When Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s generals finally acquiesced to the demands of the tens of thousands involved in roiling street protests last February and deposed the dictator, those same generals then stepped in to run the show. They’re still there, and as we’ve seen over the past few weeks—and particularly this past weekend, which saw dozens of protestors killed by Egyptian security forces—the revolutionaries who ousted Mubarak want the generals to make way for a real democratic transition.
But as shocking as Mubarak’s ouster was for the international order, and as much as it may have changed some of the strategic calculus of the region, some very important things remained exactly the same. Last week, at the same time as thousands of demonstrators again gathered in Tahrir Square, General Dynamics announced that it had received a $395 million award to provide 125 M1A1 Abrams tank kits to the Egyptian government. The award came as part of a $1.33 billion contract that provides not only the tanks (Egypt already has over 1,000 Abrams tanks), but armament systems, 125 M2 .50 caliber machine guns, 250 M240 7.62mm machine guns, as well as spare parts, maintenance, support and training.
Egypt has been buying Abrams kits form General Dynamics since 1988, and the Egyptian Army has been assembling them domestically ever since. As GD explains:
Since 1992, General Dynamics has provided components for kits used in the co-production program. The parts are shipped to a production facility near Cairo, Egypt, where the tanks are manufactured for the Egyptian Land Forces. This latest increment will increase the number of Egyptian co-production-built tanks to 1,130.
The co-production deal hearkens back to the 1979 Camp David Accords, which pulled Egypt away (at least partially) from buying Soviet military equipment and got them hooked up with the American defense industry.
Egyptian military leadership isn’t exactly covering itself in glory at the moment, slaughtering its own people in the streets, but it looks like in some respects at least, it’s business as usual.