From my recent article at Arab West Report, describing an interview with a former security officer in the Sinai, who wished to remain anonymous. In light of the current accusations leveled against the Muslim Brotherhood, his comments, issued in May 2013, are very pertinent:
These known political figures, including leading Salafi-Jihadis such as ‘Adil Shahātah and Ahmad ‘Ashūsh, are currently playing a political role and not in charge of the operations on the ground, he said. But they still indirectly administer their policies and act as a go-between for the jihadists and non-violent political Islamist groups, and even the Mursī administration.
The Islamists, the advisor says, have divided up roles between themselves – this one to be violent, this one to be political – and having multiple entities helps fill the political space. The Muslim Brotherhood in particular is the head, and their deputy supreme guide Khairat al-Shātir is one of the chief beneficiaries of the tunnel economy. They have three main uses for Salafi and jihadist entities.
The first is to win elections. In keeping a unity among real groups that do compete with each other, they ensure better results at the ballot box. The second use is as a threat for their competition, liberal and secular minded Egyptians who might find it necessary to cooperate with a ‘moderate’ Muslim Brotherhood to ensure they do not side publicly with the more extremist Salafis. The third use is similar, but aimed at the West. By being in league with jihadist elements, the Muslim Brotherhood can demonstrate they are the only ones capable of deterring their violence.
And while the military is currently destroying the aforementioned tunnels, here is how the state used to deal with them:
But if Bedouins were frozen out of official state business, they thrived in the unofficial business of the tunnel system to Gaza. The advisor numbered tunnel totals around 1200, and at their height during the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead a single tunnel could earn up to one million US dollars per day. The tunnel could be rented for one hour at a cost of $20,000 US, with administrative taxes taken on the other side by Hamas.
Before the revolution, Egypt used the tunnels as a foreign policy tool. Whether for pressure on Israel or Gaza, or indirectly on Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar via their Sinai proxies, the flow of goods into Gaza could be variously eased or restricted. The nature of goods, also, could serve the state’s unofficial international policies. Technically, the Bedouins ran the tunnels, for all crossed through their land. But the government watched, which also provided an additional incentive for the tribes to cooperate.
The article also describes the demographic features of the Sinai and estimates the violent, jihadist elements. But given the severity of current political accusations, two lines from the conclusion are vital:
In reference to the information therein he assured its veracity. ‘This is not analysis,’ he said, ‘it is intelligence.’
Arab-West Report has not verified his assertions.
Please click here to read the full article at Arab West Report.