Troops embark to Sinai.
Current tensions and upheavals, in the Middle East and northern Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring movements, have changed the calculus of international relations and policy for the region. In the midst of this change, it's easy to forget that peace has existed between Israel and Egypt for more than 30 years. One of the tools of that peace is the Multinational Force Observer organization.
Soldiers of the 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery, are deploying to the Sinai Peninsula for a year as Multinational Force Observers or MFO. Their mission is to enforce the Israel-Egypt Peace Treaty signed in 1979.
Unlike most peacekeeping missions America is involved in, the MFO does not operate under a United Nations or NATO mandate, said Lt. Col. Jack Midyette, of Wake Forest, N.C., commander of the 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery, North Carolina Army National Guard.
"The MFO is a civilian organization headquartered in Rome with two field offices, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Cairo. It morphed out of the peace treaty when the UN said it would not be able to send peacekeepers.
The countries knew something had to be put in place," said Midyette. "So the three countries, Egypt, Israel and the US opened negations with other countries and put together a peacekeeping force outside of the UN."
The area the MFO will be deployed to is Zone C, which runs from the Mediterranean Sea along the eastern Sinai Peninsula to the Gulf of Aqaba and Red Sea on Egypt's border with Israel and water borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Soldiers of 5th Battalion, 113th Field Artillery, are assigned to South Camp and will operate within the southern sector of Zone C. Eleven other countries contribute to the MFO: Australia, Canada, Columbia, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, New Zealand, Norway and Uruguay, which provide different functions for the force. Columbia and Fiji, like the US, provide a battalion each.
Midyette said that according to the treaty, only specific types of military build-up can occur in the various zones of the Sinai, for example, in Zone C, only the MFO and Egyptian civilian police can operate.--Staff Sgt. David Bruce