It's no surprise Syria has gripped all mainstream media outlets for the past two weeks. Undoubtedly, a nerve gas attack anywhere is a frightening thought, let alone catastrophic. The political orchestra (intriguing, but mostly hypocritical) that has ensued, as the U.S. congress debates a military strike against Bashar Al-Assad’s forces, a potentially term-defining test for U.S. President Barack Obama.
While not to diminish the dire situation in Syria, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt is probably feeling a little relieved as the attention has shifted east towards the Alawite rulers. The military regime has since been able to work its shenanigans with much ease as the Egyptians seem steadfast to normalize, and hence legitimize their coup while the world looks elsewhere. Below is a list of four significant events that have further deteriorated any political certainty in Cairo (if any there was any to begin with.)
1. Top Muslim Brotherhood Leader Arrested
Muhammad Badie, one the central figures in the Muslim Brotherhood leadership was arrested right at the outset when it was revealed that the use of nerve gas had killed over 600 people in Syria. Badie was allegedly held responsible for the killing of 8 protesters near the Brotherhood office. His secretary has also been detained, sealing the fate of most of the organizations top brass who with ousted President Morsi are now in custody. While the White House condemned the episode, no meaningful course of action from the Obama administration has been suggested.
2. Military Siege in the Sinai
In the past week, a full fledged surge by the military government using air power and ground troops in Egypt has started, and is being referred to as the "the largest military offensive in the region in years" in the Sinai peninsula. The government claims that Al-Qaeda inspired militant groups are hiding in villages such as el-Mahdiya and el-Moqataa, near the Rafah border. One group, the Ansar Jerusalem, has allegedly claimed responsibility for the attack on the interior minister in Cairo, that killed one and injured over a dozen civilians. However, the claim is yet to be verified.
While these claims could potentially be true, there is yet to be any scrutiny procedure, and hence little credibility can be given to these reports. Nevertheless, the aerial bombing of remote villages can set a very dangerous precedent for future violence if civilians are to be harmed in the offensive. So called surgical strikes, and/or any armed endeavour by the Sisi regime could perpetuate fanaticism and extremism in the area and beyond.
3. The Curios Case Against El-Baradei
Former International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Mohammed El-Baradei resigned from his deputy premiership in mid-August in protest of the military’s action against Brotherhood supporters outside Rabaa mosque in Cairo. Shortly thereafter, he was charged and indicted with insulting the military junta by Egypt's prosecutor general, a military sympathizer, for insulting the army, colluding with the Muslim Brotherhood and posing as an agent of the U.S.
I am no fan of Baradei. His leadership over the past year achieved nothing but contempt for any reconciliation with the previous government, and ended with him legitimizing the military regime that is now regrettably in power. Nevertheless, the charge is ridiculous, and the desperation of the incumbent rulers and their supporters for legitimacy is reached such magnanimous proportions, they are willing to accuse any critic, their own allies as well, for being Brotherhood-sympathising Islamists.
4. Homes Demolished at Rafah border
At the start of this month, 13 homes across on the Rafah border were demolished by the Egyptian establishment. It has been reported that, "The homes were knocked down over the last 10 days ... while explosives were used to collapse the tunnels." The military accuses Hamas and other resistance Palestinian resistance groups for smuggling weapons across the border.
Residents were left fuming as no compensation or relief was provided. Hamas officials have termed this as return to the blockade days of the Mubarak regime, combined with Israeli restrictions, had led to a soul crushing situation in Gaza. This move by the military can be seen to further curb any Morsi sympathizers from launching or plotting an attack as the army sees to consolidate its illegitimate rule in the country.