The Islamic State Strikes Israel and Egypt

Naji Dahi
July 6, 2015

(ANTIMEDIA) Last month, the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL) flexed its muscle by simultaneously bombing a Shiite mosque in Kuwait and attacking a beach resort in Tunisia. These brazen attacks killed approximately 65 innocent people.

Last Monday, ISIS carried out an attack in Cairo, Egypt. The bombing killed Egypt’s top prosecutor, Hisham Barakat. Barakat was responsible for the overwhelming majority of prosecutions that put the Muslim Brotherhood behind bars or on death row. The crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood began after the democratically elected president of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi, was ousted by a coup d’etat carried out by then defense minister Abed al-Fatah al-Sisi. Al-Sisi, who is now president, has been conducting a two-year long, vicious crackdown on dissent in Egypt. The targets of this crackdown have been Islamic and secular groups who carried the uprising that ousted the previous dictator, Hosni Mubarak.

In the past several days, the Egyptian army has been engaged in military operations in Northern Sinai, a stronghold for ISIS militants. According to the New York Times, “Islamic State-linked militants struck Egyptian army outposts in the Sinai Peninsula on Wednesday in a coordinated wave of suicide bombings and battles that underlined the government’s failure to stem an insurgency despite a two-year crackdown.”

Despite the Egyptian military’s claim of killing 100 IS members and posting their photos on Facebook, IS members were able to launch 3 Grad rockets into Israel.  According to Newsweek, “Islamic State’s Egypt affiliate, Sinai Province, said in a statement posted on Twitter by supporters that it had launched three Grad rockets toward ‘occupied Palestine.’”

Three rockets hitting the Israeli desert is strategically insignificant. However, if the rockets successfully drew Israel into the conflict between IS and the Egyptian military, it would burnish the Islamic State’s credentials and widen the conflict in the region. IS would be seen as not only battling the corrupt al-Sisi dictatorship, but also battling Israel. As a precaution, the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) closed two border crossings into Israel (Kerem Shalom and Nitzana) prior to the firing of the rockets. This was done to prevent the infiltration of IS members into Israel. It seems that Israel is not interested in being part of the fight for Sinai.Sinai_North

The conflict between the Egyptian state and IS is localized to Sinai, a peninsula that the Egyptian government has historically neglected. More specifically, the conflict is over the control of several towns (El-Arish, Sheikh Zuwaid, and Rafah) on the coastal highway between Egypt and Gaza. According to Haaretz, “The peninsula’s Mediterranean coast is dilapidated. The buildings in its main city, El Arish, are crumbling, its zoo deserted, and its few hotels empty.” The neglect of the Egyptian government and the military crackdown in Sinai has created a local population hospitable to radical groups like ISIS.

Moreover, the crackdown the al-Sisi-controlled military is conducting against the Muslim Brotherhood has simply served to drive the group underground and further radicalize it. Indeed, there are reports that many of the Muslim Brothers have sought refuge in Sinai and joined ISIS. A sheikh from the Sawarka tribe, one of the largest tribes in Sinai, told U.S. News:

“One cannot separate the Brotherhood from IS; the conflict began in Sinai when President Morsi was ousted, and ever since we have been paying the price of political conflicts that we have nothing to do with. The more violence and power struggles, the more extremist the Brotherhood’s youths become … [they] turn into human resources used by IS for its operations in Sinai. [This situation] may expand to all of Egypt, especially when new cells loyal to IS will emerge from the Brotherhood youths who resent the army’s violent actions toward them and their leadership — ever since the Brotherhood-affiliated president was isolated.”

It is clear as day that the problems in Sinai began when defense minister al-Sisi overthrew the only freely and democratically elected president of Egypt, Muhammad Morsi. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel played a role in the coup while the U.S. stood by and did nothing. The U.S. even refused to call the overthrow a coup so as not to jeopardize the $1.75 billion in U.S. military aid to Egypt. In that sense, the U.S. was and still is deeply involved in the support of the al-Sisi dictatorship.

There is no military solution to the problem in Sinai. The more the Egyptian military cracks down on the Muslim Brotherhood, the more they are radicalized and the more their members join the ranks of ISIS in the long-neglected Sinai peninsula. From Sinai, the radicalized youth of the Muslim Brotherhood will likely continue their guerrilla warfare against the al-Sisi dictatorship and its enablers: Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

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