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Egypt’s Violent Future?



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Baylor’s Philip Jenkins paints a dire picture: 

Excuse me, then, if I don’t sound too convinced when I hear the new government crowing over the annihilation of the Muslim Brotherhood.

This time, though, we can expect not only that armed Islamist violence will continue, but that it will develop new structures, and new tactics. Probably, we will see a period of some months when armed resistance against the government will subside, giving a misleading impression of calm. During that time, we would expect a large number of militants to be traveling overseas to seek training from like-minded groups. Unlike previous years, Egyptian radicals no longer have to look far afield to find well-armed and organized militant groups, most affiliated to some degree with al-Qaeda. They might for instance turn to the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP; or else face west, to Libya, and to the Algerian-based forces of AQIM, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Most promising, perhaps, is the large new al-Qaeda bandit territory of western Iraq and eastern Syria. Who needs to go all the way to Afghanistan to find a training camp?

Newly trained and equipped, those militants would return to Egypt. The first sign of their presence would likely be a resort to suicide bombings, of a kind not new to the Egyptian situation, but never common hitherto. Given the strength of the Egyptian military, and its strong intelligence networks, those attacks would initially be directed at soft targets, poorly defended places and institutions where the goal would be to kill the maximum number of civilians. Once upon a time, Western tourists would have been the obvious targets of choice, but such visitors are not likely to be much in evidence in coming months.

By default, then, the most likely such targets would be Coptic Christian churches and communities across the country. Such attacks would divide Egypt along religious and sectarian lines while offering the added bonus of infuriating the West. They would also put Egyptian security forces in a dreadful quandary: how much repression could they properly launch against bloodthirsty terrorism, without appearing to take the side of Christians against Muslims? If that scenario played out, we might expect to see Upper Egypt sliding into overt sectarian conflict, as Christian and Muslim militias battled.

Apart from Christians, the most tempting targets would be any place or person connected withIsrael, especially border installations. Watch particularly for renewed attacks along the border with Eilat, and the Gaza Strip. 

He ends: “to counter it, the West proposes . . . what, exactly?”



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