Insurrection in Sinai and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Call to Arms

Last year, the Jihadist militia operating in the Sinai Peninsula, Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (supporters of the holy house) pledged allegiance to ISIS. The re-branding included a name change, Wilayat Sinai or Sinai Province (SP). Since 2013, the group was responsible for the deaths of scores of Egyptian security personnel.
Also targeted for execution were civilians accused of cooperating with the Egyptian security apparatus. But on June 29, 2015, the organization launched attacks which far exceeded any of their previous efforts, in terms of both scope and complexity.
With impressive coordination, at least six military outposts and police precincts were assaulted simultaneously in the north of the peninsula. The Egyptian military claims, and independent sources confirm that this attack, unlike prior guerrilla-style operations, was a sustained assault, resulting in battles which lasted most of the day. SP deployed Russian made anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.
Additionally, the militia seized weapons, armored vehicles and took prisoners. Reports from various wire services place the military/police death toll as high as seventy, with an unknown number of wounded, making it the deadliest battle in the peninsula since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Egypt is now confronting a well-entrenched, well-armed jihadi army of unknown numbers with a popular support base.
The Bedouin tribes that move about the Sinai have long felt ignored, disempowered and abandoned by successive Egyptian governments. Not surprisingly, numerous reports in the last couple of years have stated that some of these tribes are providing not only aid and comfort to the jihadists, but fighters as well. Prior to the attacks, on Monday, June 28, Egypt’s chief prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, was assassinated in Cairo by a car bomb as his motorcade passed.
Two days later, Egypt responded, killing thirteen members of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in a Cairo apartment. The MB, still viewed by millions of Egyptians as a pious and noble movement due mainly to their charitable efforts, then issued a historic call to arms: “Come out in rebellion and in defense of your country, yourselves and your children. Destroy the citadels of his oppression and tyranny and reclaim Egypt once more… el-Sisi is initiating a new phase during which it will not be possible to control the anger of the oppressed sectors who will not accept to be killed in their own houses and in the middle of their families.”
The history of modern Egypt informs us that the population of that country is notoriously mercurial in their loyalties. The masses were enthralled with President Gamal Abdel Nasser in the fifties and sixties, even after the crushing defeat of the Egyptian Army in the 1967 Six Day War.
They were enamored with Anwar Sadat when he launched the Yom Kippur War of 1973 (although this war also ended in defeat). When Sadat succeeded in regaining the Sinai at the Camp David Accords in 1977, he was lauded as “a lion in war,” and a man who won a “peace with honor.”
Let’s recall that the MB supported Democratic Alliance (aka the Freedom and Justice Party) and the overtly Salafist al-Nour party garnered over sixty- five percent of the vote in the Egyptian parliamentary elections in 2011-2012. Then, astonishingly, in less than a year, millions took to the streets in support of a rumored military coup to remove the regime which they had just elected and re-install a military government.
General Abdel el-Sisi assumed the presidency in July of 2013. The significance of the MBs call to arms cannot be overstated. While the exact number of dues paying members is disputed, it is beyond dispute (as we have seen) that many millions of Egyptians have heeded their calls in the past and are quite capable of doing so again.
The alternating political loyalties and vicissitudes of the Egyptian populous seem beyond reasoned speculation. There is simply no way of forecasting what tomorrow may hold. Since its founding in 1928 the Brotherhood has, at times, employed terrorist attacks against successive Egyptian governments and, at times, renounced the use of violence.
But the open call to armed rebellion is a first. Lest we forget, the Muslim Brotherhood, even during quiescent periods never changed their motto: “Believers are but brothers, Islam is the solution, Allah is our objective, the Qur’an is the constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way, death for the sake of Allah is our wish.”
The Egyptian government now faces an armed insurrection in the Sinai and a potential guerilla war on the home front.