Egypt: Islamic State attacks eroding Sisi's credibility

Egypt: Islamic State attacks eroding Sisi's credibility
Comment: IS and other groups are gradually eroding whatever credibility Egyptian president Sisi' may have had thanks to a series of devastating attacks and security breaches, argues Amr Khalifa.
3 min read
18 Nov, 2015
Russia has confirmed that the accident in Sinai is a terrorist bomb attack [Getty]

Russia on Tuesday dealt Sisi a political blow when it deemed the explosion of its airliner an act of terror

Hits have come fast and furious since the Metrojet flight crashed over Sinai, last month. British Prime Minister David Cameron delivered the first when he suspended British flights into the popular Egyptian resort during Sisi’s Downing Street visit. 

Shortly thereafter, multiple western intelligence agencies, all announced the likelihood of a terrorist attack without furnishing Egyptian counterparts with Intel on the disaster, delivering yet another blow.   

     The signs all point to Sisi geopolitical stock falling.

A large part of the problem centers on Sisi and the image he has sought to burnish domestically and internationally: that of security savior. If you reach office via promises of stability you have one choice, and one choice only: deliver.

Deliver, Sisi has not. For long stretches of time crude bombs popping off in varying governates, including the hyper important Cairo and Alexandria, became as expected as the sun’s rise.

Mix in an insurgency which continues to mushroom in Northern Sinai and trouble is afoot. It is an insurgency which delivered an onslaught of 300-400 Wilayat Sinai fighters overtaking Sheikh Zweid on July 1st.

     the mysterious strongman is neither strong nor a mystery.

Despite Egyptian claims of control over Northern Sinai, just last month 7 were killed and 6 injured in Arish in an IED attack. Attacks like these, when Juxtapositioned with a major terrorist attack like the Metrojet downing, belie the official narrative. 

Less than 3 weeks ago, a local Sinai tribal leader didn’t mince words.

"The militant group’s top leaders have not been harmed…neither have its second and third tier commanders’’. More decisively, he added "the number of militants killed can only be around 30,’’ according to eyewitness accounts. Those killed by the military during the, much heralded, [Martyr’s Right] operation were said to be 535

Intelligence agencies who were able to determine the nature of the terrorist operation that took down the Metrojet killing 224, in less than 20 days, are keenly aware of the failing counter terrorism operations in Sinai. 

Sisi has put all his eggs in the security basket and they are getting crushed one egg at a time. The president carries a haphazard, disorganised, ill trained stick, and no carrot. Increasingly, the mysterious strongman is neither strong nor a mystery to many of his backers.

Rather than fix the problem or handle it professionally, the regime continues to bury its head in the sand and scream "conspiracy".

Just a few days ago, an Egyptian expert in forensics was quoted by Al Watan  projecting the following unconvincing possible causes of the crash: that bomb was placed on board in Russia or planted during transit before arrival at Cairo airport. 

Those familiar with Egyptian media know an article like that, in Al Watan, is no accident. This kind of 'analysis' does immeasurable harm in the absence of official government response. 

When the jet blew up it was meant as a warning by IS to multiple players. Western powers have heard the message and are taking decisive action while communicating clearly. 

Egypt has done anything but that. Continue down this path and the damage to Sisi’s geopolitical standing will be incalculable. Duplicate these actions and tourism’s recovery may be counted in years rather than months. 

Amr Khalifa is an Egyptian analyst and commentator. He has written for Daily News Egypt, Ahram Online, Mada Masr, Muftah and Arab Media and Society Journal. Follow him on Twitter: @cairo67unedited

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.