Saturday, October 12, 2013

12-Oct-13: In Sinai, escalating rate of killings and growing anxiety over what to expect next

A previous failed car bomb attack near El Arish, Sinai, July 24, 2013
[Image Source]. The 3 passengers were killed when the car exploded
before reaching its target.
Sinai, just across the border from Gaza and from Israel, continues to roil [click for some earlier posts]. Latest developments:
  • Four gunmen were killed Friday night (according to a Maan report) when an explosive device blew up prematurely in the Egyptian-controlled, and chaotic, northern Sinai. Reports say they were mounting an attack on an Egyptian military convoy traveling between Sheikh Zuweid and al-Houra village.
  • Also on Friday night, helicopters from the Egyptian military attacked a house close to Egypt's side of the border with the Gaza Strip (Maan again), evidently intending to block yet another smugglers' tunnel whose opening was inside the house. The report notes that the Egyptians entered Gaza's airspace as part of their monitoring of the area.
  • On Thursday, according to the BBC, four Egyptian security force members died in an attack on an army checkpoint south of El-Arish. The attackers used a booby-trapped, explosive laden car)
Attacks like the one near El-Arish are often called suicide bombings. We wrote here a few days ago, and it's appropriate to make the point again, that the expression suicide bomber, very widely used in parts of the news media,  is highly inappropriate and a strategic mistake. No bomber ever exploded because she or he wants to suicide. It's always about hurting the other, the hated enemy. That hatred is so vast that, even if it costs the life of the bomber, it's done willingly and with zeal. We ought to be calling them lethal cultistsmurderous obsessivesreligiously programmed killers. Placing the emphasis on how they forfeit their own lives is to completely miss the point of a self-negating, overwhelming hatred that threatens our societies wherever we are.

Volatility in the already-tumultuous Sinai has grown significantly since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown as president of Egypt in February 2011. Mohamed Morsi, who took over as president under the Moslem Brotherhood banner but was himself overthrown in July 2013, "took measures to curb the lawlessness, but he was accused by the army of being too lenient" [BBC].

With the military now seeking to reimpose Cairo's control over the spreading chaos in the Sinai - generally believed to be the work of local Bedouin tribes and of the agents of the Hamas regime in Gaza - the recent response of the United States has caused consternation:
The US is suspending a large part of the $1.3bn (£810m) in aid it gives to Egypt's military. The delivery of large-scale military systems as well as cash assistance to the Egyptian government would be withheld, said the state department. It said "credible progress" must be made towards free and fair elections. A review was launched in August after a crackdown by the authorities on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi left hundreds of people dead. "We will continue to hold the delivery of certain large-scale military systems and cash assistance to the government pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government through free and fair elections," state department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said....Officials said the freeze amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in aid. [BBC: "US withholds Egypt military aid over crackdown", October 10, 2013]
Paul Alster, writing for Fox News, says ["Cutback of US aid to Egypt leaves Israel nervous", October 10, 2013]
It isn't just Egypt lamenting the loss of U.S. military and financial aid: Israel fears a cutoff will hamper Egyptian efforts to quell jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, where they threaten to destabilize the entire region. The Obama administration's decision to withhold a significant amount of much-needed military equipment... comes as the nation's interim government is locked in a bloody fight with heavily-armed Islamist militias in the Sinai Peninsula. If the jihadists mustering there can't be stopped, Israeli officials fear they could use the lawless territory to launch attacks not only on Cairo, but also on Israel... “The decision was wrong. It is a flawed decision in terms of content and timing and raises serious questions over the United States' readiness to provide strategic support to Egypt's security programs,” complained Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdellaty...
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the cutback in aid is not a sign the U.S. is abandoning Egypt, its strongest Arab ally for decades. “By no means is this a withdrawal from our relationship or a severing of our serious commitment to helping the [Egyptian] government,” Kerry said. But Israeli officials fear the U.S. decision has already emboldened jihadis, many with links to Al Qaeda... []

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