US Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers landed in Cairo Sunday, Jan. 6, assigned by the Obama administration to re-energize the counterterrorism war on two fronts, Libya and Sinai.
But the British external intelligence agency MI6, believing that Washington may have missed the boat in Cairo and that Tehran got there first, leaked the news to the London Times of Tuesday, Jan. 8, that Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood was already working with Iran to fashion a new special force under its control.
This plan was put together, the Times alleged, during a secret visit the Revolutionary Guards’ Al Qods Brigades commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani paid to Cairo last month. He is described as having met with high-placed officials close to President Mohamed Morsi in the last week of December in response to the president’s request for assistance in creating the Brotherhood’s own secret service.
The British decided to disclose this nugget of information in the belief that Washington was missing out on the most important developments taking place in the Middle East. They thought that the Obama administration ought to know how the pro-US Sunni Muslim axis its diplomats sought to establish in Cairo last November was faring under President Morsi. And it was important for the incoming Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and CIA Director John Brennan, who were nominated this week, to know what was really going on.
Soleimani admired in Cairo for keeping Assad in power
The following are DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s updates:
1. Morsi and the Brotherhood are convinced that Obama is bending all its energies toward reaching an accord with Tehran on its nuclear program. They have concluded that Washington is deliberately upholding Iran’s position in Damascus in exchange for concessions by Tehran on the nuclear issue. Seen from Cairo, Iran has been catapulted by the Syrian war to the role of leading Middle East power. The Brotherhood is therefore well advised to cooperate with Tehran, especially on such sensitive matters as intelligence structures.
2. To the best knowledge of Egypt’s rulers, it was Gen. Soleimani who contributed more than any other individual to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s success in clinging to power in the face of the many political and military challenges of the 22-month long Syrian civil war. He is defined by their intelligence experts as Assad’s closest and most influential strategic advisor. Even when the advice or intelligence he offered the Syrian ruler were faulty, Soleimani always managed to improvise solutions for getting out of sticky situations and restoring stability.
3. Last May 2012, debkafile’s military and intelligence sources disclosed an order given by Soleimani to enlarge the Jihad Islami fighting force in the Gaza Strip and retrain its 11,000 fighters in the special tactics used by his own Al Qods Brigades. After monitoring the Jihad’s performance in the last round of fighting with Israel last November, Brotherhood leaders decided they wanted their own secret service-cum-militia with those capabilities.
A private Brotherhood militia would intensify friction with the generals
4. The creation of a private Brotherhood al Qods-like force is liable to place Egypt’s ruling Islamists in direct confrontation with the Egyptian military and intelligence elites – a matter of serious concern to Washington, Persian Gulf and Jordanian royal families and Israel – but not to President Morsi.
Brotherhood leaders never completely trusted the generals or intelligence chiefs. But even this qualified relationship was blown to the winds by the discovery in December of a plot to kidnap President Morsi allegedly hatched by the Dubai police commander Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, one of the Gulf’s strongmen, as the prelude to a military coup against the Brotherhood.
They accused him of working hand in glove with Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Gen. Ahmed Shafiq, who ran for president last June and lost to Morsi.
This affair provides a glimpse into all-out war ongoing behind the scenes between the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s top generals, who are now accused of concealing intelligence from the ruling establishment.
The British newspaper left two important details out of its report, as revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources:
First, President Mohammed Morsi learned about the plot against him from the visiting Iranian general who used it to damage Egypt’s ties with the Gulf emirates. Soleimani was also eager to build the Egyptian president’s trust in Tehran and show him that if he wished to stay in power it was important for him to collaborate with Tehran.
Second, it was decided at a secret meeting between Morsi’s adviser Essam al-Haddad and Gen Soleimani before he left Cairo that his Al Qods Brigades would soon send over military and intelligence advisers to help the Brotherhood fashion its new clandestine militia.