Cairo — As a wave of Arab states move to restore ties with Cairo, Egyptian officials have suggested that Egypt could participate in joint military maneuvers with Arab states in the Gulf. ``Maybe we'll participate in joint maneuvers,'' one official said. ``That should make the Iranians a bit worried.''
Officials here stress that Eygpt is not prepared to send troops into battle nor to station soldiers permanently in the Gulf. They have said that Egypt could primarily help the Gulf states by sending experts and equipment.
But they do maintain that events have shown that Egypt is indispensable to the Arab world and that its return alone will help deter Iran from expanding the seven-year Gulf war to the oil-rich but militarily weak sheikdoms. And they have said that Egypt, which has the Arab world's largest and best-trained armed forces, could primarily help the Gulf states by sending experts and equipment.
``Egypt is an integral part of the Arab world and there's no way to escape this, either for us or for them,'' a Foreign Ministry official said.
In the wake of last week's Arab summit - which moved that individual states could restore ties with Egypt - Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Morocco, Bahrain, North Yemen, and Mauritania have done so. Only Qatar, among the states expected to resume ties, remains.
Egyptian officials have been reluctant to speak to reporters about the ramifications of Egypt's long-awaited return to the Arab world. One apparent reason is that Egypt does not want to appear as if it were begging to return. Second, officials want to avoid provoking Iran unduly and are keeping low-key about possible military aid aimed at ``containment'' of Iran.
Egyptian officals hope their country will draw closer to the Arab world in economic, political, and cultural spheres as well. As cooperation grows, Egypt hopes the Gulf states will revive their investments in the Arab Organization for Industrialization, originally intended to produce weapons for the Arab world. The Gulf states froze their capital when Egypt signed its 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
Ultimately, Egypt is looking for total rehabilitation by a subsequent Arab summit in the form of an invitation to rejoin the Arab League. Despite Syrian opposition, officials here are confident. ``We hope the day will come when [the Arab states] will address this and redress this,'' an official said. ``It's a matter of time.''