Why doesn’t Egypt purchase a nuclear bomb?

On reading that Egypt has rejected offers to purchase a nuclear bomb (this is according to our permanent delegate to the UN, Maged Abdel Fattah), I felt disappointed.

According to WikiLeaks, Abdel Fattah was having a conversation with an American diplomat about nuclear armament when he said: “After the demise of the USSR we received offers to purchase nuclear bombs, but Egyptian authorities have rejected them.”

The American official, according to the cable, was surprised when Abdel Fattah continued, “The offers were from former Soviet republics. I was in Moscow and I know that.”

“If we had wanted to possess nuclear arms this way, we would have,” he said. ”But we are fully committed to the principles of world peace.”

Why did Egypt refuse the offer to obtain a nuclear bomb? What is the underlying logic? And how have the authorities passed up an opportunity as such?

I’m fully aware of how serious the matter is and I understand the challenges facing a deal of this kind. The entry of this nuclear bomb into Egypt would be scrutinized by all the intelligence bodies of the world. Also, the country that would sell us the bomb may likely disclose the details of the deal for money.

Furthermore, a nuclear bomb deal, unlike a deal to purchase a cargo of wheat or even a fleet of aircraft, requires scientific and technological preparedness to transport the bomb into the country and then to its final destination. The bomb would then have to be properly stored, protected and maintained.

Perhaps the toughest part of the deal would be how to break the news to the world. Announcing that Egypt possesses a nuclear bomb should be part of a careful deterrence strategy.

I understand all those difficulties, but at the same time I know that the political game requires some risk-taking and that relations with Israel could turn sour at any point as leaders in both countries change.

I remember that I once asked General Saad al-Shazli, chief of staff of the Egyptian Armed Forces during the Arab-Israeli War of 1973, about what could have happened if Israel had used its nuclear weapons in the 1973 war. His reply was brief and decisive: “We had to exclude this possibility from consideration. Ignoring some possibilities can be better than considering them.”

Meanwhile, Field Marshall Mohamed Abdel Halim Abu Ghazala has developed ideas about how to win a war in which Israel uses nuclear weapons.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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