By Yusri Mohamed, Reuters, in Toronto Star, August 7, 2012
RAFAH, EGYPT—Egypt branded Islamist gunmen who killed 16 Egyptian police near the Israeli border as “infidels” and promised on Monday to launch a crackdown following the massacre that has strained Cairo’s ties with both Israel and Palestinians.
An Egyptian official said jihadist militants crossed into Egypt from the Gaza Strip before attacking the border station on Sunday. They then stole two vehicles and headed to nearby Israel, where they were eventually killed by Israeli fire.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that up to eight assailants died in the attack. He also said he hoped the attack would serve as a “wake-up call” to Egypt, which Israel has accused of having lost control of the desert Sinai peninsula.
The bloodshed represents an early diplomatic test for Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist who took office at the end of June after staunch U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year in a popular uprising.
Morsi visited the border area on Monday, accompanied by the head of Egypt’s military, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi. The army sent in reinforcements and stepped up checkpoints.
During his rule, Mubarak co-operated closely with Israel on security and suppressed Islamist movements such as Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which rejects violence to achieve its goals but whose leaders often voiced hostility towards the Jewish state.
Egypt’s military, which still holds many levers of power, called Sunday’s attackers “infidels” and said it had been patient until now in the face of instability in Sinai.
“But there is a red line and passing it is not acceptable. Egyptians will not wait for long to see a reaction to this event,” it said in a statement on its Facebook page.
A largely demilitarized Sinai is the keystone of the historic 1979 peace deal between the two countries. But for the past year there has been growing lawlessness in the vast desert expanse, as Bedouin bandits, jihadists and Palestinian militants from next-door Gaza fill the vacuum, tearing at already frayed relations between Egypt and Israel.
Morsi has promised to honour Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel and has done little to suggest a major shift in ties. He has also reached out to Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip that borders Egypt and Israel, and Sunday’s killings put an instant strain on their relations.
It is not only the strain on the tenuous relationship between Egypt and Israel that is threatened by this incident. It is a sign of the growing "stage" for Islamic radical terrorists to wreak their havoc around the world.
We now know, for example, that the Syrian conflict has been infiltrated by Al Qaeda terrorists, threatening to tear the rebel forces apart, in spite of the defection of the former Prime Minister in the Assad 'government' and his return from Jordan to fight with the opposition. We know that Al Qaeda operatives are posing a threat in Yemen, and in other places in Africa such as Somalia and Nigeria.
Failure to destroy the Islamic radical element, an element committed to exacerbating the situation wherever there is instability, in order to plant their flag, through the inciting of anything western, man-made, and non-Islamic.
Of course, at the top of the list is Israel, United States, and most western countries, where, fortunately, political and economic stability are stronger than in the regions most fraught with economic and political instability, uncertainty and few prospects of turning that instability around.
These small, apparently isolated terror strikes, however, are, in their complexity neither small nor isolated.
They result, in part, from a well-documented conviction that the world community is unable to stop their occurrence, in spite of the billions spent on "security" in all its many forms, since 9/11. They result, also, from another deeply held conviction that violence is the only instrument in the terrorists' quivver that will keep the world community both on notice and increasingly unstable itself, given both the paranoia and the political will to build fortresses, both literally and militarily, and also cybernetically.
And underlying the conditions that make terrorism the new kind of conflict, are conditions of poverty, disease, lawlessness and the failure of "governance" in too many theatres, all of them potential locations for more strikes, and more lives lost and for more instability and opportunity for the big powers to take sides, as they are doing and have done in Syria, Iran, and potentially in Egypt.
As we watch these skirmishes, and their coverage as seemingly separate incidents as they are reported, we are wary of a media both too fragmented and stripped of adequate resources, as well as dedicated to micro-reporting of 'incident's rather than macro-reporting of connecting the dots, leaving that job to the specialists, and the experts and the insiders...while ordinary people are both deprived of their right to know just how serious these incidents are, cumulatively, and how the leaders of the world community are collaborating to protect us all.
There is, apparently, no effective international body empowered and responsible for macro-political implications, save and except perhaps small departments of international relations in various universities, and they are most likely underfunded, in an age of rapidly and dramatically changing world drama that is merging into a single drama played out by many-headed monsters like Al Qaeda, whose forces are unlike what the textbooks diagram as potential threats to us all.
The head of the Munk School of International Relations at the University of Toronto, Janice Stein, appearing on CBC's Power and Politics, just minutes ago, points to the danger of chemical weapons in Syria, and urges the Canadian government to continue to attempt to work with the Russians, who, she says, have personnel on the ground in Syria, know where those chemical weapons are stored and along with the U.S. have a common interest in those chemical weapons NOT being deployed.
As Ms Stein points out, "We all have an interest in seeing that those chemical weapons are not used on anyone by anyone, including Assad.