Sinai attacks could be a game changer

An analysis of how different sectors of Egyptian society are reacting to the attacks.

Exploded vehicle in Sinai Attack 390 (photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
Exploded vehicle in Sinai Attack 390
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman's Office)
On August 5, Islamist militants launched an attack on Egyptian soldiers at a military checkpoint along the Sinai border, leaving 16 border guards dead.
In response, the Egyptian military  fired missiles on suspected Islamist militants in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula. Twenty people were reportedly killed in Touma village, and the Sheikh Zuwaid area was also hit. This is the first time Egypt has fired missiles in the Sinai since the war with Israel in 1973.
This terrorist attack has created immense uproar against Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood (MB) backed president, Mohamed Morsy.
Before the attacks, many Egyptians were already turning against Morsy due to his inability to keep his promises. Sunday's deadly events could be the straw that breaks the back of the MB.Many Egyptians blame Morsy for the two reasons: First, just a few days before the attacks, Morsy gave  permission for Palestinians to freely enter Egypt without undergoing security checks. This allowed several jihadists, Hamas terrorists, and other radical Islamic groups to enter the Sinai Peninsula, –ultimately facilitating the terrorist attacks. Second, Morsy pardoned and released several jihadists a few days before the attack. Making matters even worse, Morsy did not attend the funerals of the dead soldiers.
Public anger has led to widespread,  unprecedented criticism of Morsy and the MB in both social media and mainstream media outlets. Egyptians are condemning both the Brotherhood and Hisham Kandil, the new Islamic prime minster. Shoes were thrown at Kandil  and Abu El-fotoh (a former Islamic presidential candidate) and Nader Bakar,a leading member of Al-Nour Salafi party that controlled around 25 percent of the first post revolution parliament, was attacked before the army stepped in.
The MB purposely refrained from criticizing radical Palestinian groups, and instead chose to criticize Israel, yet this  only exacerbated the situation. As a result, a rare situation emerged whereby some  Egyptians  began using social media to circulate the view that Israel is a friend and that the true enemies of Egypt are actually the Palestinians. Of course, Islamists  continued to accuse Israel of carrying out the attacks. This time, however, Egyptians did not automatically believe the Islamists’ accusations.
The mother of the new Egyptian prime minister is a Palestinian who is related to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. This fact has caused some Egyptians to speculate that the MB has concocted a plot to “sell” Egypt to the Palestinians. . Others  viewed the Sinai terrorist attacks as a jihadist  attempt to create a confrontation between Egypt and Israel – a confrontation that would benefit Gaza and the Hamas militants therein. This speculation surfaced when terrorists crossed the border in an attempt to enter Israel.. Of course, Israel detected the threat and attacked the car before the jihadists could do any damage.
We cannot rule out the possibility that the MB might also have been behind the attacks, as demonstrated by the fact that terrorists were allowed to enter into Sinai. The political gains for doing so would mean that Israel might be forced to accept a modified peace treaty with Egypt that would include allowing unrestricted presence of the Egyptian army in Sinai. Needless to say, such an outcome would be a victory for the MB and would score points with the populace.
It is also possible that the MB allowed these Palestinians to gain passage into Sinai in an effort to create a loyal militant militia that could help them gain full control of Egypt.
In an attempt to redirect public anger toward the military, Morsy sacked intelligence chief Mohamed Murad Mowafi. Many Egyptians believe this to be a response to Mowafi's claims that Morsy refused to take preventive action when he informed the latter of the impending threat.
The Sinai attack generated strong backlash against the Islamists and in an ironic twist, it has shifted support from the MB to the military. The consequences of the attack  could drastically alter the discourse of Egyptian politics, and will likely lead to further confrontations that will transform the future of the country.
The writer is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and a one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of the terrorist organization JI with Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, who later became the second-in-command of al-Qaida. He is currently a senior fellow and chairman of the study of Islamic radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.