Monday, August 12, 2013

The Egyptian Tinderbox

by Dr. Reuven Berko

A mysterious explosion shook Sinai's skies several days ago, shortly after which the bodies of five mujahideen were found near the Egypt-Israel border. The residents of Eilat might have linked the incident to the closing of the city's airport and the security alerts of the past few days. Israeli authorities have remained mum on the incident, while in Egypt, where chaos currently rules, the explosion resulted in a heated exchange of blame.

The Muslin Brotherhood jumped at the chance to use the incident as part of its delegitimization campaign against the interim regime, and accused Supreme Military Council Head Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of cooperating with Israel. The Brotherhood claims that "allowing" an Israeli jet to breach Egyptian airspace is another example of how the military is exceeding its authority and venturing into politics, instead of defending Egypt's borders. 

The fact that the Egyptian army has stopped Islamic terror groups based in Sinai from firing rockets at Israel, the Muslin Brotherhood claims, demonstrates how weak it has become and how it is no longer focused on its real duties but on politics, where Israel and the Americans are pulling its strings.

Egyptian military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohamed Ali denied that Israel had mounted a strike in Sinai and dismissed any link between the explosion noted in the peninsula on Friday and the possibility that an Israeli jet had breached Egypt's airspace, as well as any possibility that the two militaries had coordinated the alleged operation.

Still, this bizarre explosion, which took place on the heels of Ramadan, is now leveraged by the Muslin Brotherhood to blame Sissi for sacrificing the mujahideen for Israel's sake.

Using the security situation in Sinai as a tool in the internal conflict in Egypt is nothing new. Interim President Adly Mansour and Sissi have recently accused deposed President Mohammed Morsi of committing crimes against Egypt by colluding and financially aiding Hamas, which has carried out terror attacks against Egyptian soldiers, at the expense of the Egyptian people. 

They claimed that Morsi had conspired to weaken Egypt with the aim of eventually suggesting that Sinai serve as an alternative Palestinian homeland. 

July's coup in Egypt has resulted in increased efforts by the Egyptian military to thwart terror activity in Sinai. Dozens of terrorists have been killed, the underground smuggling tunnels connecting Sinai with Gaza Strip have been shut down, the Rafah crossing was closed and Hamas' goods and fuel caches have been seized. As things stand, it seems that even Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan may cancel his planned Gaza visit and stay home. 

These measures have resulted in dire straits for the Islamic terror groups in Gaza and it is not inconceivable that the terror attack planned for Ramadan was meant as an attempt by Hamas to aid Morsi's Brotherhood, its benefactor, to embarrass and further destabilize the Cairo regime.

Hamas seems to have based its operations on three premises. The first is that targeting Israelis in the belief that Egypt's internal turmoil will prevent Israel from retaliating creates a win-win situation for Hamas. The second is that multiple casualties in Israel could result in an Israeli strike in Sinai, which would demand the new regime's attention and ease the pressure on Gaza. And the third is that even if the terror attack is thwarted, Sissi and his army would be seen as collaborating with Israel, further discrediting them and bolstering Morsi's position.

The timing of the attack during Ramadan was not coincidental and was meant to capture the attention of the millions of Morsi-supporting Muslims in Egypt's squares.

The current regime has very few options. Even Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has expressed his "concern" over the Egyptian civil war, which "serves the Americans and the Zionists." Attempts by senior Arab and Western officials to mediate the situation have failed. Morsi's supporters have presented an ultimatum: Reinstate him as president and continue the constitutional process he began, or else. 

Millions are flocking to city squares. Twenty-eight mass rallies are currently being organized in Egypt under the banner, "The people demand to overthrow the coup." 

The regime's attempts to talk its way out of the mass protests have failed. The attempts made by Al-Azhar Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, one of Egypt's top clerics, to facilitate peaceful negotiations between the parties have failed as well, as the Muslin Brotherhood has accused him of supporting Sissi. Egyptian sources say the regime will not hesitate to use force on demonstrators and will also prevent food and water supplies from reaching city squares.

Egypt's hourglass is running out of sand, and as we all remember well, the regime's ruthlessness has already exposed Egypt to a brutal series of plagues.

Dr. Reuven Berko


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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