Egypt has become into the template and symbol of President Barack Obama’s vision for the Muslim world.
Its regime headed by the Muslim Brotherhood has evolved in stages from the US-backed Tahrir Square popular revolt which forced Hosni Mubarak out of office in February 2011, through pressure to end military rule in Cairo and its handover to civilian hands after the Brotherhood won Egypt’s first democratic election last June.
Obama wants to hold Cairo up as an example to the rest of the Arab world of an Islamic movement attaining power through the ballot box, governing by democratic rules and attuned to American policy in the Middle East and Muslim world.
Egypt is especially important to Washington in this respect because the Obama “Arab Spring” road map was not an unmixed success in Tunisia, where it had its beginning two years ago, and it crashed fatally in Libya when Islamist terrorists, some of them Egyptian, were mobilized by the North African al Qaeda franchise to attack the US Benghazi consulate on Sept. 11 and murder US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American diplomats.
To avoid exposing the scale of this failure, Obama and his people have gone to extreme lengths to conceal the true circumstances of that attack and have never explained why military assistance to the beleaguered diplomats was delayed. Many competent American investigators have tried to sort out the timeline of the Benghazi disaster and measure the incompetence of American authorities in the case. But no one has publicly presented it as the outcome of Obama’s Middle East policy.
An Egyptian minister visits Sinai at his peril
Like in Libya, Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood relations with the US are fraught with pitfalls. The attack on the Benghazi consulate laid bare the extent of al Qaeda penetration of Egyptian cities. (See DNW 563 of Nov. 2: Terror Crisis Brings CIA Chief Petraeus to Egypt: Al Qaeda’s Zawahiri Re-awakens his Egyptian Islamic Jihad.)
Our counter-terror sources report that the spread of al Qaeda networks across North Africa, Egypt and Sinai is only part of the problem confronting the United States. In the year 2000, before Al Qaeda put down roots in Egyptian Sinai, Palestinians, local Bedouin, Iranian undercover organizations – mainly the Al Qods Brigades – and Hizballah were running a flourishing smuggling business through this strategically situated desert corridor between continents.
In the next decade, the smugglers grew rich and devoured ever larger stretches of the peninsula, to the point that military movements could not take place there unnoticed and often required their cooperation.
The incumbent Egyptian government soon found control of the smugglers and terrorists infesting Sinai was slipping out of its hands.
When Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fatteh el-Sissi went over Sunday, Nov. 4, for a look at the scene of the Islamist terrorist ambush the day before which left three Egyptian soldiers dead in El Arish, he discovered Egyptian security units had deserted their posts and abandoned the roadblocks they were manning in northern Sinai.
When he tried talking to the local Bedouin elders in the region, they snubbed him coldly. His bodyguards quickly bundled him into a car for a fast getaway, certain he would be killed on the spot.
The Suez Canal in peril of mixed smuggling-cum-terror teams
This incident brought home to the Muslim Brothers in Cairo how completely their government had lost control of the strategic Sinai Peninsula.
In addition to al Qaeda’s expansion into yet another Middle East region during the years of Obama’s first term, American standing in the Middle East and Persian Gulf suffered three more disastrous setbacks:
1. The smuggling and terrorist networks’ seizure of the peninsula has extended to the Suez Canal, the waterway that separates the African continent from Asia and is the shortest route between Europe and the Near and Far East. For the smugglers, the Suez Canal is a primary route, to which al Qaeda and Iran have gained access by capturing a large part of Sinai.
2. Since Iran, Hizballah and the Palestinians of Gaza began running joint smuggling ventures, they have also found in the peninsula a territorial base for teaming up with the al Qaeda networks rampant there.
Washington now realizes that the Iranian-al Qaeda collaboration plaguing international forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been replicated in an even more strategic territory which straddles the Mediterranean, the Gulfs of Suez and Aqaba and the Red Sea.
A hi-tech, all-seeing fence to guard the Suez Canal
3. The specter haunting Washington arises from a new, short-term threat: Should the United States or Israel attack Iran, Tehran may retaliate not just by closing the Strait of Hormuz but by joining forces with Hizballah to block the Suez Canal by acts of terror.
This dread is not just speculative; it is rooted in specific intelligence which has recently come into American hands. This information was solid enough to bring CIA Director David Petraeus to Cairo on Oct. 31, for two days of urgent consultations with Egyptian security chiefs.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s exclusive sources reveal that Petraeus presented to his hosts a detailed plan just approved by the US president for a security fence to be built along the 460-kilometer length of the Suez Canal and Suez Gulf, financed by the United States and managed by American security firms.
The plan is for a Virtual Security and Radar Fence, that would bring together the most advanced technologies for security solutions and include the most effective means of detecting intruders at any time of day and in all weathers.
This structure will be able to monitor, discover, track and rotate its cameras to cover any moving target or breached point. The monitors will have a 360 degree sweep of distances, rotating at one-second intervals. Any object detected during the radar sweep can be assessed to find out if it is a threat to the protected area and calculate its geolocation, size, bearing and velocity, before directing sensors or cameras for a further threat assessment.
The Suez fence will be connected to a similar fence guarding the Israel-Sinai border
Special naval and air units will have to be set up to man this powerful fence and tackle the threats it picks up. They will have backup from reconnaissance drones.
4. The future Suez Canal security fence will be connected and coordinated with a similar structure which Israel has almost finished building along its own 260-kilometer border enclosing eastern Sinai from the Mediterranean coast in the north down to Eilat on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Our sources report that the CIA director has obtained the Cairo government’s secret approval for the Suez security fence project and for building to go ahead.
Monday, Nov. 5, Vice Adm. Robert Harward, deputy commander of the US Central Command, arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh, southern Sinai, with a large party of American officers. They came to supervise initial preparations for constructing the Suez fence.
This project, if it can be executed quickly, would landmark the success of Obama’s Middle East policy and his vision of a partnership between the US and the Muslim Brotherhood. The US president would have proved he was able to enlist the Brotherhood to America’s war on radical Islamist terror – and even possibly persuade the Islamic rulers of Cairo to start developing relations with Israel – with America standing by.