Tuesday, September 27, 2011

27-Sep-11: Egypt-to-Israel gas pipeline sabotaged for sixth time this year

What does it tell us when a strategically invaluable gas pipeline linking Israel with Egypt gets blown up for the sixth time in seven months? February 2011 is when the Mubarak regime fell, and the start of the latest stage in the stepwise conversion of increasingly-lawless Sinai into Israel's third battlefront.

Now, in the latest such attack, three men opened fire  last night at a pumping station near the town of el-Arish in Sinai, according to Reuters. Under a 2008 agreement, Egypt is contractually committed to supply 1.7 bn cubic metres a year over 20 years. 43% of Israel's natural gas comes via this pipeline, and it's the basis for 40% of Israel's electricity production, according to AFP. El-Arish is 50km from the border with Israel.

According to JPost, Egypt has been trying to charge Israel and Jordan more for its gas after complaining that prices fixed during Mubarak's rule were below market rates. The pipeline is run by Gasco, Egypt's gas transport company which is a subsidiary of the national gas company EGAS. The Egyptian armed forces launched a security operation in Sinai in August to root out hundreds of suspected militants believed to be behind some of the attacks on the pipeline and police compounds in the peninsula. Security sources said then that they had captured a group of four Islamist militants as they prepared to blow up the gas pipeline in el-Arish. Whether true or not, the larger facts - six explosions since February - speak for themselves, and what they're saying bodes ill for relations with our southern neighbours.

A Wall Street Journal article yesterday says U.S. intelligence officials no longer have any doubt that al Qaeda are operating in the Sinai peninsula. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the post-Bin Laden head of Al-Qaeda was quoted last month exhorting his followers (and fellow Egyptians) in Egypt to take advantage of Mubarak's ouster. "I commend the heroes who blew up the gas pipeline to Israel. I ask Allah to reward them for their heroic act, for they have expressed the anger of the Islamic Ummah against this continuing crime from the reign of Hosni Mubarak to the rule of the Military Council."

Nearly half of our electricity being produced from energy that comes from an Al-Qaeda terrorist-controlled region, overseen by a mostly-passive military junta in Cairo. What could possibly go wrong?

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