Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sinai Lawlessness

The National notes instability in the Sinai Peninsula:
"The owner of a Sinai Peninsula holiday resort taken over by a group of armed Bedouin is refusing to pay the four million Egyptian pound (Dh2.4m) ransom the tribesmen are demanding.

"Hesham Nessim, proprietor of the Aqua-Sun Resort 30km south of Egypt's border with Israel, says he will wait them out or retake his property with police help...

"It underscores the security vacuum in the peninsula since the uprising that forced Hosni Mubarak from power last year - a void some fear could even spark the collapse of the 33-year-old Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

"Since Mubarak stepped down, however, a heightened air of lawlessness has swept the peninsula, with 10 attacks on a pipeline supplying natural gas to Israel and Jordan.

"This week, armed men robbed a currency exchange bureau in Sharm El Sheikh, killing a French tourist who happened to be there. Bedouin tribesmen kidnapped 25 Chinese cement factory workers yesterday, demanding the release of fellow tribesman arrested between 2004 and 2006 for their roles in bombings at a resort at Taba on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba...

"Any attempt by Egyptian security forces to restore security to the Sinai is made difficult by treaty agreements between Israel and Cairo. The Camp David Accords set a limit to the number of security forced Egypt could deploy to the Sinai Peninsula. Different zones are demilitarised to different degrees, especially within 20-40km of the Israeli border. Israel also agreed to limit its forces 3km from the border."

The article is a good overview of the security problems in Sinai, problems which have parallels in other areas of Egypt. Restoring effective control of the country represents an underappreciated challenge for the new Egyptian government. However, I don't see these developments as an actual threat to the Camp David Accords. Israeli security doctrine depends too much on peace with Egypt to forestall a possible two-front war. Something will be worked out on Sinai. The bigger issue for the treaty is that it goes up for a referendum and fails due to Egyptian solidarity with the Palestinians.



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