the Sinai InsurgencyA conflict that has raged since the beginning of 2011, with little sign of ending in the near future, the Sinai Insurgency has pitted the military forces of Egypt against militant Islamist insurgents across the Sinai Peninsula. Over the years, the war has cost an unclear number of lives and livelihoods, as nearly six years of suicide bombings and insurgent attacks have rocked the region. Here are 10 facts about the Sinai Insurgency and its effects on the region:

  1. According to the nonprofit Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy, the insurgents have launched over 800 attacks solely in the region of Wilayat Sinai since late 2014.
  2. Though the number of attacks in 2017 has decreased from previous years, the deadliness of the attacks has increased. In mid-September, 18 members of Egypt’s security forces were killed in a suicide bomber attack near the Sinai city of Arish. This attack followed a July attack that claimed the lives of 23 policemen.
  3. At least 1000 members of security forces have been killed in combat or in terrorist attacks since mid-2013. In 2017 alone, more than 200 members of Egypt’s forces have been killed.
  4. The continued conflict has also led to increased tension between Egypt and its neighbors, as Egypt has closed borders along the Gaza strip after accusing Hamas of harboring some of the insurgents it is battling in Sinai.
  5. The downing of a Russian airliner in 2015 has led to immense pressure on Egypt’s economy, as Russia, a major trade partner, has ceased all civilian flights into Egypt, while many other nations have blacklisted cities that comprise a large portion of Egypt’s tourism revenue.
  6. The Tahrir Institute estimates that over 2500 militants have been killed since the struggle ramped up in intensity in 2013. Many media outlets report militant casualties far higher than that, though their numbers are unofficial and suspect.
  7. Islamist insurgents have continually targeted the Coptic Christian population of Sinai in their attacks, particularly their churches and gathering places. Successful attacks have stirred resentment against the Egyptian government for failing to protect the minority population.
  8. Though the vast majority of insurgent attacks are concentrated in the northeastern corner of the peninsula, attacks have been reported across the length and breadth of Sinai. Some have even been reported as making their way into other areas of Egypt.
  9. Many of the Islamist insurgents aim to remove the unpopular president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, but others, such as the Bedouin tribesmen native to Sinai who are barred from the Egyptian army and many jobs, have joined the conflict as a way of violently addressing other grievances at the hands of the Egyptian government.
  10. In August, the U.S. cut $100 million dollars worth of aid to Egypt and continues to withhold hundreds of millions more. The decision, according to State Department statements, was motivated due to concerns over the state of human rights in Egypt.

Though a mere 10 facts about the Sinai Insurgency is hardly enough to encapsulate the entire conflict, the above facts can help foster a better understanding of the scope and motivations behind the conflict, particularly in regards to the tense political situation that cloaks the region, and how that relates to the U.S.

Erik Halberg

Photo: Google

Insurgency in Myanmar: Examining
There has been an uptick in an insurgent group activity in Myanmar the past few months. A new insurgency group within the Rohingya community named Harakah al-Yaqin has been carrying out attacks in the Rakhine state. This is a small yet important economic area within Myanmar that has a large Muslim population located within a country that is mainly Buddhist.

According to a Stratfor report, the Rohingya have long been a marginalized group in Myanmar society. They are not granted full citizenship and are accused of not being Myanmar at all, but rather recent Bengali immigrants.

The group demands are more ethnic-based rather than being steeped in political Islam. They are asking for government recognition as citizens and equal rights, but with no mention of Sharia law which differentiates them from other Islamist insurgencies. The scope of what is an insurgency depends on what the goal of that group ends up being.

With insurgencies varying from movement to movement, it is important to determine what is an insurgency. A recent paper by Aaron Young & David Gray seeking to define the term looks at likely causes and examines possible solutions. They believe that an insurgency is bound to political constraints. They define what is an insurgency by the challenging of these political aspects:

  1. The integrity of borders and composition of the nation-state
  2. The political system
  3. The authorities in power
  4. The policies that determine who gets what in societies

They believe that terrorism is only an option utilized by insurgencies if they fail on achieving their political goals. Over the years, though, the inclusion of guerilla warfare and terrorist tactics have served the purpose of demoralizing their opposition which can sometimes equate to an accelerated victory of their political goals.

Gray reports that “through proper management of social services and welfare programs, the needs of insurgent masses can be met. Only by the willingness of cooperation by the state and insurgent forces can a unified agreement be reached, considering that is a goal of the organization.”

Economic factors are important to squash an insurgency according to Mr. Gray. His research has led him to believe that by including indigenous and minority groups into economic development instead of complete control by the ruling party can be key to defeating the underlying current of an insurgency. And that the only way an insurgency can continue is if economic conditions remain the same or worsen. He states “by increasing regional utilization and production of viable resources, unemployment reductions, giving the masses both a sense of control of their own destinies and increases in the distribution of wealth has the effect of reducing strife and discontent.”

The Myanmar government reportedly has very little interest in including the Rohingya population into future economic growth. There are politically motivated fears that any softening towards the Muslim population may lead to a change in power facilitated by an angry Buddhist majority electorate. Young & Gray would argue the exact opposite approach to ending the unrest currently occurring in Myanmar.

Brian Faust

Photo: Flickr