The British Cobra (emergency cabinet) decision of Wednesday, Nov. 4, not to send airliners to or from Sharm El-Sheikh, where 20,000 British tourists are stranded, further strengthens the assumption that the Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 was downed over Sinai Saturday by a terrorist missile. It confirms that air traffic over Sinai and landings at Sharm are under threat from the ground – else why leave a large group of Britons under virtual siege in the Egyptian Red Sea resort? London said that the suspension of flights to Sharm was “indefinite.”
Moscow early Thursday accused London of being moved to this action out of hostility to Russia rather than security concerns.
Downing Street released a statement Wednesday saying: "As more information has come to light, we have become concerned that the plane may well have been brought down by an explosive device.” This statement was criticized by Egypt as “premature” – not a good omen for the conversation Prime Minister David Cameron is due to hold with his visitor, Egyptian president Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisi, later Thursday.
The British government has therefore stubbed toes in Moscow and Cairo without coming up with an emergency plan for evacuating its citizens from Egypt, whether overland to Cairo by bus or by sea aboard ships picking them up at the Red Sea resort and sailing through the Suez Canal.
This lack of initiative is a sign of confusion and uncertainty.
So far, the drawn-out deliberations and prevarications by officials in several countries regarding the crash of the Russian plane are meant for one purpose: to gain time for doing nothing about ISIS in Sinai. Neither the US, Russia or Britain is ready to send forces to the peninsula to confront the terrorists head-on.
The Ansar al Sharia terrorist organization in Libya, which attacked the US consulate in Benghazi and murdered the American ambassador in 2012, has the very missiles capable of shooting down large airliners flying at high altitudes: Russian-made ground-to-air Buk missiles, which have a range of between three and 42 kilometers. This ultra-violent Islamist terror group has very close operational ties with ISIS-Sinai, and very possibly smuggled the missile system into Sinai from Libya.
A number of intelligence agencies are aware of this and so a flock of leading European and Persian Gulf airlines lost no time in rerouting their flights to avoid Sinai straight after the Russian air disaster.
By causing this disaster, the Islamist terrorists coolly aimed for four goals:
1. Retaliation for Russian intervention in Syria
2. An attempt to destabilize the regime of Egyptian President Fattah Al-Sisi
3. To show up the inadequacies of the 63-member coalition that the US formed in its effort to fight ISIS
4. To parade before the world the Islamic State’s operational prowess, its ability to shoot down the large passenger planes of the world’s biggest powers.
For five days, intelligence and flight safety experts dismissed the claim of responsibility that ISIS issued on the evening of October 31, maintaining that it was not to be taken seriously because no proof had been provided to support the claim – as if the charred fragments of the plane spread across tens of kilometers of desert were deniable.
In the second of its three messages, ISIS repeated its claim Wednesday, Nov. 4, promising details of how it downed the plane at a later date.
While more and more Western governments are coming around to accepting that the Russian airliner’s crash was caused by an explosive device, debkafile’s counterterrorism sources repeat that they cannot rule out the possibility of a missile. The argument made on Wednesday in Washington and London that terrorist organizations do not have missiles capable of downing such planes is are simply incorrect.
ISIS-Sinai’s possession of an advanced ground-air missile system does not only endanger planes in the peninsula’s airspace, but also those aircraft flying over the Suez Canal as well as parts of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel. One of the Egyptian president’s main purposes in his London visit was to try and persuade Prime Minister Cameron to join an Egyptian military operation against Ansar al Sharia in Libya and so eliminate a major prop and arms supplier for ISIS-Sinai. He does not hold out much hope of success.