Comments on this week’s news on Egypt and the Islamic State
1) Egyptian President Sisi’s speech at the United Nations
The “Egyptian exception” has been described as alive and well. The international community does not seem seriously interested in promoting democracy in the North African country. Egypt’s geostrategic importance, Egyptian President Sisi’s promises to restore stability and crack down hard on terrorism, and the domestic backing for Sisi’s strongman style are convincing many world leaders to accept him and even deal with him enthusiastically, regardless of the repressive and undemocratic aspects of the Egyptian president’s regime. The prospect of a Mubarak Redux, with all the negative implications for Egypt’s long term stability, seems very real.
2) Making the enemy stronger?
For months, the two arguably most radical groups in Syria, the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and the Islamic State, has been competing for influence in the country. On several occasions, Nusra Front fighters have engaged in armed confrontations with Islamic State militants. Now, there is the risk that the US-led international military intervention may push these two radical groups back together. The other day, in fact, Al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohamad al-Golani strongly denounced the airstrikes and warned about the possibility of retaliatory attacks against Western countries. According to Reuters, Nusra Front is now coming under pressure from its own members to reconcile with Islamic State and join forces to fight what they describe as a “crusader” campaign against Islam. Is the international military intervention unintentionally strengthening further the radical anti-Assad front in Syria?
3) On the strategy to fight the Islamic State
Hassan Hassan on the pages of the Guardian reaffirms what I have been arguing for weeks:
“Legitimacy for the fight against Isis cannot be achieved by simply having Sunni countries involved in it, but, rather, by addressing the true reasons that drove tens of thousands of Syrians to rise up against the regime.
Regardless of who is involved in the campaign, the perception is that the allies have overlooked the acts of the Assad regime over the past three years and quickly assembled a major international coalition against a group that the Syrian rebels have been fighting since last summer. Unless the strategy against Isis shifts to a broader one that appeals to the local communities, the fight against it is doomed.”
Hopefully, world leaders will listen…