Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi called off his scheduled trip to Islamabad for the Developing Eight-D8 summit opening Thursday, Nov. 22, just hours after he and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pulled out of a hat a Gaza ceasefire ending eight days of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
The D8 brought together the leaders of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey to promote investment and trade for populations of more than one billion people. Normally, Egypt's dire economic straits would have sent Morsi running to this critical summit. Yet he opted to stay home explaining it was of supreme importance for him to oversee the Gaza truce and make sure it held, while also keeping track of domestic developments in Cairo.
The Egyptian president did not say what those developments were.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources report that Morsi decided to play it safe and stay in Cairo in case of a backlash against his Gaza feat from some quarter. He was right: The first punch came from close at home.
Thursday, Mohammed Badei, the Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide, denounced the peace efforts with Israel made by the president of the same movement and urged “holy war to liberate Palestinian territories.” He said, "The enemy knows nothing but the language of force. Be aware of the game of grand deception with which they depict peace accords."
Badei’s remarks were carried on the group's website and emailed to reporters.
Morsi faces strong challenges
In today’s Egyptian democracy, the president is bound to defer to the Muslim Brotherhood “supreme guide” as the country’s highest authority. The rebuke was therefore damaging but not surprising.
Morsi had reckoned that a counter-coup might be on the cards from the radical wings of the Muslim Brotherhood, even though his rival, the MB millionaire Khairat al-Shater, came around to support him.
Trouble could also come from the military, from one of the security services which disapproves of his return to full authority, or from the web of Iranian and Hizballah undercover networks operating surreptitiously in Egypt’s cities – mostly under the radar of Egyptian, Arab and Western intelligence.
In Egyptian security minds, the memory is still fresh of the 2009 Hizballah plot to sow terror in Suez Canal cities, Cairo, the Sinai Peninsula and across the border in Israel. Egyptian security foiled the plot and rounded up 49 Hizballah agents and accomplices.
President Morsi fears that the Hizballah rings in Cairo today have become even more dangerous than they were in 2009 he is concerned that Tehran might let them loose to sow mayhem in reprisal for the Gaza ceasefire and its unwritten annex, an accord between the Egyptian president and the United States for joint action to block the routes across Sinai through which Iran, al Qaeda, other Islamists and Hamas smuggle arms and jihadis.
In their crucial interview in Cairo on Wednesday, Secretary Clinton stressed the importance of Morsi’s pledge in this regard as a key testing stone of the Gaza ceasefire accord.
Sinai security is pivotal for America’s regional plans
As DEBKA-Net-Weekly 564 revealed on Nov. 9, the US is preparing to sink billions in the erection of a security fence along the Suez Canal and Gulf of Suez. Our sources have learned that the Obama administration plans to extend this fence to the Egyptian-Gaza border and other parts of the Sinai Peninsula as well.
A special US security force will be flown in to Sinai to defend this elaborate fence system and Egyptian territory against the smuggling rings and their clients.
Both the US and Israel want to be sure Morsi understands the comprehensive strategy behind this plan.
If contraband weapons and missiles are allowed to continue to flow freely through Sinai to Gaza and other embattled Middle East arenas, the American plan to secure Sinai as an important base for defending the pro-Western Arab powers and Israel will come to nothing. Iran will still be free to drive straight across the lawless peninsula to entrench itself in Cairo and expand its control over the Palestinians.
Although this was not said bluntly, Morsi was given to understand that if he doesn't follow through on his pledge, Egypt stands to forfeit US financial aid and international loan guarantees which are urgently needed to give their regime a breather to bolster its hold on power.
The new regime is hard-pressed for economic solutions. The number of jobless jumped 2 percent in the last quarter to 12.6 percent with inflation keeping pace.
Iranian retaliation by terrorism,
So on top of disastrous straits beyond any that the former President Hosni Mubarak ever faced, Morsi is not only at risk from Iran’s retribution for its debacle in Gaza, but also from a military coup by angry young officers like the revolt that brought Gemal Abdel Nasser to power.
Five more pressure points may be set to explode in different places in the aftermath of the Gaza convulsion:
1. Terror: Wednesday, Nov. 21, as Hillary Clinton was tying up the last ends of a Gaza truce in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a Palestinian terrorist detonated a bomb planted on a Tel Aviv bus as it drove past a central intersection near the Israeli Defense Ministry and General Staff headquarters. Up to 27 people were injured. The terrorist managed to escape
That a terrorist can stroll past the Israeli security centers and detonate a bomb without being noticed or caught is taken by Israeli counter-terrorist agencies as confirming that more than one terrorist organization maintains cells deep inside Israel, some of them run by Iran and Hizballah.
The Tel Aviv bus bomb was taken therefore as a warning of more terrorist strikes on the way in Israel and possibly outside the Middle East should Iran choose to vent its ire against the Jewish state.
Seizing power in Jordan?
2. Pro-Iranian cells: Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, Israeli security and intelligence forces raided the West Bank homes of approximately 70 Palestinian political activists suspected of ties with pro-Iranian elements in Hamas or with the terror networks standing by for activation by Iran and Hizballah.
3. The shaky Jordanian throne: There is serious concern in Amman, Washington and Jerusalem that Tehran will exacerbate and exploit the mounting riots and demonstrations staged in recent days by the Muslim Brotherhood against King Abdullah II.
Tehran would deem the MB’s seizure of power in Amman as evening the score for the defeat of its power moves in the Gaza Strip, especially since the Jordanian Brotherhood is dominated by Palestinian Hamas and therefore easy meat for the ayatollahs to gobble up.
4. Lebanon: In the last week, tentative efforts have been made to mount attacks on northern Israel from South Lebanon. Wednesday, shortly before the Gaza ceasefire went into effect, two shells were fired at an IDF outpost in Metullah in the Upper Galilee. Thursday, two rockets ready for launching were discovered and dismantled by the Lebanese army near the Lebanese town of Marjayoun – also opposite Metullah.
Israel is not ruling out an Iranian counter-blow for its Gaza defeat being carried out through an attempt by Hizballah to heat up the Lebanese border..
5. Anti-US terrorist attack: Iran has repeatedly threatened to target American interests in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.