Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Egypt's War on Terror : Resource Wars, the Security State and the Savage Threat of ISIS.

Egypt's New War on Terror

Egypt has branded itself as a staunch leader in a second 'war on terror'. This one followed on the from the failure of the 2011 "Arab Spring", a chain of uprisings throughout the MENA states against old Cold War era nationalist autocracies that could no longer cope with economic problems and high food prices.

A full scale insurgency led by ISIS exists in the east of Egypt in Sinai and to the West in Libya. But the war in Egypt is also a longer term consequence of the economic problems caused by overpopulation, increased fuel prices, Bedouin anger and the crushing of a shaky democracy by the military 'deep state' in 2013.

Sisi's coup was deemed necessary by those like Tony Blair in order to preserve the "stability" as the Morsi government proved itself too bungling and incompetent to do anything immediate to overcome Egypt's economic problems or deliver the security needed to a simmering revolt in Sinai.

Truly the 2011 "Arab Spring" was the turning point at which history failed to turn. The fall of Mubarak was regarded as giving Arab democracy a chance. But the Egyptian deep state and the Muslim Brotherhood both saw it as a chance to make it a brutal power contest between them which only the army could win.

As a consequence of coup against Morsi 'stability' by 2015 means arbitrary imprisonment, executing Muslim Brotherhood leaders and suppressing journalism and 'collateral damage' through the heavy handed use of US made Apache helicopters shooting up villages in Sinai where radical Muslim Brothers fled.

The Egyptian junta wants to stop journalists covering the war in the east so as not to frighten off tourists who were again targeted by Islamist militant at ancient sites such as Luxor. Egyptian security forces are working flat out to prevent the insurgents bombing Red Sea resorts near Sinai.

But also the true scale of the war and violence being ratcheted up is a danger to global investor confidence in Egypt as insurgents have acted to blow up gas and oil pipelines. Media outlets in the West have only in 2015 started asking if there is a full blown insurgency but the reality has existed since 2014.

The Egyptian generals took a tremendous risk in overthrowing Morsi's government and crushing the protests of 2013 with such bloodshed, the better to have a real decisive battle with Islamists once and for all. It has scotched the chances of coopting Islamists into a democratic framework.

What remains is a grim battle between the Egyptian state and the remnants of the Muslim Brotherhood which the Western states have complained about publicly but not ceased to tacitly accepted behind closed doors as the price to be paid for preserving key interests from lucrative arms deals to gas.

Resource Conflicts: Egypt, Israel and Hamas as Partners for Peace Through War on ISIS.
The EU's quest for energy diversification is an important reason for mealy mouthed waffle from European worthies about the junta's approach to a 'war on terror'. While 'engaging' with the MENA by accepting the need for migrants, EU leaders are, at the same time, are stoking up anger and bitterness in the region.

This is not only true with the supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, backed in Turkey by Erdogan's government and having prominent supporters among the Muslim diaspora in the West, but also with Hamas, an extreme jihadist paramilitary and political movement which rule's in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

As the insurgency has developed into a full scale war in Sinai, with F 15 bombers being used to bomb jihadist positions in North Sina just as they have in Libya, only Egypt's decision to try and seal the border between Sinai and Gaza has prevented ISIS gaining further ground in a new war against Hamas.

The Egyptian strategy of sealing in Gaza after the coup removed Morsi, who was sympathetic towards the cause of Hamas,however was originally intended as part of a co-operative plan to secure Israel's borders against Bedouin attacks from the Negev desert and to assist in Israel's air,land and sea blockade of Gaza.

Containing Gaza was not merely about Israel's 'war on terror' in the sense of Hamas's rocket attacks into the Jewish state but also about two other things. The first is to push it into a position of such intransigent fanatical hatred against Israel that it could never be regarded anywhere as a partner for peace.

Unless Hamas demilitarised in response to Israeli military assault in the three wars since it won the elections in 2007 it could be expected to play no part in benefiting from Gaza Marine gas alongside the Fatah led West Bank which is recognised as a peace player in regional and global diplomacy.

That suited Israel's ambitions to become a regional energy hegemon because it could use Gaza Marine gas to pipe towards its two regional security partners in both Egypt and Jordan, both of which have been threatened with a looming energy crisis, power black outs and rising Islamist militancy.

The second aspect of Israel's war against Gaza, energy geopolitics, is seldom mentioned in western media commentary of the conflict, which tends to reduce it to a long standing ethnic conflict as opposed to one now made even more protracted and intractable by the resource that could make Gaza rich.

The recent discovery in August 2015 of huge Eastern Mediterranean gas reserves in addition to Israel's could well change the balance away from Israel leading the way on energy exports westwards but it it also could lead Israel to be more determined to secure its gas field from Hamas and Hezbollah rocket attacks

The Israeli navy has not only been beefed up with naval frigates and the development of a 'maritime iron dome' it has started  training exercises designed to deal with ISIS or Hamas attacks on gas rig infrastructure. To the north, Hezbollah's Yakont missiles are considered a major threat to energy security

A war with Hezbollah could be imminent as Israel seeks to strike in order to demilitarise Hezbollah as well as try to permanently remove its usefulness to Iran now that the nuclear deal with Iran might not be overturned in 2016 even with a Republican administration in Washington.

Iran could soon be exporting gas to Western states and elsewhere in the near future as could Egypt should the EU make any more whiny complaints about human rights, something that could of course upgrade Israel's importance as a gas rich democracy that energy hungry Germany values as strategic partner.

Germany under Merkel desperately wants to reduce the sort of trend towards more dependence upon Russian gas as signified by the Nord stream pipeline that was cliched as an energy deal by former Chancellor Schroeder when Putin was seen as a strategic partner for peace and prosperity himself.

Germany has ramped up its arms deals with both Sisi in Egypt and with Israel, with its engineers working with the Israeli navy to protect its natural drilling sites in the Eastern Mediterranean. Germany has pledged itself to defending a state loathed by the Muslim migrants it sees as a handy migrant force.

With Turkey at logger heads with Egypt over both the coup of 2013, the Gaza War in 2014 and a proposed 'peace pipeline' that could include Israel but exclude Turkey, Erdogan could use diapora politics to stir up trouble in Germany by lambasting "Islamophobia" and its deals with Israel and Egypt.

There are rumours afoot of an Aphrodite-Egypt pipeline and new startling revelations to come that could make Ankara very anxious if it starts to get its interests nudged aside by Egypt, especially as both are engaged in a shady proxy power struggle over Libya and its resources.

Hamas Remakes itself as a Strategic Partner for Peace 

Throughout 2015 ISIS has proved able to gain ground in Libya and exploit the proxy war there as in Syria and the Egyptian 'war on terror' in Sinai as well as make inroads into Gaza where Hamas is regarded by ISIS operatives as weak in an area still devastated by the 2014 war and lack of rebuilding.

Hamas has found itself in the summer of 2015 face with a decaying Gaza and having to resist the threat of ISIS which has started to carry out attacks against Hamas officials it reviled as 'tyrants' and so attempted to kill through car bomb attacks after it beheading Palestinian refugees in Yarmouk in Syria.

Hamas has had to bizarrely in 2015 tried to reposition itself as a responsible counter terrorism force in Gaza against ISIS which has continued to gain recruits despite claims to the contrary by its spokesmen who want to prove they rule Gaza while ISIS aims to prove that it cannot in fact do that.

The grim irony is that Israel in the summer of 2014 reduced whole areas of Gaza to rubble as part of its ongoing 'war on terror' against Hamas whom Netanyahu declared is 'the same' as ISIS. Now Israeli strategists are talking of having Hamas as a form of 'moderate' rebels to keep ISIS in check.

Hamas basically had nowhere to turn to because Qatar abandoned it after the 2013 coup in Egypt and growing sectarian war across the region, especially in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, meant Iran started to drop its support for a Sunni jihadist insurgent group and party by 2014. 

So Hamas could well now face accusations that Hamas is really in league with Israel, an accusation to be countered by the one that posits ISIS as a creation of Israel because Israel is so incredibly clever in getting lots of presumably less clever people to commit stupid actions on its behalf. 

It could well be that Meshal's recent not so secret behind the doors diplomacy with the well known man of peace, Tony Blair, is about trying to resurrect Hamas as a force for stability and partner for peace with Israel should ISIS really become a substantial rival threat to both itself in Gaza and so Israel.

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