Why the Sinai Crisis Bodes Ill for Sisi

Nov. 11 2015

Much of Egyptian President Sisi’s claim on Western support rests on his promise that he can maintain his country as an island of stability in an otherwise turbulent Arab world, and on his successful crushing of terrorist groups. If terrorists linked to Islamic State did in fact bring down a Russian airliner (as now seems likely), Sisi’s argument may be headed for trouble, as Oren Kessler writes:

The air disaster has overshadowed what was supposed to be a public-relations coup for Sisi: an official visit to the residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron, where talk of a shared counterterror vision and investment in Egyptian energy was to replace reports of mass arrests, death sentences, curtailed freedom of speech, and the heavy-handed response to the Sinai unrest. Instead, the visit has been dominated by questions of security in Egypt, the costs of doing business in the country, and the wisdom of keeping its air routes open.

Despite his government’s excesses, Sisi’s inner circle insists that his commitment to counterterrorism in a dangerous environment is reason enough to merit international support. It’s not a baseless argument—the world’s most unstable region is engulfed in unprecedented volatility, and Egypt is both the largest Arab state and a decades-long Western ally. Still, the possibility that on his watch Egypt suffered its worst-ever terror attack has called into question the president’s counterterrorism tactics. If Sisi’s uncompromising methods can’t prevent a brazen, mass-casualty attack, Western policymakers will inevitably wonder what purpose they have served.

Read more at Foundation for Defense of Democracies

More about: David Cameron, Egypt, General Sisi, ISIIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Sinai Peninsula, Terrorism


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy