Egyptian society in order to attain its particular ends will take aim at the unique bond between the Egyptian people and their army. This is what is taking place today in the framework of plans to destroy the Arab armies and societies in the post-Arab Spring period.

The recent terrorist attack in Sinai, for which the Islamic State (IS) group, claimed responsibility and in which 12 Egyptian army officers and soldiers were killed, is the latest manifestation of a scheme conceived decades ago. This scheme was referred to by David Ben Gurion, the first Zionist prime minister and a disciple of Zionist ideologues Ze’ev Jabotinsky and Theodore Herzl. The greatness of Israel does not reside only in the possession of nuclear weapons and an arsenal of other powerful weapons, but also in eliminating the Arab armies of Egypt, Syria and Iraq, Ben Gurion said.

Later, following the October 1973 War, the then US secretary of state Henry Kissinger vowed to submerge the region in inter-Arab wars. Israel took part in these by drawing up a blueprint for a “New Middle East” project, and the Israeli politician Shimon Peres communicated with Zionists in the White House to help further such designs. Peres wanted to ensure the elimination of the national existence of the Arab people, to bring about the neutralisation of the three strongest Arab armies (those of Egypt, Syria and Iraq), and to realise Kissinger’s 1977 plans for the dissemination of chaos across the Arab region over the next 100 years.

He called for efforts to be made to undermine Arab military strength by pressuring western partners into refraining from training Arab armies, increasing logistical support for opposition groups in the Arab region, and utilising militia groups and supporting them with funds and weapons so that they could combat the Arab armies during a later phase.

The architects and executors of these designs later succeeded in promoting the terrorist militias that took part in destroying the Arab armies. They invented the euphemism of “the armed opposition”, as if this was something that would pass muster under international law. International law recognises a people’s right to armed resistance, against foreign occupation for example. But it does not recognise the right of groups that claim to oppose the government within specific countries to arm themselves, to form militias, and use their weapons against the security and government institutions of those countries together with their populations in the name of slogans such as “revolution”, “freedom”, or “resistance”.

Would Israel, or the US, or any western country acknowledge the legitimacy of an “armed opposition” operating on their territory?

When he was serving as the US military governor of Iraq during the US occupation of that country, Paul Bremer’s first decision was to dismantle the Iraqi army, once one of the strongest in the region and a thorn in Israel’s side. Then it was the turn of the Syrian army. With these out of the way, there remained only the Egyptian army. In spite of the Camp David Accords and the US military aid to Egypt that has limited the Egyptian army’s presence and functions in Sinai and restricted its ability to undertake operations against the Zionist state, this army is the sole remaining Arab threat to the Israeli enemy.

In addition to the destruction of the Iraqi army and the Syrian army’s preoccupation with domestic conflicts, after former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s nuclear ambitions were destroyed following the 11 September events, he and his regime were eliminated and Libya itself was plunged into a maelstrom of internal conflict. Sudan has been divided in two and its army has been weakened by internal conflicts. Yemen is being torn to shreds. Plans are now afoot to ignite Egypt’s eastern frontier of Sinai with the aid of the Muslim Brotherhood in collaboration with the terrorist groups it has sprouted and other extremist jihadist and takfiri groups.

The rise in attempts to bring about the loss of human lives in the Egyptian Armed Forces in Sinai should be noted. The takfiri and jihadist groups are bragging of their terrorist operations against the army. However, this was the same army that destroyed Israel’s Bar Lev Line in Sinai. Some military strategists had held that it would take a nuclear bomb to destroy it, but in 1973 Egyptian soldiers broke through the Line by blasting it with water cannons after which they advanced into Sinai in order to recapture it from the Israeli occupation.

What is happening in Sinai today is directly related to what happened in Iraq and is now happening in Syria. The objective is to stage a repeat here of the warfare, destruction and chaos that is happening there. It is part of a scheme to fragment the Arab states one after the other and to leave the Arab region without a single strong army that can stand up to Israel and Israeli designs to assert its hegemony over the “New Middle East” that it is doing everything it can to bring into being.

Certain developments in Egypt and in Sinai in particular are part of the plan of western, regional, and certain Arab powers to destabilise Egypt and to wreak attrition on its army in order to sap its ability to stand up to Israel. The point is to turn it into a weak force that is unable to deter enemies and is only equipped with what it would take to serve as a local counter-terrorist force with no ability to develop itself strategically.

The Egyptian army is the largest Arab army. Much of its hardware was destroyed in the 1967 War, but former president Gamal Abdel-Nasser before his death in 1970 managed to rebuild it and employ it in a long war of attrition that caused major losses to the Israeli army.

In spite of all the schemes targeting the Egyptian army today as part of designs to create a “New Middle East”, it nevertheless continues to advance in arms and training. Experts now rank it as the tenth strongest in the world, and it has the strategic vision to secure Egypt’s vital land, sea and air space.

However, the support of the Egyptian people and a united home front are, as always, the keys to the army’s strength and resilience. There is nothing inevitable about the success of the plans of those who seek to damage Egypt’s army. Indeed, the opposite is the case. Like all previous attempts to harm Egypt, these too will crash and break against Egyptian shores and the might of a civilisation with roots planted deep in the bedrock of history.

Their failure will nurture future generations in the story of this great people and its army and their lives together in this sacred land.

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