Guarantor of Stability (II)

CAIRO/BERLIN | | aegypten

CAIRO/BERLIN (Own report) - Serious accusations about the use of torture are being raised against the Egyptian military, which for decades had been supported by the Federal Republic of Germany. Over the past few days, according to reports by various human rights organizations, soldiers have abducted hundreds - possibly even thousands - of demonstrators and tortured many of them. Serious accusations had already been raised earlier against the Mukhabarat secret service, a partner agency to the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND), which had been presided over by the Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman, considered currently the most powerful individual in Cairo. Suleiman now threatens a putsch. Strong West German support for the Egyptian military and the Mukhabarat was not limited to the 1950s. Following an interruption due to a reorientation in US foreign policy strategy, West Germany has been re-engaged in Egypt's arms buildup and training since the late 1970s. This has to be seen in the context of geostrategic considerations for controlling the resources of the Middle East region, which is why this support will be continued in spite of the current accusations of torture.


Human rights organizations are raising serious accusations of torture against the Egyptian military. As Human Rights Watch reported, soldiers and military police officers have arbitrarily abducted at least 119 protestors over the past few days, several of whom have been tortured.[1] Observers estimate the total number of victims, among them journalists, to range into the hundreds, "possibly thousands."[2] Reports began to surface already earlier that the Mukhabarat secret service, an appendage of the military, had also abducted journalists.[3] Mukhabarat is a partner agency to the West German Federal Intelligence Service (BND). The long-time head of the Mukhabarat, Omar Suleiman, recently named Vice President, and currently the most powerful individual in Cairo, has threatened a putsch, if the protests do not subside soon. Repression and threats are intended to insure the predominance of the military, which, de facto, already has control of the government.


Cooperation between Germany's Bundeswehr and BND with the repressive organs of the Egyptian state dates back to the 1950s, when former Nazi Wehrmacht and SS personnel were involved in upgrading the Egyptian military. ( reported.[4]) This cooperation had been successful for more than a decade until it was interrupted in the 60s.

A New US Strategy

The German-Egyptian military and intelligence service cooperation was interrupted in the 60s after the US government changed the course of its Middle East policy in the mid 1950s. In the aftermath of the Free Officers' putsch, Washington had initially sought to solidly bind Egypt to the western camp. Soon it became clear that Cairo was insisting on its autonomy. The Egyptian government refused to join the NATO-appendage, the pro-western "Baghdad Pact", founded in 1955 and sought to obtain arms supplies from Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. Shortly before the 1956 Suez Crisis, the CIA was developing its first plans to overthrow Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser - plans that were initially promoted and further pursued in the 60s by CIA agent Frank Wisner, the father of the current US special envoy to Egypt.[5] Following the Suez Crisis, the USA settled on a Middle East strategy targeting Egypt and other nations of the region seeking their autonomy [6] - and relied on Israel, as its military deputy, for pursuing its hegemonic plans.

Military Cooperation with Israel

Bonn, at the time, was also called upon for its support. In 1957 the Federal Republic of Germany and Israel, the USA's central partner, entered secret talks on military cooperation - at a time, when there were no diplomatic relations between the two countries, because they would have been difficult to justify to Israeli Holocaust survivors. After delivery of German tanks and warships, providing a boost to the German arms industry, top secret contacts were initiated between the Mossad and the tightly CIA bound BND, under the leadership of the former Nazi agent Reinhard Gehlen. Military cooperation between Bonn and Cairo no longer fit into this new orientation of the West German - US-American Middle East policy, even though, for a while, Washington still viewed the cooperation with toleration, because it kept Cairo from entering unilateral military cooperation with the Eastern European nations. But, when a new escalation loomed on the horizon in the 1960s, this cooperation was terminated.

Rockets and Assassination Attempts

The rocket development program, initiated in Egypt by former Nazi rocket specialists following the Suez Crisis, came to a spectacular end. The program was directly aimed at arming Egypt against Israel,[7] but also concurred with West German interests, since this permitted Bonn to circumvent its prohibition and develop its own rocket technology. West Germany was hoping to assuage Israel with the delivery of anti-missile defense systems. At the beginning of the 60s, pressure mounted also in the USA to end the program. Several assassination attempts - some successful - were carried out in 1962 and 1963 against West German rocket specialists, who had sought to continue to fulfill their (formally) private business contracts. The attacks were carried out in West Germany by the Mossad with the connivance of the BND, which provided training and false papers. These assassinations are a prime example of the new West German-Israeli cooperation against insubordinate Arab nations - under the aegis of the new US-American Middle East strategy.[8] Finally Bonn even broke off diplomatic relations to Cairo in 1965, terminated all economic aid and arranged for an exchange of ambassadors with Israel.[9]


The German government renewed its intelligence and military cooperation only in the 1970s. Very much to the liking of Washington and Bonn, Anwar as-Sadat, after taking office in 1970, was intensively seeking sources of western capital. In August 1973, the Egyptian espionage service was again accepted as one of the BND's partner services. This new cooperation suffered a brief setback during the Yom Kippur War until, in the run-up to the Camp David Accords, the BND held regular meetings on the highest level with the Egyptian intelligence service. The publicist Erich Schmidt-Eenboom notes that in 1978, "the Egyptian intelligence service received unusual strong support" from the BND, including the delivery of German technology and the corresponding training in radio surveillance.[10]

Controlling Resources

Since then, German-Egyptian cooperation has been an element of the correlation of forces, in which Egypt, on the basis of the Camp David Accords, operates in close partnership with the USA and, therefore, also Israel. It was no coincidence that Israel was the first country mentioned, when possible exile countries for Hosni Mubarak were debated. The US-led cooperation is seeking, in particular, to maintain western control over Middle East resources and to prevent the formation of a common Arab front against western hegemony, such as the one sought in the 1950s by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who the CIA sought to overthrow. The cooperation of the Bundeswehr, the German police and the BND with Egypt is part of this effort. The German Federal Office of Criminal Investigation (BKA) has one and the German Federal Police has two liaison officers permanently stationed in Cairo. Between 1999 and 2009 alone, Egypt received German military supplies worth 270 million Euros. The armed forces of both countries have a cooperation program. The German Bundeswehr is currently training eleven officers of the Egyptian army. In spite of the current demonstrations, this cooperation will be continued. It serves geo-strategic objectives, and from the German point of view, will not be jeopardized, even by the battle for democracy taking place in Cairo.

[1] Egypt: Investigate Arrests of Activists, Journalists; 09.02.2011
[2] Egypt's army 'involved in detentions and torture'; 09.02.2011
[3] Im Folterknast des Muchabarat; 06.02.2011
[4] see also Guarantor of Stability (I)
[5] Tim Weiner: Legacy of Ashes. The History of the CIA, New York 2008. On Wisner see also Orderly Transition
[6] Schriftlich fixiert wurde diese Strategie in der Eisenhower-Doktrin vom 5. Januar 1957.
[7] Dalia Abu Samra: Deutschlands Außenpolitik gegenüber Ägypten, Berlin 2002
[8] Shlomo Shpiro: Für die Sicherheit Israels kooperieren wir sogar mit dem Teufel; 08.01.2000
[9], [10] Erich Schmidt-Eenboom: Der deutsche Geheimdienst im Nahen Osten. Geheime Hintergründe und Fakten, München 2007