Egypt’s government is eating itself in order to stay in business.
Three years ago this summer, Egyptians took to the streets en masse to vent their frustration at the government of then president Mohamed Morsi. The source of their discontent was the widespread economic stagnation and ideologically driven policies that came to punctuate Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood–dominated government. The result was nothing short of a counterrevolution, as Morsi was ousted by the country’s powerful military in an almost-coup led by his then minister of defense, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.Sponsored Ads
But now, Egypt’s post-Islamist government is facing a remarkably similar situation. Beset by worsening economic conditions and rising discontent among the country’s youth, the Egyptian regime, now headed by Sisi, is decidedly on the skids—with potentially dire consequences for the country, and the region as a whole.
U.S. and U.K. officials are now increasingly focused on the idea that a bomb brought down the Russian jetliner that crashed in Egypt, possibly with the help of an insider who was paid off.
“We have concluded there is a significant possibility that the crash was caused by an explosive device on board the aircraft,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said Wednesday after Prime Minister David Cameron concluded a meeting of his government’s emergency committee.
Three U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity said terrorism was now the leading theory in the case. Preliminary evidence suggested Islamic State involvement and investigators were examining the prospect that someone — perhaps a baggage handler or airline official — was bribed to get a bomb onto the Metrojet airliner, two of the officials said. Other possibilities haven’t been ruled out, the officials said.
Noha Hashad, pro-Israeli nuclear scientist who escaped Egypt after years of torture, says what’s happening in Sinai isn’t what we think.
The nuclear scientist warned “Egypt is preparing for war with Israel. It armed and trained Hamas in Gaza. Whoever knows Arabic can hear the heads of Egyptian military intelligence talk about wide canals that open up between Israel and Egypt that will be used at the appropriate time.”
The warning echoes appraisals by Col. (res.) Dr. Shaul Shay, former deputy head of the Israel National Security Council, who wrote in Israel Defense last December that the “Badr 2014” military maneuver, its largest in decades, was meant to prepare for “a potential conflict with Israel.”
Hashad spoke to the Israeli paper about the culture of hatred for Israel that has been rampant in Egypt, despite a decades-old peace treaty.
Egypt plans to evacuate the divided city of Rafah and build another community five kilometers away.
Egyptian sources said the military plans to destroy Rafah over the next year. They said thousands of residents would be evicted from the city divided between Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
Egypt, famed for millennia as the “breadbasket of the Mediterranean,” now faces alarming food shortages. A startlingly candid report in Cairo’s Al-Ahram newspaper by Gihan Shahine, entitled “Food for Stability” makes clear the extent of the crisis.
To begin, two anecdotes: Although compelled by her father to marry a cousin who could afford to house and feed her, Samar, 20, reports that they “have only had fried potatoes and aubergines for dinner most of the week.” Her sisters, 10 and 13, who left school to take up work, are losing weight and suffer chronic anemia.
Manal, a nurse and single mother of four, cannot feed her children. “In the past we used to stuff cabbage with rice and eat that when we did not have any money. But now even this sometimes can be unaffordable because of rising prices. Our kids were always malnourished but it’s getting even worse.”
The Palestinians I met Wednesday amid the rubble of their homes in this city near the Gaza-Egypt border blamed one man for failing—or refusing—to stop the slaughter here. Their lives had been devastated by Israeli troops, who shifted their invasion to southern Gaza with a vengeance shortly before the three-day ceasefire that began on Tuesday. Their houses had been leveled by bombs and missiles launched from the American-built F16s in the Israeli air force. But the man who truly aroused their fury is the Egyptian general-turned-president Abdel Fattah al Sisi.
Tank tracks tear up the roads around Rafah, machine-gun fire pocks the walls, sewage flows out of blown-up pipes and the nauseatingly sweet rotten-garbage smell of human corpses still seeps from under the rubble. As Gazans try to make sense of the devastation wrought by Israel, there is an overwhelming sense of abandonment by leaders in the Arab world.
Over the past week there are voices coming out of Egypt and some Arab countries — voices that publicly support the Israeli military operation against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
They see the atrocities and massacres committed by Islamists on a daily basis in Iraq and Syria and are beginning to ask themselves if these serve the interests of the Arabs and Muslims.
“Thank you Netanyahu and may God give us more [people] like you to destroy Hamas!” — Azza Sami of the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram.
Isolated and under attack, Hamas now realizes that it has lost the sympathy of many Egyptians and Arabs.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi has thus far turned down appeals from Palestinians and other Arabs to work toward achieving a new ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.
Palestinian Authority [PA] President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Sisi and urged him to intervene to achieve an “immediate ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas. Abbas later admitted that his appeal to Sisi and (other Arab leaders) had fallen on deaf ears.
Sisi’s decision not to intervene in the current crisis did not come as a surprise. In fact, Sisi and many Egyptians seem to be delighted that Hamas is being badly hurt.
The Israeli Directorate of Military Intelligence (Aman) has predicted that the year 2015 will be a decisive one for the fate of the Egyptian regime and the coup that was led by outgoing Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, according to Palestine 48 news site.
In a rare interview conducted by Israel’s Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper and published on Monday, Colonel Roital, who heads the Egypt and Jordan Front at Aman’s Research Department, reportedly said that unless huge financial support is provided to Al-Sisi’s regime after he assumes power as president, the regime will likely collapse.
The colonel noted that Egypt has an 87 million-strong population, with a baby born every 16 seconds, and given that the 25 January Revolution erupted for economic and social reasons, not for ideological or religious reasons, the people will want to see results.
Indeed, Roital believes that Egyptians will give Al-Sisi a very short period of time to create a transformation in their standard of living; otherwise, they will not let him stay in power.
The struggle for Egypt is on the verge of a major escalation as the key sponsors of the jihadist cause in Syria are now committed to a similar campaign against Egypt.
The overall strategic objective is to prevent the emergence of an inward-looking regional order based on the Arab heartland, shielded by the Fertile Crescent of Minorities, and thus excluding the external forces. A strong and stable Egypt is considered a cornerstone of such a regional posture.
Without naming the United States, the Kremlin used Egyptian Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s visit to criticize what it regards as U.S. interference in the internal affairs of other countries. Russia’s ties with the U.S. have been badly strained by disputes ranging from Syria’s civil war, to missile defence plans in Europe, to Moscow’s human-rights record.
Putin’s public endorsement of el-Sissi is unlikely to cause a stir in Egypt, where an announcement by the field marshal that he is running in the election is a matter of when, not if.