Wednesday, 2 April 2014

A Bleak Future of Conflict for Egypt.

'General Abdul Fattah al Sisi, who last week announced his candidacy for president and will almost certainly get the job. And I can't help comparing the behaviour of the institutions around Mubarak with the current behaviour of the state institutions'. ( Khaled al-Berry ,Why Egypt is in a spiral of despair The Guardian 2 April 2014 )
One reason for the militancy of the Muslim Brotherhood is the fact that it is seen to represent poorer sections of Egyptian society. It appeals especially those migrated into Egypt's burgeoning and overpopulated cities, especially Cairo, from rural areas for work and a university education to improve their life chances.

Unfortunately, Egypt's economy has struggled to keep pace with the population growth. The 'Arab Spring' was as much a revolt of the hungry due to the high price of bread as there is not enough land within Egypt to grow enough wheat and the global crop was affected by the 2010 fires in Russia.

Moreover, oil revenue has declined as peak production rates were reached in 1996 and have been declining since. That has led to a balance of payments crisis and the IMF demand to cut subsidies on fuel and bread, measures that the MB's President Morsi agreed to and that failed to stem popular anger.

The return of a Mubarak era strongman in the form of Sisi was always highly probable given the combination of economic collapse, political instability and the consequent fear that the MB's attempt to 'Islamise' Egypt would drive up militancy and drive off tourists and hence a much needed source of income.

The problem is that the reimposition of an effective secular military leader, after the way the MB was crushed and its leaders jailed or purged from administrative positions, is that it has led to militants seeing Sisi as Sisi's supporters also see Islamists; as tools of US imperialism.

Sisi's military regime continues to be supported by the USA as part of its geopolitical strategy of protecting Israel as well as the Suez Canal and the oil and gas pipelines running through Egypt. Militants from the poorer underclass and bedouins have sought to threaten the security of North Sinai.

Since August 2013 an effective civil war has been raging on the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian military's ruthless counter-terrorist measures against the Bedouins having the opposite effect of pushing even more from these poorer regions of Egypt towards belonging to Islamist guerilla groups.

One reason the British government is considering a ban on the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain is the fear of 'blowback' from those angry at the way the west allowed Sisi to crush what was considered by many in Egypt a democratically elected government in order to preserve its interests such as the BG group's stake in Egyptian gas production.

Egypt's economic crisis is not going to abate unless it attains political stability but if that comes at the cost of an election in which the Muslim Brotherhood is banned, it is hard to see how deep divisions and the threat to Egypt's tourist revenue from jihadist attacks can be prevented.

Moreover, pipelines pumping oil and gas within and through Egypt have been targeted as they have in Algeria and Libya in the past. The pipeline to Israel was attacked in 2012. Fears of an attack on the Suez Canal's container traffic of oil and gas persists. The prospect for peace in Egypt looks extremely bleak.

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