Beyond the Cusp

December 4, 2017

Egypt Very Likely the Next Syria

 

Donald Trump has decided to follow one policy which President Obama used causing great consternation amongst many experts and we expect similar results from President Trump pulling out of the Kurdish region after the Kurdish Militias, particularly the Peshmerga, who pushed the Islamic state back in both Syria and Iraq, opened the path for the liberation of Mosul and the eventual defeat of Islamic State Capital of Raqqa. With the United States deserting the Kurds at the behest of Turkish President Erdoğan who has genocidal aspirations for eliminating the Kurds as he tales their land to reestablish his own Ottoman Empire, or at least the first steps of taking Mosul and Aleppo. President Trump is attempting to avoid getting caught in any quicksand and he knows the Middle East is full of potential sand traps and quicksand. He saw how the Middle East took down both of his predecessors and how even those who pegged their rising star upon Middle East achievements, are now watching those achievements dissolve as if made of sand in a brisk wind. The peace between Israel and Egypt supposedly crafted by Jimmy Carter (it wasn’t and he almost destroyed it trying to tie the Palestinian and Syrian peace onto Egypt which almost sent Sadat running but Begin promised to keep it between the two nations without other Carter presented additions) now leading to a Sinai Peninsula with growing terror and criminal elements running rampant. The other was Bill Clinton’s claim to fame (other than the woman in the blue dress) which was the Oslo Accords which have proven to be a complete fraud and may result in Trump dissolving all hopes for the Palestinian Authority (PA) or other Arab interest ever breaching a peace with Israel and pulling American backing for being the sponsoring negotiator for any Arab and Israeli peace process, especially the two state solution the PA keeps touting as the only hope and then turning down all offers. But our concern with this article is Egypt so let us turn our heads to the Sinai Peninsula for a start.

 

The first group to find the Sinai Peninsula attractive was Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Along with the Muslim Brotherhood came al-Qaeda in the form of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (Supporters of Jerusalem). Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis in late 2014 became Wilayat Sinai which means Islamic State in the Sinai. Today they constitute up to eighty percent of the Sinai Province’s fighting force. The Islamic State has taken a turn towards disaster with the United States support for the Kurds turning the tide. Now the weakened Islamic State cannot even defeat or hold off the Syrian forces of Bashir al-Assad backed by the IRGC (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps) and Hezbollah. Meanwhile Turkish forces are continuing their assaults on the Kurdish forces from the north while the Iranian and Iraqi forces are pushing them from the south in Iraq thus leading to their rapid retreats and decimation. This will, in time, also lead to the remaining Kurdish likely to become terrorists and fleeing to some place where they can likely join up with, oddly enough, the Islamic State. This will have them choosing between the two places where it appears that Islamic State is regrouping, Mindanao (the southern Island in the Philippines) or the Sinai Peninsula. The ones choosing Mindanao will find United States trained and backed Philippine forces with modern equipment and United States intelligence assistance. The ones choosing the Sinai Peninsula will find initially no resistance and a weak Egyptian ability to contain their actions.

 

Recently, two to three dozen “militants” (read terrorists), attacked a mosque in the Northern Sinai town of Bir al-Abed, along the coastal road connecting the main cities in the northern Sinai of El-Arish and Port Said. Utilizing explosives and automatic weapons, they slaughtered over three hundred of worshipers including almost 30 children and injured approaching fifty more worshippers. Almost all of the attackers escaped. Egypt has promised, or at least Egyptian President al-Sisi has promised to take on the scourge which infects the Sinai Peninsula and clear the terrorists and other criminal elements and provide protection and safety for the residents of the Sinai Peninsula. Of course there are those who will claim that the scourge are the residents of the Sinai Peninsula, and they would have a point as it appears that the expanse has become inundated with what President Sisi would qualify as the wrong element. The first step that is required be taken is to get permission from Israel to use armored units, helicopters and conduct air strikes as under the aforementioned Egypt-Israeli peace accords, Egyptian forces are limited to police using light weapons only enforcing the peace in the Sinai Peninsula, as this was to prevent Egypt from stacking troops on the Israeli border and as Israel was returning the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula and not retaining some percentage or large buffer zone for themselves, making the entirety of the Sinai Peninsula a militarily limited zone made sense back in 1979. Even now, there is a logic but the pressing problems of the terrorists and criminal gangs requires Egypt be permitted some latitude in dealing with this menace as this menace would eventually become a security problem for Israel plus would make arming Hamas with better rockets and heavy weapons more probable.

 

Further, much of the reported actions beyond the slaughter of innocents, have been abnormal and abhorrent activities. There have even been horrific reports of rape, beheadings, drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, slave trade, sex trafficking and trafficking of organs taken from African kidnap victims. All of these would be problematic for Israel who shares an approximately two-hundred kilometer border with Egypt much of which is not fenced as of yet plus there is the almost fifteen kilometer border Egypt shares with Gaza through which anything, literally anything, could pass especially should Egyptian guards be scared from their guard posts or simply removed as has occurred in one memorable incident. Jihad militants based in the Sinai attacked an Egyptian outpost killing between ten to fifteen Egyptian policemen at the security checkpoint in Rafah. Then the militants stole vehicles laden with weapons (see pictured below) and tried to breach the Israeli-Egyptian border crossing at the Kerem Shalom terminal using an armored vehicle and one truck. Israeli Air Force aircraft managed to destroy the armored vehicle thwarting the terrorist attempt to cross into Israel. Ground forces intercepted the truck as it crossed the border destroying the truck and neutralizing the sole terrorist inside driving the truck. No Israelis were hurt in the incident. The Sinai Peninsula terrorist problem had been a building problem ever since the fall of Egyptian President Mubarak who was forced out by President Obama and replaced by Muslim Brotherhood’s favored candidate, President Morsi, who was subsequently replaced in a coup by President Sisi who won the subsequent elections, which was no big surprise. During this entire period the Sinai has been protected and policed by fewer and fewer forces leading to the current problem reaching the levels it has. Now more drastic action is required and it may eventually take more than Egypt is capable of addressing.

 

Weapons Cache Stolen in Egyptian Terror Raid Captured by Israel

Weapons Cache Stolen in Egyptian Terror Raid Captured by Israel

 

Should Egypt prove incapable of addressing the terror and criminal problems in the Sinai Peninsula, that would bring on some very interesting prospects. Should Egypt turn to Israel for assistance, what might lead to Israel permitting IDF soldiers to risk life and limb to assist Egypt with what is basically a pure Egyptian problem? That would pose an interesting question and one can wonder at the various and potential solutions. There can be little doubt that Israeli assistance would make the effort far easier but one can only imagine what would entice Israel into such a deal. Perhaps if Egypt were to include the removal of terror entities and criminal elements from Gaza as well and offering to take in those Arabs from Gaza desiring to leave Gaza and then turning Gaza back to Israel with the understanding that the remaining Arabs would be permitted to have a semiautonomous area near Gaza City and Rafah. This would remove the problem of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and who knows whom else on the Israeli southern border while providing Egypt with well-trained troops to assist with the problems in the Sinai Peninsula plus it would provide Egyptian troops some lessons in terror control tactics by working alongside Israelis. Some Egyptians might even realize that the Israelis are not all that different from the Egyptian troops having similar difficulties and similar desires beyond their military service.

 

Meanwhile, there are more problems in Egypt which could greatly increase the problems with extremism and terrorists. Quoting the Egyptian government, “Unemployment among Egyptian youth, who have been the jihadi foot soldiers, is above thirty per cent” and even higher for women. This leaves a large and dissatisfied group who are restless and seeing no future for themselves leaving them with growing resentments and anger. Such a situation leads to other problems including drug use, alcohol addiction and potential recruitment into criminal gangs or even terrorist groups. These are both fast tracks to a short life but for some the risk is worth it, as they see no other means. They are attracted by promises of wealth, prestige and living fast. What they are not told is live fast, die fast. Many of these youths will be amongst the first to die should the terror groups believe they have an opportunity to attack Israel with their new recruits and larger numbers but that would be a drastic and costly mistake. These children have little meaning to the terror masters who would sacrifice them as cannon fodder leading the next attack on an Egyptian outpost or whatever their target.

 

The truth of the matter is that should the Islamist State move into the Sinai Peninsula, they would not be much of a threat to Israel as if they could not beat the Kurdish Militias simply because they had United States air support, they would be utterly destroyed taking on the IDF’s combined forces. The only country which would have to worry would be Egypt. Egypt’s two main cities, Cairo and Alexandria, are both hours from the Sinai Peninsula. Additionally, the Suez Canal is extremely vulnerable to terror forces operating in the Sinai Peninsula. Should the Islamic State start shooting at tankers traversing the Suez Canal they could cause incalculable financial losses especially if one of the tankers were to catch fire and block the canal for all shipping for hours, or worse, days. Such an attack would cause worldwide panic as the Suez Canal is a major shipping point used by Europe and Asia for the majority of their trade and alternate routes are not exactly comparable. Further, should the world decide the Suez Canal has become too great a risk, then Egypt would lose its main source of revenue and lose face in not being capable of protecting their own lands and their one major waterway. Soon the Sinai Peninsula problem is going to spill into mainline Egypt and take out the Suez Canal when it does, as the world would not trust the security of their ships to the Egyptian promise of security of the Suez Canal if Cairo or Alexandria were to be attacked by terror forces from within the Sinai Peninsula. How little would world trust Egyptian guarantees of safe shipping along the Suez Canal if terrorists were to cross the canal in numbers for an assault on Cairo? Insurance companies would raise rates on shipping through the canal possibly making alternative routes more affordable.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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