Pentagon leaks: Egypt 'secretly' planned to supply Russia with rockets
Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi planned to secretly supply Russia with 40,000 rockets and told officials to keep the deal secret "to avoid problems with the West," according to a purported leak of US intelligence documents.
In recent weeks, a trove of classified US documents has been posted on Discord, a chat app popular with gamers, in what has been described as one of the most serious leaks of US secrets in years.
One of the leaked Pentagon documents reportedly shows Russian intelligence officers referring to talks with the United Arab Emirates, another important US ally, in which they agree to collaborate against Washington and British intelligence agencies.
In February, Sisi ordered the production of up to 40,000 rockets, instructing his officials to keep the plan secret "to avoid problems with the West", according to a top-secret document, reported by the Washington Post on Tuesday.
The document, dated 17 February, summarises alleged conversations between Sisi and senior Egyptian military officials that, among other things, reference plans to supply Russia with artillery rounds and gunpowder.
Middle East Eye has not seen the document cited by the Post and is unable to confirm its authenticity.
Heavily restricted by international sanctions, Russia has been scrambling to resupply its depleted arsenal as it presses on with its war on Ukraine, now in its second year.
In response to the leak, Ahmed Abu Zeid, the spokesman for Egypt's foreign ministry, said: "Egypt's position from the beginning is based on noninvolvement in this crisis and committing to maintain equal distance with both sides, while affirming Egypt’s support to the UN charter and international law in the UN General Assembly resolutions."
A US government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, did not deny the intelligence but told the Post that "we are not aware of any execution of that plan," in reference to Egypt's plans to export rockets.
'Country of focus'
Separately, according to another leaked document, US intelligence has recorded Russian intelligence officers boasting that they had convinced the UAE to "work together against US and UK intelligence agencies".
The Emirati government vehemently dismissed the claims that it was deepening ties with Russia as "categorically false".
In March, a US Treasury official, assistant secretary Elizabeth Rosenberg, said the UAE was "a country of focus" as Washington looked to choke Russia's ties to the global economy.
In recent months, the US has ramped up pressure on its Gulf ally over its ties to Moscow.
There has been growing concern in the West that the UAE is providing a critical economic lifeline to Moscow, which could help its war effort.
Many of the missiles and drones deployed by Russia rely on western component parts.
Rosenberg said companies in the UAE were helping Russia evade international sanctions to obtain more than $5m in US semiconductors and other US-export-controlled parts, some of which can be used on the battlefield.
As recently as December, the UAE was still exporting drones to Russia, according to Russian government data analysed by the Washington DC-based Free Russia Foundation.
The group lists the UAE, along with Turkey, Cyprus, and China, as countries that have "dramatically expanded" exports to Russia.
Attempts by Egypt or the UAE to aid Russia's war effort could potentially be a risky move by the two states.
Egypt is in the midst of a deep economic crisis and is desperately in need of western aid.
It is also deeply invested in a security partnership with the United States, which has for decades provided the country with more than $1bn a year in security aid, and Cairo could risk triggering American sanctions.
Meanwhile, the US has for years underpinned the UAE's security.
Recently, the UAE has been trying to balance its competing positions as a long-term US partner in the Middle East and a neutral business hub.
Non-oil trade between Russia and the UAE grew by 57 percent in the first nine months of 2022, breaking records, according to Emirati Trade Minister Thani bin Ahmed al-Zeyoudi, who pledged to "push trade to even greater heights".
Dubai has put itself on the map as an international business hub and has benefited from the turmoil created by the Ukraine war.
The city became the world's fourth most active luxury property market behind New York, Los Angeles, and London this year, thanks to a surge in interest from Russians who have become Dubai's biggest real estate buyers.
Besides welcoming Kremlin-linked oligarchs, Dubai is also benefiting from an influx of Russian tech workers, many of whom are looking to avoid the repercussions of Vladimir Putin’s war.
The UAE is also capitalising on western sanctions designed to cut Russia's access to its oil revenue and the UAE port of Fujairah has become a trans-shipment hub for Russian crude and petroleum products.
Last year, Russia's state-owned energy giant Lukoil moved its trading operations to Dubai.
Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh has said that the US Justice Department has opened a probe into the leak of classified documents.