Sunday, August 26, 2012

Is Egypt's Morsi The Master Manipulator?

On 5th August 2012 masked gunmen in Egypt's Sinai desert killed 16 Egyptian soldiers at a checkpoint along the border with Gaza and Israel, the first such attack on Egyptian troops - and then the attackers drove off, crashing into Israel, before being fatally stopped by the IDF. Egypt blamed Islamist militants from Gaza and Egypt's troubled Sinai Peninsula. President Mohammed Morsi said the attackers "will pay dearly.". However, while Morsi has certainly hit the terrorists cells in the Sinai very hard, the real payment seems to have been extracted from the Egyptian military and the real winner? President Morsi.

Following the attack, Islamic Brotherhood backed Morsi moved swiftly to consolidate power from the Egyptian
Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) , which up until that point had seemed to have the upper hand in the battle of wills with the Islamists.Two days after the attack, President Mohamed Morsi announced the dismissal of Murad Muwafi, head of the General Intelligence Directorate, who had replaced Omar Suleiman, as well as the dismissal of the governor of the northern Sinai province and the head of the military police. Five days later, President Morsi announced that Defense Minister Tantawi, Chief of Staff Anan, and the commanders of the navy, air defense, and air force were “retiring.” It appears that the top command echelon of the Egyptian defense establishment, which operated as part of SCAF and has controlled Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster, was dealt a heavy blow in the struggle with the civil government. Many social media users are calling this development “check mate” and “a knockout” in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. President Morsi also used the opportuni
ty to recover the executive and legislative powers that SCAF had taken from him.

Additionally, he is managing to achieve something his predecessor Mubarak did not even attempt, the re-militarization of the Sinai peninsula, emptied of all but lightly armed forces under the Camp David accords of 1978, unless by prior agreement with Israel. Egypt used attack helicopters and armored personnel carriers in coordination with Israel to go after militants suspected of being behind the Aug. 5 killing of the Egyptian soldier
s in Sinai. Later, however, Egypt deployed U.S.-made M60 tanks to Sinai without consulting with Israel, which drew objections from the Israel despite the fact that it has long encouraged Cairo to crack down on militants in Sinai.

Israel does not view the Egyptian military buildup there as a strategic threat. The problem, Israeli officials said, is with Egypt setting a precedent by moving troops to Sinai without coordinating the move with Israel first.

As the crisis passes and the dust settles, there is no doubt that President Morsi has come out of the incident as the clear winner. He appears to have seized the opportunity, dropped in his lap by the terrorists, to consolidate his power and demonstrate a strategic gain over the hated Israelis, in front of the Egyptian public. Where it starts to gets a little sinister and look less like dumb luck, more like calculated manipulation by Morsi, is that over the past weekend, the Palestinian Maan News Agency has reported that at least 4 of the Sinai terrorists were Jihadists released from Egyptian prison after being pardoned by President Morsi shortly after he came to power. This raises the ghost of a suspicion that Morsi may have planned the entire thing, or at least encouraged the terrorists to take action. By releasing the Jihadists, and opening the Gaza border despite recent attacks on Israel by Gaza backed terror groups in the Sinai, Morsi must have seen that a large scale, sophisticated attack was a distinct possibility. That knowledge allowed him to plan a swift coup over SCAF, and demonstrate immediate and dramatic resolve in the Sinai. In one foul swoop he has gained virtually full control over the armed forces, and dealt a heavy blow to the Sinai terror groups, in the process weakening the norms of military behavior in the Sinai.

The Muslim Brotherhood are today firmly in control in Egypt and triumphant President Morsi is now making his first foreign Iran.

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