Friday, April 10, 2009

Egypt and Hizbullah

The Arabist has expressed skepticism over Egyptian allegations that Hizbullah wanted to carry out terrorist acts inside Egypt:
"Culled from various sources, a list of what the “Hizbullah cell” was trying to achieve:

- Carry out terrorist attacks on the Shia holiday Ashura
- Rent housing near the Suez Canal to monitor the passage of ships
- Surveillance of tourist resorts in Sinai
- Procurement of explosives to manufacture bombs
- Renting housing in luxury areas to serve as safe houses
- Recruitment of Egyptians to their cause, with the aim of sending them abroad for paramilitary training
- Using businesses to fund and provide cover for their activities
- Spread Shiism in Egypt

"All that seems like a tall order… While I won’t dismiss it entirely as many who have heard Egyptian security cry wolf too many times — after all there is a rich history of Arab states and non-state actors operating in each other’s turf, even if it died down in the post-Cold War world — the idea of Hizbullah suddenly deciding to implant itself in Egypt, where it has no natural constituency, is rather weird."

Today Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah spoke:
"Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah on Friday said Egypt was holding a member of the Lebanese Shi'ite militia who was in Egypt 'working to help the resistance of Palestine'.

"Nasrallah said the Hezbollah member had been working 'to move military equipment and members to help the resistance' in Gaza.

"During the live television address, Nasrallah denied accusations that Hezbollah is trying to destabilize Egypt or is planning attacks on Egyptian targets, saying such claims 'are meant to sully the image of Hezbollah among the Egyptian people.'

"Nasrallah portrayed Hezbollah's actions as meant solely to aid the Palestinian people, saying 'if helping our occupied, battered, and hungry Palestinian brothers is a crime, than I confess to this crime.'"

I agree with Nasrallah here. The Egyptian government is helping enforce the siege of Gaza. To say that this is deeply unpopular among Egyptians would be an understatement. Accusing a member of the rejectionist Arab camp of plotting an attack against Egypt is aimed at the domestic audience. I expect it won't catch on.

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