Sadat acts to counter Soviets

Egypt's government has reacted sharply to the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. On Jan. 6, it became the first country, after the United States, to announce measures to help counter the invasion.

The measures include providing military training for Afghan youths, decreasing the Soviet dipolmatic presence in Egypt, trying to convene an Islamic summit conference in Cairo, and giving financial help to the Afghan rebels through a public subscription, to which the Egyptian people will be asked to contribute.

President Sadat said earlier that Egypt is willing to provide emergency military facilities to American forces if there is any threat to the oil-rich Gulf states.

In part, these measures reflect the Egyptian government's mistrust of Soviet intentions. This mistrust resulted in the expulsion of about 15,000 Soviet military advisers in 1972 and in the cancellation of the Egyptian Soviet friendship treaty in 1976.

Since then, Egypt has been concerned about the possibility of encirclement by pro-Soviet regimes in Libya and Ethiopia. When President Mobutu's regime in Zaire was threatened by the Soviet-backed invasion of Shaba Province, President Sadat dispatched an Air Force team to help deal with the treat.

But there is more to the stern Egyptian reaction than just fear of Soviet intentions in the Middle East.

This is Egypt's chance to show that, more than ever before, the United States needs strong allies in the Arab world. Since the fall of the Shah in Iran, there has been a power vacuum in the area and Egypt is trying to demonstrate that it can fill that vacuum with its huge Army.

This also may help win American government approval of a five-year, $3 billion arms package now under consideration.

In addition, Mr. Sadat's actions are intended to remind moderate Arab regimes that Egypt is their only reliable defense in the region, which is part of this nation's effort to break out of its diplomatic isolation.

This tactic already has been used to prevent Oman, Sudan, and Somalia from breaking relations. Oman and Sudan each have several hundred Egyptian advisers on their soil, according to Western military sources. And Somalia has received crucial military aid, including tanks, from Egypt.

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