Is Egypt in the cusp of Arab Spring 2?

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi

Christof Lehmann Correspondent

Egypt is also facing increased activities by Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked insurgents along the northern section of its border with Libya. Arguably, the US administration is attempting to stab Egypt in the back in an Arab Spring version 2.0.

During the night between January 29 and 30 the ISIS affiliated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) carried out a large-scale assault against Egyptian military forces in the North Sinai town of Arish.

The attack cost the lives of at least 29 Egyptian soldiers and was one of the most serious attacks by ABM.

Although the exact genesis of the insurgency is somewhat unclear, it arose and gained momentum as interface between Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood militants, elements of the Palestinian Hamas, as well as ISIS, a.k.a. ISIL or Islamic State. ABM’s declared goal is the establishment a Wilayat Sinai or State of Sinai. ABM would state that it launched the attack as revenge for increased anti-terrorism operations carried out in the North Sinai province.

On Friday, January 30 the Supreme Council of Armed Forces convened to analyse the attacks which cost the lives of at least 29 soldiers. The Cairo Post’s Hanan Fayed quoted Egyptian President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi as commenting:

“Egypt is fighting the strongest secret organisation established in the past couple of centuries . . . Secret arms, secret ideas, secret tools, many things. And Egyptians rebelled against them . . . there is a price we are paying . . . There is a much higher price that Egypt would have had to pay if that continued for two, three or four months”.

While the attack came against the backdrop of increased anti-terrorism operations, it also came against the backdrop of an evolution in Egyptian domestic and foreign anti-terrorism policy. The most recent one is the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s sharp criticism of the US administration with regards to hosting a Muslim Brotherhood meeting in the United States.

As the attack in Arish was still ongoing, and during the African Union conference on Libya in Addis Ababa, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shourky described the US State Department’s explanation about hosting a meeting of the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Freedom and Justice Party as “not understandable”.

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, for her part, told the Press that a “delegation of former Freedom and Justice Party members” had organised a meeting at Georgetown University and added that this “was routine at the State Department as they meet political party leaders from across the world”. Psaki also added that the delegation didn’t discuss the ousting of Mohamed Morsi. It is noteworthy that Morsi and 35 co-defendants soon will face the court’s verdict in Egypt’s largest espionage trial. It is also noteworthy to recall the words of Al-Sisi during a 2013 interview with journalist Larry Weissman.

“The people of Egypt are aware of the fact that the USA has stabbed Egypt in the back with the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi. It is nothing that Egypt will easily forget, or forgive”.

Both the Egyptian administration of President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi and the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin are actively involved in an attempt to broker a peaceful resolution to the war in, or on Syria.

The next round of talks with the foreign-backed opposition is likely to be held in Moscow.

On January 24 a delegation of the Syrian “opposition” gave a Press conference after meetings with the Al-Sisi administration in Cairo.

The Russian and Egyptian initiatives succeeded in eliciting the opposition’s willingness to return to the negotiation table and continue the process that began during the Geneva 1 Conference on Syria.

One of the major obstacles that is yet to be overcome is the “opposition’s” insistence on a “transitional government” while Syria’s domestic opposition as well as parliamentarians and the administration of President Bashar Al-Assad stress that all who denounce violence are welcome to participate in Syria’s political discourse on equal terms with everybody else.

Moreover, the Syrian government stresses that it has no constitutional mandate to agree on the formation of any government in which the electorate of Syria has not had a say. Needless to say that the Russian and Egyptian success in eliciting an agreement to return to the negotiating table in Geneva is inconsistent with the United States’ regional ambitions and the “Assad must go” position.

A third point of contention between Egypt and the United States is Egypt’s successful anti-terrorism lobbying and co-operation with Mauritania and most noteworthy, with the United Arab Emirates. – nsnbc.