Egypt riots are an intelligence chief's nightmare
Western intelligence in general and Israeli intelligence in particular did not foresee the scope of change in Egypt, which may require a reorganization of the IDF.By Amos Harel
The events of the last few days in Egypt – apparently the most important regional development since the Islamic revolution in Iran and the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal of 1979 – are also an expression of the decision-makers' nightmare, the planners and intelligence agents in Israel.
While in other countries many are watching with satisfaction at what looks to be possibly the imminent toppling of a regime that denied its citizens their basic rights, the Israeli point of view is completely different.
The collapse of the old regime in Cairo, if it takes place, will have a massive effect, mainly negative, on Israel's position in the region. In the long run, it could put the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan in danger, the largest strategic assets after the support of the United States.
The changes could even lead to changes in the IDF and cast a dark cloud over the economy.
Western intelligence in general and Israeli intelligence in particular did not foresee the scope of change in Egypt (the eventual descriptor "revolution" will apparently have to wait a little longer). Likewise, almost all of the media analysis and academic experts got it wrong.
In the possible scenarios that Israeli intelligence envisioned, they admittedly posited 2011 as a year of possible regime change – with a lot question marks – in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but a popular uprising like this was completely unexpected.
More than this, in his first appearance at a meeting last Wednesday of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee the new head of military intelligence Major General Aviv Kochavi said to member of Knesset, "There are currently no doubts about the stability of the regime in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood is not organized enough to take over, they haven't managed to consolidate their efforts in a significant direction."
If the Mubarak regime is toppled, the quiet coordination of security between Israel and Egypt will quickly be negatively affected. It will affect relations between Cairo's relationship with the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, it will harm the international forces stationed in Sinai.
It will mean the refusal of Egypt to continue to allow the movement of Israeli ships carrying missiles through the Suez canal, which was permitted for the last two years, according to reports in the foreign press, in order to combat weapons smuggling from Sudan to Gaza. In the long run, Egypt's already-cold peace treaty with Israel will get even colder.
From the perspective of the IDF, the events are going to demand a complete reorganization. For the last 20 years, the IDF has not included a serious threat from Egypt in its operational plan.
In the last several decades, peace with Cairo has allowed the gradual thinning out of forces, the lowering of maximum age for reserve duty and the diversion of massive amounts of resources to social and economic projects.
The IDF military exercises focused on conflict with Hezbollah and Hamas, at most in collusion with Syria. No one prepared with any seriousness for a scenario in which an Egyptian division would enter Sinai, for example.
If the Egyptian regime falls in the end, a possibility that seemed unbelievable only two or three days ago, the riots could easily spill over to Jordan and threaten the Hashemite regime. On Israel's two long peaceful borders there will then prevail a completely different reality.