Egypt general's paper offers insight into thinking

Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:43am GMT

By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's new second-in-command of the military has said that U.S. troops should be withdrawn from the Middle East while any democratisation in the region should come from within and have religious legitimacy, according to a paper he wrote in 2005.

Though published before U.S. President Barack Obama was elected, the document written while newly appointed Chief of Staff Sidki Sobhi was studying in the United States offers a rare insight into the thinking of a top officer in the traditionally opaque Egyptian army.

The generals, who for decades stayed in the shadows, were thrust to the fore when Hosni Mubarak, himself a former air force commander, was toppled in an uprising last year and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces took charge.

An Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, came to office in June and stamped his authority over the military this week by retiring the country's two top generals and taking back vital powers they had earlier retained for themselves.

Though generals held news conference and gave interviews when in charge, they gave little away in public about their thoughts on broader policy beyond the transition, such as the crucial relationship with the United States, which gives Egypt $1.3 billion in military aid a year and trains many officers.

"I recommend that the permanent withdrawal of the United States military forces from the Middle East and the Gulf should be a goal of the U.S. strategy in this region," wrote Sobhi, then a brigadier general studying for a Master of Strategic Studies Degree at the U.S. War College.

He added in his concluding remarks to the 10,600-word thesis "that the United States should pursue its strategic goals in the region through socioeconomic means and the impartial application of international law", in a reference to what he had earlier described as Washington's "one-sided" relationship with Israel.

He said the presence of U.S. troops in the region had been used as a justification for armed struggle by radical Islamists.   Continued...

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