Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
Opinion Editorials, August 2012
Israel the Real Culprit Behind Sinai Attacks
Hisham Safieddin Interviewed By Press TV
Fri Aug 10, 2012, 5:13PM GMT
This interview took place before the Egyptian President, Morsi, had sacked the Military Council, which ruled the country since February 2011.
Interview with Hisham Safieddin, political analyst
Final statement is the real culprits in this regardless of who actually did the attack is the Israelis and the Egyptian Army leadership. I think we have to insist on strengthening relations between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and not necessarily the military and I think the first measures that have to be taken is regaining of sovereignty from this shackling agreement with the Israelis before we can speak of any real sovereignty towards the Bedouin which existed in Sinai long before anyone from Cairo came to control them."
New clashes have broken out between Egyptian police and gunmen outside a police station in the Sinai town of El-Erish, state TV reports.
The state-owned Nile News television reported that Egyptian police and gunmen were engaged in clashes on Thursday.
Egyptís Muslim Brotherhood and the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas say Israeli spy agency Mossad was behind the border attack.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Hisham Safieddin, political analyst, to further discuss the issue.
The program also offers the opinions of three additional guests: Christopher Walker, journalist, Yahya Ghanem, from the Al-Ahram daily and also Gamal Zaide from the Al-Ahram magazine.
The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Do you have any idea about the identity of the attackers and why they would do such kind of an attack against Egyptian police?
Safieddin: Well we still do not know exactly who these people are, there are news that the Israelis have handed over some bodies of people allegedly involved in the attack to the Egyptian authorities. The general consensus is that these are some form of Jihadist or, I hate to use the term but this is the term being used, or radical Islamist groups.
And these kinds of attacks tend to be really generally operated by three types of groups. It is either groups that are actually motivated or pushed by intelligence services, so it very well might be a possibility that the Mossad is behind this even if indirectly or it is actually groups that are radical Islamist groups that have their own agendas, maybe possibly linked to al-Qaeda and the third type of groups are groups that actually have possibly grievances whether the things that have to do with smuggling, they have territorial disputes, they belong to some of the Sinai tribes and they actually have vendettas or they have something against the Israeli soil, the Egyptian army and also of course they have no love lost towards Israel.
Press TV: It seems all sides have denounced this incident, they said it had nothing to do with Islam and that such incidents should not happen in the name of Islam. What kind of groups, I mean extremist Muslim groups they have their own agendas you said, what kind of an agenda we are talking about?
Safieddin: I mean we should look at this in a more political sense and not in a religious sense and generally speaking it could be, this is just a possibility that they still see the Egyptian army as illegitimate that the Egyptian Army does not represent what they think of is a righteous proper government in Egypt, possibly that the Egyptian Army is not on the side totally of the Islamist forces in Egypt, that the Egyptian Army is now with odds with the Salafis in Egypt. That is one possibility.
They could also be motivated by governments that actually support these groups, possibly in the [Persian] Gulf, we do not really know but I think the more important question is the fact that this actually happened in Sinai and hopefully we will discuss this what the ability of these group to act independently and to attack the Egyptian Army and the armyís response which just happened this morning on Wednesday. What does that mean to the future of the border security in the region?
Press TV: Mr. Safieddin, the military has said that they have attacked certain places where they believe those militants do exist and they have killed several of their members. Do you think that they can really control the area once more?
Safieddin: Well I just want to say first that this is the first such attack on Egyptian soil since the October of 1973 and the reports say that they have actually used airstrikes. What they have done is criminal in any way because we do not know whether they are really killing the people who live there or they are killing these actual militants like most of these strikes that the US tends to use all across the region.
And it is quite a shame I think the military has failed its first test that they have actually ended up attacking Egyptian soil in the first incidents of disagreement with the Israelis.
The border itself is not huge per se but Sinai is so they may be able, they may end up having to actually increase their presence across the border. I want to just mention that it is a double-edged sword, what happened in terms of Israelís benefit because on one hand as your host from London is saying rightly so the Egyptians, they might ask for more security at the border.
Bringing in more Egyptian troops first means having to renegotiate the Treaty and second it means that unless these troops are under the direct control of some joint committee with the Israelis, you never know how this military presence is going to play out in the long-run because you know eventually it might not be to the benefit of Israel, of the Zionist state.
So again they may be able to increase their control and the security measures across the border, they have actually trying now to destroy or close down most of the tunnels that connect Egypt to Gaza, again a very ironic and sad and tragic twist to who is actually now closing them.
So we may see a lot of that before we see any serious increase in troops because the increase in troops as I said is a lot more unpredictable and dangerous thing for the Israelis and they probably would want to say it more intelligence people across the border, maybe more cooperation in terms of possibly raising more barriers across the border, things like that.
Press TV: Do you think that this proves that perhaps President Morsi and the military might see eye to eye when it comes to really securing the border over there?
Safieddin: I think they do not see exactly eye to eye. Morsi again I believe has not attended the funeral of the military who have died. They probably see eye to eye in terms of having a very nationalistic agenda of definitely making sure that Egyptian military alone has a say in Sinai, how much they are willing to cooperate with the Israelis? I think Morsi has more of a negative approach which means we do not cooperate but we do not escalate against the Israelis and the military, the leadership itself is a lot more probably willing to engage in security engagement.
So they are both kind of on the same side of the fence but I do not think they both see eye to eye on this.
Press TV: Mr. Safieddin, do you think that with the issue of Palestine that the military wants to show to the United States that it can really be part of its interest still in Egypt?
Safieddin: Well first let me say that the claim that they are cooperating with Hamas is yet unfounded and the Egyptian Army itself is actually being engaged especially the leadership in terrorist acts against the Egyptian people from the beginning of the revolution.
So I find it very problematic to describe things the way that the person have just did. And we know someone like Sami [Hafez] Anan, the Chief of Staff of the Egyptian Army is an extremely close ally to the United States. I do not think that the Egyptian Army needs to prove anything beyond what has already done.
They think of this not simply in terms of what the United States wants but of their own power in Egypt. Today the Egyptian Army and SCAF itself, the authority of the Egyptian army, their legitimacy is under attack and so this for them is an increased reason to reinforce their strength and sovereignty in Sinai and unfortunately they do not seem to think the same way when it comes to their sovereignty of moving their troops in Sinai vis-ŗ-vis the Israelis.
So the United States itself is definitely interested in reigning and controlling and securing the border for the Israelis. So I think they have their own reasons regardless of what United States thinks to actually crackdown on these militants.
Press TV: We have seen popular protests not only against the military but also against Israel and the Israeli ambassador. Do you think that they see both sides as being part of the major troubles in the country?
Safieddin: I think most Egyptians of course think of the Israelis as a cause of trouble but we should not overestimate the amount of anger towards the Israelis today in Egypt in the sense that the protests and the attacks against the embassy itself has not been large scale and we have to actually see that and we have to read before we can make any conclusions and I think largely it is because most Egyptians today are genuinely concerned about their own being and their own safety and security and the huge transformations, the internal transformations they can place inside Egypt.
Press TV: Quick comment, just thirty seconds, your final statement please.
Safieddin: Final statement is the real culprits in this regardless of who actually did the attack is the Israelis and the Egyptian Army leadership. I think we have to insist on strengthening relations between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and not necessarily the military and I think the first measures that have to be taken is regaining of sovereignty from this shackling agreement with the Israelis before we can speak of any real sovereignty towards the Bedouin which existed in Sinai long before anyone from Cairo came to control them.
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