Sisi Cuts Short Visit to African Union Summit Following Sinai Attacks

Sinai Province has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in North Sinai that killed up to 32 people and injured over a hundred others.

FRANCE-DIPLOMACY-EGYPT
FRANCE-DIPLOMACY-EGYPT
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, gives a joint statement with French President Francois Hollande (unseen) at the Elysee Palace, on November 26, 2014, in Paris. Egypt's president began a two-day trip to France, the second leg of a first European tour aimed at bringing Egypt out of the diplomatic cold after he oversaw a crackdown that damaged Cairo's international reputation. AFP PHOTO/ ALAIN JOCARD (Photo credit should read ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images)

Sinai Province has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in North Sinai that killed up to 32 people and injured over a hundred others. The militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis changed its name to Sinai Province after it pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in November. On Thursday, the militants carried out car bombings and mortar strikes around al-Arish and Rafah targeting security facilities. The violence was the worst in the Sinai since an assault on a military checkpoint on Oct. 24 that killed at least 31 people. Following that attack, the Egyptian military stepped up a security crackdown in the region, demolishing homes and displacing over 1,000 families to create a buffer zone along the border with Gaza to curtail weapons smuggling. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi planned to cut his visit to Ethiopia for the African Union summit meeting short following the attacks to return to Cairo Friday.

Sinai Province has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in North Sinai that killed up to 32 people and injured over a hundred others. The militant group Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis changed its name to Sinai Province after it pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group in November. On Thursday, the militants carried out car bombings and mortar strikes around al-Arish and Rafah targeting security facilities. The violence was the worst in the Sinai since an assault on a military checkpoint on Oct. 24 that killed at least 31 people. Following that attack, the Egyptian military stepped up a security crackdown in the region, demolishing homes and displacing over 1,000 families to create a buffer zone along the border with Gaza to curtail weapons smuggling. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi planned to cut his visit to Ethiopia for the African Union summit meeting short following the attacks to return to Cairo Friday.

Syria-Iraq

Clashes between al-Nusra Front and the Western-backed Hazzm movement have spread from Syria’s Aleppo province into Idlib. Al-Nusra Front seized territory from the Hazzm movement, where it had additionally expelled opposition fighters from many positions in October. Meanwhile, bombings in Baghdad and the city of Samarra, north of the capital, killed at least 18 people in Iraq Friday. Additionally, Islamic State militants attacked Kurdish forces in four districts southwest of the city of Kirkuk Friday morning. Up to nine Kurdish forces were reported killed in the clashes, including senior commander Brigadier General Shirko Fatih. In an interview Thursday, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said recent coalition victories against Islamic State fighters have contained the militants, but he warned the U.S.-led efforts are inadequate.

Headlines

Arguments and Analysis

Why Stabilizing Libya is so Hard’ (Wayne White, LobeLog)

“For its part, the rival GNC/LD alliance has consolidated the gains it made driving last month far to the east of Tripoli toward Libya’s biggest oil export terminals of es-Sider and Ras Lanuf. A tribe affiliated with the Tripoli government reportedly now controls the desert oilfields that supply these terminals. Although the HOR still holds the terminals, these moves place LD forces on the doorstep of the HOR’s area of influence. Still, if Haftar finally has the ASL and its extremist allies on the run, he could concentrate more forces against LD in this contested area.

Until recent weeks, the two sides appeared to have allowed the Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Central Bank (LCB) to function neutrally. That is over. Both governments have appointed rival NOC and LCB directors as well as their own oil ministers. In the Benghazi fighting, Haftar’s troops secured the large eastern-based branch of the LCB. They apparently did not loot it as the Tripoli government alleged, but HOR Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni (or al-Thani) has moved to set up new oil revenue bank accounts out of reach of Tripoli. Meanwhile, nearly half of Libya’s latest oil production of around 350,000 barrels per day must be used domestically, not for export, with the LCB digging ever deeper into the country’s financial reserves to make do.”

A Generational Battle Among Brothers’ (Mostafa Hashem, Sada)

“After about a year of internal conflicts, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has finally begun a comprehensive restructuring process. For the first time, the group is empowering its youth to lead the organization. This shift in approach reflects the former leadership’s realization that it has failed to adapt to domestic politics and Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s crackdown since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.

The Muslim Brotherhood, in response to the crackdown, has conceded to the will of active youth members and others who support an escalation with the Sisi government. The shift came after Brotherhood youth finally refused to work with the group’s secretary-general, Mahmoud Hussein, who had sidelined them during Morsi’s administration. In order to placate the youth wing, and due to worries about the growing number of Egyptian youth joining radical groups such as the Islamic State, the Muslim Brotherhood allegedly sacked Hussein amid mounting criticism. The Muslim Brotherhood’s old guard worried that a major loss of youth supporters would sink the Muslim Brotherhood as both an ideology and an organization.”

Simmering Unrest and Succession Challenges in Oman’ (Marc Valeri, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

“In 2011 and 2012, the sultanate of Oman experienced its widest popular protests since the 1970s and the end of the Dhofar war, in which the southern region rose up against Qaboos’s father, who then ruled the country. Peaceful sit-ins that went on for two months in early 2011, and sustained mobilizations calling for political reforms in the summer of 2012, illustrated the depth of the frustration and social malaise in the country. The protesters’ key demands included expanded job opportunities, curbs on corruption among top officials, and programs to combat increasing inequality. In the vast majority of cases, the ruler was not their target.

The regime’s response—a combination of economic concessions, modest political reforms, and tough security measures—was not enough to quell the protests. Furthermore, the government’s unwillingness to break the taboo on key issues such as the concentration of power in the sultan’s hands and the need to establish the foundations for governance of a post-Qaboos Oman also revealed new tensions, as young activists began to make a distinction between the current regime and the Omani nation.”

Mary Casey-Baker

ALAIN JOCARD/AFP/Getty Images

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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