February 4, 2014 | Quote
Egypt’s Sea of Troubles
The growing and sophisticated insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula, along with its declared emphasis on attacking the Egyptian regime's economic lifeblood, has raised fears over the security of the Suez Canal, one of the world's principal arteries for trade, and especially for moving oil and gas between Asia and Europe.
Late last summer, after militants filmed themselves launching a rocket attack on a cargo ship that was making its way through the canal, worries over the channel's vulnerability to a terrorist attack began to proliferate. In January, West Point's Combating Terrorism Center published anarticle on the Sinai insurgency and possible threats to the canal. The Suez Canal serves as the main transit point for the U.S. Navy to move ships between the Eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
The group behind the rocket strikes, the al-Furqan Brigades, threatened further attacks on the canal, but most analysts dismiss the group as a ragtag group of jihadists. However, in the months since, the sophistication of terrorism in the Sinai has only grown. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, an al Qaeda-inspired jihadi group based in the region, has taken credit for deadly bomb attacks at Egyptian police stations, blowing up several gas pipelines on the peninsula, shooting down an Egyptian Army helicopter, and other acts of terrorism.
While many of Ansar Bait al-Maqdis's attacks have focused on parts of the Egyptian security apparatus — the Army and the police — the group has made clear in its statements that it seeks to impose the greatest possible economic pain on a regime it sees as apostate. The group justified a January attack on a pipeline that exported gas to Jordan as part of a campaign to “target the regime's economic interests.” Another attack on a pipeline, one that fueled a cement factory owned by the Egyptian military, was justified in similar terms.
“If they're really serious about targeting the economic interests of the Egyptian government, the Suez Canal would be near the top, if not at the top of the list,” David Barnett, a research associate at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies who specializes in Sinai insurgent groups, told Foreign Policy.