The recent terrorist incident that took place in Sinai, and led to the deaths of a large number of Egyptian soldiers, was a huge shock to the people of Egypt. They were stunned by the extent of the attack and the resultant victims, and the sheer aggression of the perpetrators.
But what happened in Sinai was the natural outcome of cumulative conditions that we have been talking about time and time again.
The Egyptian government handles the Sinai region in a bizarre and strange manner; it considers it to be nothing more than a tourist area and hence inevitably the region’s inhabitants have a sense of being second class citizens. They are deprived of health services, education and a decent infrastructure, and they are always referred to in the Egyptian media by the vulgar description of “Sinai Bedouins”, as if they are non-Egyptians.
The Egyptian government has been unable to attract giant development projects to the Sinai region, and focusses purely on the tourism sector that has benefitted some, but certainly not enough to accommodate the overall needs of the region.
This incident came after an ongoing series of challenges in the region for the Egyptian authorities, in the form of sporadic attacks. The overall purpose of these attacks was to demonstrate the demise in the state’s prestige, the fragility of its presence there, and the absence of its influence until the major strike came.
Of course, there are many “suspects” who could be behind this terrorist act. There are extremist groups present in Sinai affiliated with takfirist jihadists, and there are factions in the Gaza Strip that also have the same goals and objectives, principles and trends, seeking to realign the regions bordering Gaza and establish a strong, supplementary presence in Sinai. Of course there is Israel, which wants to keep Egypt in a constant state of anxiety, tension, disorder and imbalance, because it has been the most important Arab country in the confrontation against Israel since the Jewish state was founded, and indeed the only country that Israel seems wary of.
Yet there is another important scenario that cannot be neglected, nor can its significance be minimized, regardless of how strange it may seem. We could be witnessing a strange, large-scale phenomenon of “changing the subject”. Recently an assault occurred on a convoy of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria, and now we see this massive incident on Egyptian territory, and the purpose of these incidents could be to draw the spotlight away from the events of the Syrian revolution and Bashar al-Assad’s regime.
The attention of the world’s politicians and media is strongly focused, and rightly so, on the repercussions of the Syrian crisis. This is the most important story, and the entire free, rational world sympathizes with the Syrian people who are losing dozens of citizens on a daily basis at the hands of a tyrant who does not hesitate to use all weapons to kill and exterminate his own people and his cities. This is in order to ensure the survival of his sectarian, extremist regime, no matter how high the price or the cost. Because of that, the Syrian regime communicates with the world via an absurd and farcical media machine that is addicted to lying, but is not adept at the art, for its arguments remain naïve and frivolous.
The Syrian intelligence services have always had a long reach, and certain people in the Gaza Strip in particular owe their absolute loyalty to them. Palestinian factions were employed effectively for many years as part of the Syrian regime’s policy of continuously promoting itself as the exclusive guardian of Arab nationalism and the idea of resistance, but of course all of this was nothing but nonsense.
Egypt needs to take the issue of Sinai and the horrific acts that took place there very seriously, and it must reconsider the Camp David peace accords with Israel and allow its troops to be stationed there in greater numbers. Under the current agreement, the Egyptian government is not able to provide adequate security cover because it is clear that the accords take Israel’s interests into account more than the security of Egypt, as we can see now.
Today, with its post-revolution government, Egypt needs to rethink its development plans in Sinai purely in terms of security. Let us not forget that the region has become a safe haven for marijuana cultivation as an alternative to lost conventional sources of income. The terrorist attack on the Egyptian army in Sinai presents a severe test for the Egyptian state and its armed forces, and the Egyptian intelligence services must uncover the causes and motives, not just the perpetrators, if anything is to be gained from this painful incident.
The world will be closely watching how the Egyptian government deals with what happened, not only in terms of retribution, but also in terms of ensuring this does not happen again, so other parties cannot exploit the current Egyptian situation.