For a week Palestinians were pouring in to Sinai from the north…Palestinians were also moving upwards from Cairo, is Hamas trying replicate their Gaza success in Sinai…or even worse, will they join their Muslim Brotherhood friends and try to take over their entire country? Egyptian President Mubarak is worried about that..and they are trying to make “peace” with the Brotherhood. The result could very well be a Sinai that is a Jihad launching pad.
Ali Asghar Mohammadi, the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Arab, Middle East and North African affairs, was in Cairo Sunday meeting with Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. It was yet another step in the warming of Iranian-Egyptian ties since November’s U.S. National Intelligence Estimate added so much impetus to Iran’s ambitions.
Mohammadi and Gheit had a lot to talk about. Six days earlier Hamas, in a contemptuous riposte to Israel’s attempt to impose a blockade, had blown open the Gaza-Egypt border fence and since then hundreds of thousands of Gazans had streamed into the Sinai. That they included a terrorist contingent was evident, among other things, from the Israeli military’s tightening of security along the Egyptian-Israeli border (south of Gaza) for fear of infiltrations. Israel also urged all Israeli vacationers in Sinai to leave at once because of the heightened danger. For the Mubarak regime the sudden, uncontrolled surge of Gazans into northern Sinai was also disconcerting. Sinai has already suffered several terror attacks in recent years as part of the ongoing attempt to turn it into a jihadist stronghold. Mubarak has been playing a double game of helping direct the jihad eastward toward Israel—by allowing massive weapons smuggling into Gaza—while trying to contain the jihad’s westward momentum toward Cairo. The Mohammadi-Gheit meeting suggests Mubarak may be anxious to join what he can no longer beat. Indeed, in the meeting Mohammadi offered Iran’s help in restoring order to the breached Gaza-Sinai border. DEBKAfile reported that he brought a proposal “to airlift tons of foodstuffs and medicines to El Arish airport [in northern Sinai] for Egyptian authorities to distribute to the Palestinians. This step would bring Iranian airplanes into the Egyptian-Israeli border region for the first time. Iran would thereby claim a stake in the lives of the Palestinians living around Israel’s borders for the entire Arab world to see.” And in a Tehran news conference, Iranian foreign minister Manouchehr Mottaki claimed that “We are on the verge of resuming official political ties with Egypt”—cut off by Iran thirty years ago after Egypt gave refuge to the deposed Shah. The Arab League also reacted with apparent alarm, calling, after an emergency session on Monday, for the Palestinian Authority to take control of the crossings into Gaza even as it appeared that Hamas and its radical backer Iran had the upper hand. The ostensibly moderate Palestinian Authority, for its part, was in the midst of three days of official mourning for George Habash, the longtime leader of the PFLP faction of the PLO who died in Amman on Saturday. It was the PFLP that pioneered airplane hijacking and some of whose exploits were blowing up a Swissair flight to Israel in 1970 (47 dead), the Entebbe hijacking in 1976 in cooperation with German terrorists, the murder of a baby and an adult at a kibbutz in northern Israel in 1980, and the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001. PA president Mahmoud Abbas ordered the three days of mourning and called Habash a “historic leader.” Israeli Arab Knesset members Ahmed Tibi and Jamal Zahalka attended his funeral in Amman. But if Israel is still managing to keep the terrorist Palestinian Authority mostly (certainly not completely) under control, the situation in terrorist Hamastan and westward is much different. There the questions are: *Whether, as DEBKAfile claims, “Hamas and its terrorist confederates have now acquired a safe haven on Egyptian soil, out of Israel’s reach, much like Hizballah’s enclave north of the Litani River or al Qaeda’s across the Afghan border in Pakistan’s tribal regions.” *Whether what Israeli Knesset member Yuval Steinitz called “the big lie [that] Egypt is a moderate country…allied with the West” is on the way to being exposed, with Egypt adopting a more and more explicitly anti-Israeli role in tandem with Hamas and possibly also with Iran. As usual, the ominous developments proceed directly from feckless or blind Western policies—in the case of Iran’s growing involvement, from years of Western unseriousness and the November 2007 NIE; in the case of Hamas’s mounting strength, from Israel’s 2005 unilateral flight from Gaza, the Bush administration’s 2005-2006 insistence on Palestinian Authority elections, and Israel’s refusal up to now to recognize the gravity of the Hamastan threat. As for Egypt, it knows it can retain both American largesse and Israeli deferentiality while moving ever closer into the radicals’ embrace.