Ty Butler, Senior CorrespondentInternational Development and Conflict Last Modified: 23:59 p.m. DST, 22 August 2013
RAFAH, Egypt - At least 25 Egyptian police officers were killed on Monday near the Rafah crossing with Gaza in Egypt’s increasingly lawless Sinai Peninsula region. The attack occurred as rocket propelled grenades stuck the security force’s transport while it was en route to a police barracks. Those officers not killed in the initial assault were forced onto the ground by gunmen and summarily executed.
The deaths mark one of the single largest attacks on Egyptian security officials in the Sinai since former president Mohamed Morsi was ousted in a military coup in early July. This attack however, was not one likely engaged in by pro-Morsi supporters.
While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the slaughter, it is not characteristic of current violence by Muslim Brotherhood supporters or by angry anti-coup protestors. Instead, it mirrors the tactics taken from the playbook of a third major factional arm of Egypt’s current political sphere which is fighting against both the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military.
This third major factional grouping, characterized by a mix of international and regional violent jihadi cells and organizations have thus far been the primary victors surrounding the crisis in Egypt. Islamist political organizations in Muslim majority countries tend to act as something of a barrier against violent radicalism. Some analysts of course may disagree and even suggest the exact opposite; that Islamist political parties aid in rooting conservative discourse into political and social spheres and thus nurture an atmosphere that is more conducive to jihadi recruitment.
Evidence from Iraq however, supports the idea that political Islamists who work within Brotherhood style groups do not tend to transfer into jihadi organizations. That being tentatively established, the military crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt becomes rather troublesome, not only for the sake of preserving democracy within Egypt, but in the fight against international and regional terrorism as well.
As political chaos grows, the position of international jihadis within Egypt strengthens. These militant organizations traditionally view the Muslim Brotherhood in very negative terms. Al Qaeda and related groups disagree vehemently with The Muslim Brotherhood’s dedication to gaining power through largely peaceful means, and often outright curse their willingness to participate within formal political processes. This tension can be seen throughout the jihadi community in numerous writings and statements.
Current leader of Al-Qaeda Central Ayman al-Zawahiri was by no means timid in his fairly harsh critique of the Muslim Brotherhood within his “book” Bitter Harvest. Zawahiri accused the Brotherhood of aligning with the West in the greater jihadi struggle, siding with apostate domestic regimes by participating in elections, and even of protecting Israel from Al-Qaeda.
This condemnation is often mirrored by the leadership of other Al-Qaeda affiliates and international jihadi groups; chief among which perhaps is the Islamic State in Iraq (formerly Al-Qaeda in Iraq) which openly blames the Muslim Brotherhood as the primary reason for its failures within Iraq.
Published: 22 August 2013 (Page 2 of 2)
In Egypt, the current coup has the potential to leave Islamist youths wondering what exactly the Brotherhood’s pragmatism and dedication to formal political processes has gotten it. Military repression of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood opens a door to violent jihadis who are readily exploiting the situation to their advantage. The discord affords jihadis time to establish stronger roots in the region as primary attention is shifted elsewhere, while simultaneously allowing Al Qaeda and affiliated groups to say “we told you so.”
Jihadi propaganda machines have been running overtime rejoicing at the opportunity to discredit what they view as a flawed path at best, and as traitorous collaboration with Western Crusaders and their allies at worst. The days immediately following the coup saw the creation of at least two new public jihadi organizations within Egypt; Ansar al-Sharia Egypt (it is unclear if it has any connections with the existing Egyptian group that already carries the name), and the Brigades of Abdullah Azzam in Egypt.
Even absent jihadi propaganda, the violent reaction that some anti-coup protestors have demonstrated is highly concerning. Scores of Christian churches have been attacked since the coup in some of the worse displays of sectarian violence that Egypt has recently known. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood may officially stand against sectarian conflict, but that has not stopped disenfranchised individuals (whether or not they claim to support the Brotherhood) from expressing their anger in such ways; a sign perhaps of increasing polarization in the face of current political happenings. Tuesday’s arrest of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual guide Mohamed Badie is unlikely to do much to help the situation, nor are talks of forcibly dissolving the Brotherhood.
The Muslim Brotherhood is not the ideal political partner in Egypt for the United States and other western countries. There is little denying that the organization is a conservative Islamist party, and one that is often quite vocal in its opposition to US foreign policy. Uncomfortable international dealings aside though, there is little to justify the coup in Egypt.
Simply put, the military ousted a democratically elected leader, dissolved a democratically elected parliament, and suspended a democratically approved constitution. President Morsi’s attempted power grab through the self-granting of extraordinary powers was deeply concerning. It is also true that there was popular disapproval of the political and economic climate under Brotherhood rule; however, such realities does little to diminish the imagery of yet more military strong arming within Egypt in direct violation of democratic mechanisms for the conveyance of disagreement (IE: voting).
The continued weakening of the Egyptian state apparatus through outright authoritarian crackdowns and the targeted marginalization of historically ideologically non-violent political Islamists can only play into the hands of those who advocate increased violence, both domestically and internationally. International jihadism has found itself an unwitting ally in the Egyptian military, and the repercussions will impact the security of all.Return to Page 1»
- GLOBAL: 'Next generation' of Al-Qaeda being born in Egypt - Experts (omonaijanimi.com)
- 'Next generation' of Qaeda being born in Egypt: analysts (dailynewsegypt.com)
- Egypt protests arrive at White House doorstep (thehill.com)
- 'Next generation' of Qaeda being born in Egypt: analysts (foxnews.com)