The kidnapping of the seven soldiers more than a week ago in Sinai was just one more link in a long chain of acts betraying a basic lack of law and order in the Sinai Peninsula, but its implications on how the state functions are great; its implications extend beyond Sinai, and and has influence on events all over Egypt. The army, whose soldiers’ lives endangered, is not interested in starting an all-out war against the Bedouins because the army is at a disadvantage in such a war: It has almost no intelligence on the many hiding places scattered in the mountains of the peninsula, because it its very difficult to infiltrate agents into this sort of familial and ideological jihadist groups, and also because these groups use almost no electronic media operators that can be located and listened in on. Because of the difficult terrain in the mountains of the Sinai Peninsula the army cannot use tanks but only commando soldiers of the infantry who have no advantage over the Bedouins, sons of the desert, who know every fold of the land, every rock and every cave and every bush.
And if at any time battles in Sinai break out against the Bedouins and the jihadists, how will the army explain to the soldiers’ parents why and how they were killed? Does the army really want to sacrifice the blood of its soldiers to consolidate the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood in the state? How will the army stand up to the criticism of the Salafists, who already claim that the army is an agent of Mubarak and that the army hopes to get him out of the defendant’s cage and return him to the presidential palace? And in the future, when they kidnap soldiers again, and if the army won’t be able to liberate the kidnapped soldiers and then the Bedouins kill them on camera, how will it appear in the eyes of the soldiers and the citizens of the state when they see on youtube that the Bedouins kill the soldiers of the biggest army in the Middle East in cold blood and the impotent army cannot do anything to save them? This is an army? This is a state?
Fahmi Hawadi, one of modern Egypt’s most prominent writers, claims that it was not only the Egyptian soldiers who were kidnapped, but that the whole Sinai Peninsula was abducted by Bedouins and perhaps the whole country was held hostage by anarchists of various sorts, from lawless Bedouins to unemployed students, from the Salafists who don’t believe in the laws of man to the seculars who don’t want Allah managing their lives for them.
The interesting thing is that all the Egyptians claim without hesitation that the revolution has been stolen from them: the restless young demonstrators of Tahrir Square who brought down Mubarak cry that the Muslim Brotherhood stole their revolution. The Muslim Brotherhood, who won the elections, complain that those who lost in the elections are trying to steal the governmental revolution, which the Brotherhood is trying to lead after having won the elections fairly. Many accuse the remnants of the Mubarak regime of acting behind the scenes in order to snatch the revolution from the others, and all of the Egyptians are convinced that the current miserable and hopeless condition of Egypt is a result of a conspiracy of the West and Zionists, who want to steal Egypt from the Egyptians.
Morsi is caught in the middle of a power struggle and each side pulls him in a different direction: his comrades, people of the Muslim Brotherhood and the public that identifies with them want the state to have an Islamic character but not be radical in its application of Shari’a like cutting off the hands of thieves. The Salafists – who adhere more closely to Allah and his commandments – threaten to declare that Morsi is an infidel if he behaves in a way that is contrary to Islam according to their approach. The army is concerned first and foremost about its own interests and not the interests of the state and the elected government, and the street is divided between violent groups with contrasting views: religious versus secular, traditional against modern and Mubarak followers against all the others.
About the Author: Dr. Mordechai Kedar (Ph.D. Bar-Ilan U.) Served for 25 years in IDF Military Intelligence specializing in Arab political discourse, Arab mass media, Islamic groups and the Syrian domestic arena. A lecturer in Arabic at Bar-Ilan U., he is also an expert on Israeli Arabs.
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