EGYPT FIGHTS ISLAMISTS & IRANIAN EXPANSION; ISRAEL BECOMING “KEY PLAYER” IN AFRICA

Gaza’s Agony is Egypt’s Calling: Amotz Asa-El, Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2018— “Man fears time, and time fears the pyramids,” goes an Arab saying that salutes the imposing structures’ longevity, and ridicules their tenants’ hope to avoid death.

Why Egypt Supports U.S. Withdrawal From Iran Nuclear Deal: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, May 22, 2018— President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal focused understandable attention on the parties which negotiated it.

The New Iranian Expansion into the Sahara: Amb. Dore Gold & Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira, JCPA, May 9, 2018— Iran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East from Syria and Lebanon to Yemen are well known.

Israel Tries to Expand Power in Africa: Raluca Besliu, Yale Global, Apr. 10, 2018— An Israeli campaign is underway in sub-Saharan Africa on winning over African nations, which, partly due to significant Muslim minority populations, have often constituted a bloc of opposition at the UN.

On Topic Links

Hamas Will Always Win the PR War, Even as Israel Wins the Military Victories: Barbara Kay, National Post, May 22, 2018

90 Years In, The Muslim Brotherhood Faces An Uncharted Future: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Apr. 19, 2018

Israel and United States Military Assistance to Egypt: Shimon Arad, INSS, Apr. 29, 2018

The Sinai Bedouins: An Enemy of Egypt’s Own Making: Hilal Khashan, Stratfor, Apr. 01, 2018

 

GAZA’S AGONY IS EGYPT’S CALLING

Amotz Asa-El

Jerusalem Post, May 20, 2018

“Man fears time, and time fears the pyramids,” goes an Arab saying that salutes the imposing structures’ longevity, and ridicules their tenants’ hope to avoid death. Curiously, the pharaohs who hoped to defy time were succeeded by Greeks who defied space. That is how Alexander the Great built Alexandria, making the previously insular Egyptians look north, to their Mediterranean shore and to the foreign world that sprawled beyond it. “Consider the world as your country, where the best will govern regardless of tribe,” Alexander told his lieutenants in 324 BCE, thus pioneering the first era of globalization, in which Alexandria would become the heartbeat of a tri-continental civilization.

Egypt would later repeatedly revert to its founders’ introversion, most fatefully in the 1580s, when one Ottoman faction scuttled a rival faction’s plan to link the Mediterranean and Red seas by digging a canal at Suez. The ones who would reopen Egypt to the outer world would be Christian foreigners – first Napoleon, who defeated a local army at the pyramids’ foothills, and then the European entrepreneurs who carved the Suez Canal. Now, an Egyptian leader has an opportunity to become the first locally bred Alexander, one who would redefine his country as the fulcrum of a brave new era. The man is Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and his opportunity lies in Gaza.

Monday’s violence in Gaza left Israelis throwing up their arms in despair. Say what you will about how Israel treats its enemies, there is no arguing the Jewish state goes out of its way to protect its own citizens, often at great risks and exorbitant costs. Gaza has just displayed this attitude’s perfect inversion. The sight of youngsters being bussed for pay to their enemy’s border and then thrust toward its gun barrels by leaders who themselves hide in bunkers – made us feel Hamas’s moral bankruptcy has never been more complete and peace could not be more distant.

What have we not tried? First we invited Gazans to work in Israel. Then we built an industrial zone at Erez. Then we opened an airport at Dhaniya. And finally, we pulled out some 10,000 civilians and troops, only to see that coastal swath turn into a militarized powder keg. Last fall, we watched Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah land in Gaza, hoping his much-heralded visit would be followed by some civic delivery. A roadside bomb near his motorcade in March put an end to that, leaving Gaza to languish in its squalor, self-pity and despair.

Now, facing European and American critics, not to mention Turks who count Gazan bodies at the fence and cite their number as proof of our “crimes” – a logic by which Germany was the moral side in the Battle of Britain because the Luftwaffe lost many more pilots than the Brits – many of us feel alone in this war. Well we are not alone.

With us in this showdown are Arab leaders who realize Gaza’s mess is no longer about nationalism or freedom, but about fundamentalism and general troublemaking which can easily torch Arab cities elsewhere. That is why Egypt played such an effective role in quelling this week’s mayhem. Seen from President Sisi’s window, Hamas is an offshoot of, and inspiration for, the Muslim Brotherhood that is his nemesis. That – and no pro-Israeli sentiment – is what made Egyptian intelligence force Hamas’s retreat from the fence.

The Egyptians, then, bring both motivation and clout to the Gaza crisis that threatens them no less than it threatens us. What they lack is a plan, a vision that would offer Gaza’s young adults – 65% of them jobless – an alternative to fundamentalist escapism. So here’s a blueprint for an Egyptian plan: Build a Riviera of hotels and resorts to Gaza’s immediate west, along the sparsely settled northern Sinai’s pristine, 270 km-long coastline; sprinkle farms behind them, and factories beyond the farms; restore the defunct railway between Gaza and Port Said, and admit through it daily thousands of Gazans to work in the new factories, farms and resorts along the reactivated railway before climbing the train to commute back home.

On both sides of the Egyptian-Gazan border, north of Rafah, build a jointly run seaport, and use it to export Gaza’s redoubled produce and manufactures, much the way the ancient Egyptians did west of here, when their ships sailed past the majestic, 40-ft. tall Lighthouse of Alexandria. This development drive’s initial phase can be completed within several years, and immediately put to work all of Gaza. The consequent capital inflows will then fuel Gaza’s rehabilitation, beginning with a modern sewage system, new power stations, a chain of desalination plants and water purification stations, and then proceeding to roads, sidewalks, schools, housing projects and shopping centers.

For now, Egypt is merely treating the symptoms of Gaza’s political disease, passively watching its passions simmer and then helping put the lid back on it once its wrath boils over. Developing northern Sinai would reboot the Middle East, much the way Sisi is striving to reinvent Egypt by launching ambitious economic reforms, housing projects and family planning programs designed to defuse Egypt’s population explosion.

Northern Sinai’s development would not only salvage Gaza, and it would not only become a catalyst of Egyptian prosperity; it would restore Egypt’s status as a regional leader; it would place it in a position to broker new Palestinian-Israeli accommodation; it would make it an engine of global tolerance; and it would fashion Egypt as a pacifying alternative to meddlesome Turkey and warmongering Iran.

Cutting the Sinai-Gaza seaport’s red ribbon, and recalling Hamas’s fallen rule, Sisi will then quote Alexander, the man who married the daughter of his Persian enemy Darius, in the spirit of the great conqueror’s statement, “I do not distinguish among men as the narrow-minded do.” And then, looking west to northern Sinai’s unfolding Riviera and industrial plants; and east, to Gaza’s emerging office towers, recreational parks and seaside promenade, the Egyptian president will say: “Gazans, Egyptians, Arabs – consider the world as your country.”

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WHY EGYPT SUPPORTS U.S. WITHDRAWAL FROM IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Hany Ghoraba

IPT News, May 22, 2018

President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal focused understandable attention on the parties which negotiated it. But the move also carries implications for other regional states, including Egypt. In 2015, Egypt welcomed any initiative to stop a nuclear arms race in the region, but viewed the negotiations skeptically. “We would hope that the agreement reached between the parties would be comprehensive and fulfilling that would prevent an arms race in the Middle East and the complete elimination of all weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons,” said Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Bader Abdul Atti. Three years later, former Egyptian Foreign Minister and incumbent Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit expressed the same skepticism, saying the agreements focus solely on the nuclear program; it “is not the only element that should be pursued with Iran because it implements policies in the region that lead to instability.”

While the deal limited Iran’s uranium enrichment for a limited time, Iran never stopped supporting terrorist groups targeting Egypt, including the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hizballah. And the deal failed to address Iran’s expansionist ambitions in the region. Egypt has been in conflict with Iran’s Islamist regime since the 1979 revolution ousted Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and led to Ayatollah Khomeini’s ascent to power. Egypt provided refuge to the dethroned Shah a year after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel at Camp David in 1978. In response, Iran ended direct flights to Egypt in 1979, and broke off all diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1980. Egypt remains the only Arab country without an embassy in Tehran.

Iran provoked Egyptians years later by naming a main street in Tehran in honor of Khalid Islambouli, an Egyptian terrorist who assassinated President Anwar Sadat during a 1981 military parade. The street name remains, despite an Iranian promise aimed at improving relations, and new larger-than-life wall graffiti of the terrorist decorate buildings in Tehran. That form of animosity from Iran was met by Egypt’s full support to the Iraqi state war against Iran (1979-1988) in which Egypt sold Iraq large amounts of its surplus Soviet-made weapons. Despite being in a major feud with Iraq as a result of Iraq’s role in rallying the Arab states to boycott Egypt after the Camp David treaty, Egypt still chose to support Iraq against the Islamist regime, recognizing the greater long-term threat of Iran on Egypt and the entire region.

Iranian espionage operations in Egypt spiked with multiple Iranian cells uncovered trying to infiltrate Egyptian society and institutions. In one example, Iran used a former Muslim Brotherhood member to attempt to establish a radical Shiite Islamist political party in Egypt under the name Shiite Liberation Party to promote Iranian Islamic revolution policies. Hizballah, Iran’s terrorist proxy, planned terrorist attacks against Egyptian targets. Egyptian authorities arrested 49 Hizballah members in 2009 for planning three bombings in Taba, a city that borders Israel. The cell’s members managed to escape and flee the country after Hamas terrorists broke into the Wadi Al Natroun jail in January 2011 amid the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s government. One, Sami Shehab, appeared later in Lebanon at a Hizballah celebration.

Iran frequently hosts and supports Muslim Brotherhood leaders including former spokesman Kamal Al Hilbawy and Swiss-based financier Youssef Nada. Nada claims that he is simply seeking peace initiatives between Arabs and Iranians, but in reality he worked to bolster Iran’s regional influence by routing intelligence from Muslim Brotherhood affiliates in Arab countries to Iranian operatives. During a 2016 meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Hilbawy described Ayatollah Khomeini as being his mentor as influential to Muslim Brotherhood members as their founder Hassan al-Banna and Brotherhood ideologue Sayyid Qutb. “We always say that we learned from Imam Khomeini as much as we learned from Imam Hassan al-Banna, Imam Maududi, Imam Sayyid Qutb … and we are still learning from our brothers who are alive here [in Iran],” Hilbawy said.

He reaffirmed Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian animosity towards the United States: “We saw with our own eyes how the Soviet Union collapsed thanks to God … and I pray to God Almighty we would witness the renaissance of Islam and unity of the Muslim Ummah, so we can see with our own eyes the overtaking of the remaining superpower (USA) as it falls and divides in front us day after day.” Iran, Hilbawy said, is the only country that the West fears and he hopes Iran becomes a model for the rest of the Arabic and Islamic world.

For nearly three decades, Iran has been a major financier for Hamas – the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian terror wing, which has been an obstacle for a sustainable peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Hamas also has worked to destabilize Egyptian national security and the peace agreement with Israel. It compromised Egyptian national security by digging tunnels to smuggle personnel, weapons and commodities, which has led the Egyptian army to launch a major campaign to destroy thousands of these tunnels across the Egyptian/Gazan border in the past years.

Critics say the nuclear deal’s terms gave Iran a clear path toward developing a bomb once the deal ends. Egypt is well aware of this fact and the threat posed by Iran’s developing ballistic missiles capabilities. The Khorramshahr medium-range missile tested last September can travel 2,000 kilometers with a payload of 1,800 kilograms. Once operational, it can reach Tel-Aviv. If it can travel 700 kilometers further, it can reach Cairo. Egypt, therefore, is understandably concerned about sanction relief that helps Iran fund such offensive missile technology. Furthermore, Iran’s hegemonic ambitions include financing Yemen’s Shi’ite Houthi rebels who toppled their government in 2014 and controlled the Yemeni capital Sana’a. That move gave Iran control of the Bab-al Mandeb strait and thus threatens Egypt’s military and commercial interests in the Red Sea…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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THE NEW IRANIAN EXPANSION INTO THE SAHARA                                        Amb. Dore Gold & Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira                                                                                JCPA, May 9, 2018

 

Iran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East from Syria and Lebanon to Yemen are well known. What is new is that Tehran is widening the geographic scope of its expansionism into North Africa as well. In the last two weeks we have seen definitive proof that the Iranian regime seeks to intervene in the conflict over the Western Sahara by backing the Polisario forces fighting the army of Morocco, a long-term Western ally.

This is not just another obscure conflict thousands of miles away. Iran’s goal is to destabilize this area. It is working with Algeria, Morocco’s eastern neighbor, whose leadership has been at the forefront of radical Arab politics for decades.  The Polisario seek to break off the area of the Western Sahara from Morocco, creating an irredentist movement that will threaten the territorial integrity of the Moroccan Kingdom.

Iran used its embassy in Algeria to advance its aims, making it a conduit for the supply of weapons and financial aid. The Iranians utilized their traditional proxy, Hizbullah, for this operation. Hizbullah is a critical arm for Iran in the Middle East since their operatives speak Arabic, as opposed to Farsi (Persian), the language spoken in Iran. Morocco now has documentation of arms deliveries that were made by Hizbullah to the Polisario. These included SAM-9 and SAM-11 surface-to-air missiles, and not just the older-generation SAM-7 (Strela) missiles that have previously proliferated throughout the Middle East. These missiles could take down commercial aircraft.

One of the key figures at the nexus of the Iranian-Polisario relationship is Iran’s cultural attaché in its embassy in Algiers, Amir Mousavi. It is no wonder that upon learning what Iran was up to, Morocco cut off diplomatic relations with Tehran on May 1. Hizbullah has provided training to the Polisario since 2016. A Hizbullah delegation visited the Polisario headquarters in the Tindouf area in western Algeria. Moroccan Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita disclosed that the first shipment of Iranian weaponry was sent to the Polisario in April 2018. Iranian civilian assistance in Africa has been going on for years. In 2009, Tehran took over an Israeli hospital in Mauritania to the south of Morocco.

The consequences of this escalation in the Sahara are well known to policymakers. Iran’s involvement in Iraq and Syria led to a wave of mostly Sunni Arab refugees in the eastern Mediterranean who poured into Europe. In recent years there also has been a growing wave of African migrants traveling via Libya to Italy. A new conflict over the Western Sahara could potentially create an additional center of instability leading to a further wave of refugees into Europe. Morocco sits across the Straits of Gibraltar, roughly 9 miles from Spain, and could present a new focal point for refugees in the aftermath of any destabilization. The suggestion appearing in the Arab press that the Iranians hope to recruit terrorists for destabilizing the Middle East and even threatening Europe should not be dismissed.

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ISRAEL TRIES TO EXPAND POWER IN AFRICA

Raluca Besliu

Yale Global, Apr. 10, 2018

An Israeli campaign is underway in sub-Saharan Africa on winning over African nations, which, partly due to significant Muslim minority populations, have often constituted a bloc of opposition at the UN. In June 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was the first non-African leader to participate in a Summit of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. The following November, he attended Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi, joining leaders from other African countries and holding several bilateral meetings. In 2016, Netanyahu had already become the first Israeli prime minister in three decades to travel to Africa, visiting Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. According to Atlantic Council expert J. Peter Pham, such encounters “represent a remarkable testament to how much of a priority the Israeli government has made of Africa.” In April of this year, Netanyahu announced a deal with the UN refugee agency to resettle African asylum seekers, keeping 16,000 in Israel and sending 16,000 to Western countries. The next day, under political pressure in Israel, he suspended the deal, outraging Israeli human rights activists. While the suspension holds for now, the prime minister emphasized that it would be reexamined.

With growing investments in East and West African countries, Israel is becoming a key player on the continent. Israel’s expansion in Africa, like that of China, India and Turkey, is facilitated by relative pullback by the United States and France. The involvement focuses on geostrategic and security interests, particularly forming allies to support Israel in international bodies and fight against jihadist movements to gaining new trade partners and access to markets. So far, the strategy is working as African countries embrace this role.

Historically, Afro-Israeli relations have fluctuated. In the 1960s, Israel provided assistance to newly independent African states in varied fields, ranging from agriculture and medicine to defense and infrastructure construction. More than 30 Israeli diplomatic missions operated in Africa until the 1973 Yom Kippur War between Israel and the Arab coalition led by Egypt and Syria. In the war’s wake, the Organization of African Unity instructed its members to cease diplomatic ties with Israel. All except Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland did so. Israeli-African collaboration continued in some fields, including agriculture and development. Israel, fearing opposition forces in states such as Chad, Togo and the former Zaire, also ensured military support to mainly authoritarian regimes. Most African countries resumed diplomatic relations with Israel in the 1990s. Israel currently has ties with 40 out of the 48 sub-Saharan African countries, yet only 10, including Kenya and Senegal, have embassies. Israel is now pushing to regain observer status in the African Union, after losing this role when the Organization of African Union was replaced by the AU.

Securing Israel’s diplomatic interests represents the main official reason behind Netanyahu’s visits and renewed African focus. Before attending the ECOWAS, he told Israeli media that he aimed to “dissolve … this giant bloc of 54 African countries that is the basis of the automatic majority against Israel in the UN and international bodies.”

Israel’s diplomatic rapprochement may be reaping fruits. In 2015, Israel resisted an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution demanding it open its undeclared nuclear facilities to UN inspectors, partly because several African states abstained or voted against it.  Even on issues as tense as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some progress can be seen. In December, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected a resolution recognizing Jerusalem’s status as Israel’s capital, and Pham suggests it was a small victory for Israel that only 27 of the 44 members of the Africa Group who are not also members of the Arab League voted in favor. For years, African states had mostly supported Palestinian self-determination, not surprising given that sub-Saharan Africa is home to a considerable Muslim population…

[To Read the Full Article Click the Following Link—Ed.]

 

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On Topic Links

Hamas Will Always Win the PR War, Even as Israel Wins the Military Victories: Barbara Kay, National Post, May 22, 2018

—In his May 16 column, Terry Glavin takes Israel to task for the deaths and injuries of Gazan Palestinians sustained in the border clashes he concedes that Hamas orchestrated.

90 Years In, The Muslim Brotherhood Faces An Uncharted Future: Hany Ghoraba, IPT News, Apr. 19, 2018—The Muslim Brotherhood has managed to weather many storms during nine decades in Egypt. Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak all tried to contain and suppress the Islamist movement, which ultimately seeks a global Muslim Caliphate.

Israel and United States Military Assistance to Egypt: Shimon Arad, INSS, Apr. 29, 2018—In January 2018, with little fanfare, the United States and Egypt signed a bilateral communications security agreement known as the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which protects and regulates the use of sensitive American avionics and communications systems.

The Sinai Bedouins: An Enemy of Egypt’s Own Making: Hilal Khashan, Stratfor, Apr. 01, 2018—Violence in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has been steadily growing over the past seven years, despite repeated military campaigns to quell it. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a massive air, sea and land operation on Feb. 9 to drive the Islamic State from the region. Not six months earlier, he ordered the army to eradicate the jihadist group following an attack on a packed mosque in north Sinai. Yet each campaign overlooked a critical factor behind the region’s unrest: the government’s failure to understand and accommodate the Sinai Peninsula’s Bedouins.