Islamism, Not Despotism, Is the Reason for Terrorism in Egypt

Dec. 29 2017

In the wake of Islamic State’s November 24 attack on a mosque in Sinai, which left 305 people dead and countless others wounded, some commentators have blamed the autocratic and often repressive government in Cairo for creating an environment that fosters terror. They will doubtless revive the same arguemtns in response to yesterday’s bombing of an Egyptian military vehicle, also in Sinai. Steven A. Cook believes they have it wrong:

The [reason for the attack] is straightforward: the perpetrators are adherents of a worldview that views violence as the principal means of purifying what they believe to be un-Islamic societies. It was not a coincidence that the attackers went after a mosque associated with Sufism—a mystical variant of traditional Islam that both violent and nonviolent fundamentalists consider apostasy. . . .

Wilayat Sinai, [the branch of Islamic State responsible for the attack], . . . was not radicalized because Sisi overthrew [the previous president], Mohammed Morsi, and engaged in a widespread crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, [of which Morsi was the leader]. Extremists need no such encouragement. . . .

[S]mart analysts have also assailed the Egyptian government for mass arrests, extrajudicial killings, and a scorched-earth policy aimed at pacifying the Sinai, claiming that it did not work in the 1990s when Egypt faced another terrorist threat and that it will not work now. As hard as it may be to acknowledge, these are largely inaccurate statements. The low-level insurgency that had buffeted Egypt beginning in the fall of 1992 came to an end in 1999. The tools then-President Hosni Mubarak used were police dragnets, state-sanctioned murder, military trials for civilians, and propaganda to diminish the draw of extremist ideologies. It is true that you cannot defeat ideas with bullets, bombs, and jail cells (which are often incubators of extremism), but between 1999 and 2011 Egypt did not confront a major terrorist threat.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Arab democracy, Egypt, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Sinai Peninsula, Terrorism

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy