Saturday, September 26, 2015

What Difference, At This Point, Would They Make?

Does it matter if Egypt gets power projection capabilities with two French Mistral class amphibious warfare ships paid for by Saudi Arabia?

This is interesting:

Egypt has agreed to buy two Mistral-class warships from France, the French government said Wednesday, announcing its second military sale to the economically-strapped country this year.

The assault ships, which can each carry 16 helicopter gunships, 700 troops and up to 50 armored vehicles, were originally intended for Russia.

They'd certainly be useful to project power along the coast of Libya; perhaps to Lebanon; around their own Sinai peninsula; down the Red Sea to Sudan, Yemen, Eritrea, and Somalia; and even to the Persian Gulf to fight for islands in Hormuz and the Gulf.

But would Egypt use them? Even for Saudi Arabia for a fee? Or in payment for the aid Saudi Arabia has already given?

I called for Egyptian ground forces for Libya during the civil war. I called for Egyptian marines to deal with Somali pirate bases. I've even expected Egyptian ground forces for Yemen to help Saudi Arabia (for a price) battle Iran's efforts to create a client state there.

While I read rumors that Egypt sent four companies to Yemen, I've heard nothing about them. And I read that Egypt denied having sent 800 troops to Yemen, for what it's worth (sorry, forgot to save the article).

So the Egyptians haven't stepped up in any of these crises despite being a regional military power with a desire to be a leader in the Arab world.

So what difference would the ability to dispatch a couple battalions by sea make in Egypt's decisions to use military power? Even if paid to do so?

UPDATE: Actually, I suspect the ship deal is less about improving Egyptian power-projection capabilities that might be used to help Saudi Arabia than it is a Saudi effort to pull France away from Iran--which France's approval of the nuclear deal despite earlier resistance to caving in to Iran indicates happened.

With early reports that Egypt will get 50 Russian helicopters (no doubt financed by Saudi Arabia) to equip the two vessels fits with this thinking to give Russia a reason to not side fully with Iran.