In some respects, the putsch which overthrew Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood would be more aptly termed an intelligence coup, rather than a military takeover.
Inside the country, strongman Defense Minister Gen. Abdel–Fattah El-Sisi used his total control of the secrets gathered by intelligence on Brotherhood leaders to end their rule of Egypt and put them behind bars.
Tuesday, Aug. 20, the day that Spiritual Guide Mohammed Badi’a was discovered hiding in an apartment in Nasser City, Cairo and arrested, a small civilian plane touched down at Cairo airport’s military section. The unnamed Israeli visitor and two aides who stepped off the plane were greeted by Gen. Ahmad Al-Tohamy, head of Egypt’s General Intelligence Services, and some of his senior officers.
DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources report exclusively that they immediately sat down for an urgent discussion, the main subject of which was the wanted Brotherhood fugitive, Mahmoud Izzat Ibrahim, who was named Spiritual Guide immediately after Badi’a’s arrest.
A month ago, Izzat was revealed in an exclusive debkafile story as having led a group of six Muslim Brotherhood operatives in flight from Egypt. They went to ground in the Gaza Strip’s Beach Hotel. There, they set up a clandestine command center for a mutiny against Egypt’s armed forces, in partnership with armed Salafist Bedouin. The violence was planned to spread across Sinai before infecting Egypt’s main cities and toppling the interim government set up by the military.
Israel asked for help to find wanted Brother Izzat Ibrahim
The Egyptian intelligence officers asked their Israeli guests for help in finding the answers to three questions:
- Were Izzat Ibrahim and his five confederates still holed up in the Gaza hotel? If so, could a joint military operation be mounted to catch them?
This kind of joint operation could be tricky – even more than the Israeli drone strike guided by Egyptian intelligence which on Aug. 9 wiped out a rocket team poised to attack Israel from Ajraa, near Rafah, in northern Sinai.
An operation for nailing Izzat Ibrahim could be foiled by the Palestinian Hamas which rules the Gaza Strip and has placed itself under his command.
- Since their exposure by debkafile, the band of six Brothers has gone to ground. They are no longer sighted going in or exiting the Beach Hotel. Are they still in Gaza? Or have they managed to smuggle themselves back into Egypt, or escaped to another part of the Middle East? Turkey comes to mind, for instance, in view of prime minister Tayyip Erdogan’s hostile attitude toward the new rulers of Egypt. Only this week, the interim government in Cairo warned that it was “losing patience with the Turkish prime minister.”
- If Izzat Ibrahim is still hiding in the Gaza Strip, can Israel help bottle him in and prevent him from escaping?
El-Sisi’s four foreign intel helpers
Four high-powered Middle East intelligence services contributed to Gen. El-Sisi’s success by assisting in his preparations for ousting the Muslim Brotherhood and taking power on July 3.
They were Saudi General Intelligence headed by Prince Bandar bin Sultan; the United Arab Emirates Intelligence and Security agency headed by Lt. Gen. Dahi Khalfan Tamim, who is also Dubai Police chief; Israel’s Mossad under Tamir Pardo and Military Intelligence (AMAN) headed by Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
Each of their bosses, Saudi King Abdullah, Dubai’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu, owned a special and profound interest in breaking the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on Egypt.
For the Saudi monarch, the transformation of Islam into a political force posed a threat to the Saudi throne and the regimes of fellow Gulf Arab rulers. Abdullah was also deeply concerned that the Brotherhood would abuse its power to manipulate the Suez Canal as a tool for impeding the free passage of Saudi oil exports out to market through the Mediterranean Sea.
UAE rulers found the Egyptian Brothers no less menacing than the Iranian Shiites.
Israel was preparing a Sinai showdown
The Israeli prime minister viewed Islamist rule in Cairo as a major political and military threat menacing the country from its southern border.
Indeed, the Egyptian coup found Israel deep in secret preparations for a military showdown with the Brothers over control of the lawless Sinai Peninsula. Netanyahu had resolved to curtail Sinai’s decline, with approval from Cairo, into a stamping ground for the most radical jihadi movements between Libya to the Gaza Strip, and a smuggling highway for arms, goods and human traffic.
As Sinai became a seething hotbed for armed Salafist bands, Hamas gave the Gaza Strip over to the Muslim Brotherhood as its rear command for clandestine operations.