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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Is Hamas working with ISIS in Sinai?

Link: A.  Is Hamas working with ISIS?
          B. Developments in Sinai.

The Islamic State has a new name, folks.  First, we struggled with ISIS; then we were challenged with "The Islamic State for the Creation of a Caliphate in the Levant", which, I guess, could become "ISCOCIL".  Thank goodness someone had better sense.  As for the new name on the scene, it has been selected to identify the nascent establishment of an armed element of the Islamic State that has been active in the Sinai region, and its name is "Wilayat Sinai".  I'm no Arabic scholar, but the name "Wilayat" reminds me of "Vilayet", a term used to describe communities in the Ottoman Empire.  My superior skills of deduction tell me that "Wilayat Sinai" identifies what the Islamic State has decided is a part of its future Caliphate.  When they organize an armed group for a part of Jordan, it may be named, "Wilayat Amman".  This new group located in north Sinai, traditional home of Hamas, introduced itself with a bang last week, by attacking an Egyptian Army checkpoint and killing all the soldiers on duty.  The attack was coordinated to coincide with vehicle/suicide attacks on other Egyptian military targets, but things didn't go exactly as planned.  The Egyptians acquitted themselves admirably and gave hell to the Wilayat Sinai fighters.  Interestingly enough, this action took place under the noses of the U.S. military, which currently has a presence in Sinai.  Task Force Sinai, a regiment-sized U.S. Army contribution to the Multinational Force and Observers, the U.N. peacekeeping organization in pace in Sinai since 1982.  Aside from the Explosives Ordinance Disposal Unit, what exactly are these U.S. troops doing in Sinai?

When I think of Sinai, I think of that large land-mass that separate Egypt and Israel.  When I was a child, I used to imagine the plight of the poor Israelites, crossing the Sinai desert, with Moses at the lead, to escape Pharaoh and slavery.  The Sinai has been the location of a number of recent terrorist attacks against Egyptian soldiers and police.  Last week, the ISIS-baby Wilayat Sinai got in on the act.  The attacks against the Egyptian military were obviously a probing operation, to test the reaction time and effectiveness of the Egyptian contingent.  The Pentagon has estimated that the Islamic State has roughly 200 fighters in north Sinai.  We estimate the number to be closer to 500, but this includes new recruits, some of whom were probably present in last week's attacks, and gained experience through one helluva baptism of fire.  We know that ISIS is spreading, and has established branches as far away as Nigeria.  Yesterday Barrack Obama publicly announced that ISIS was on is heels.  This guy really has Chutzpah.  Only a few years ago, he described ISIS as being a "JV" (junior varsity) organization.  They now control most of Syria and Iraq.  He's a keeper, that's for sure.  We can only imagine how Israel is digesting this recent news of ISIS presenting itself so near Israel's southern border.  ISIS in the north, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, and now ISIS in the south.  I have a degree in Geography, so when I say that Israel is looking a bit "boxed in", you can take it to the bank.

I wasn't so much shocked about the coming-out party for Wilayat Sinai as I was the rumors of cooperation between the Islamic State and Hamas.  I would have thought that ideologically, there would be some problems with this relationship, not to mention that Hamas considers itself the sage of terrorist activity, with ISIS being the snot-nosed upstart.  But it does appear as if some level of cooperation has taken place, which really complicates an already muddy picture.  For the moment, though, my concern is with Task Force Sinai.  Again, I'm really confused about the marching order for these young men and women.  Are they armed?  Do they patrol?  If they're peacekeepers, are they under the command of a foreigner?  It wasn't so long ago that Hamas had militarized Gaza, and turned schools and hospitals into missile depositories, forcing the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to enter Gaza.  This is a dangerous place, folks.  What kind of peacekeeping are our soldiers doing?  For now, lets forget about yesterday and deal with today and tomorrow.  If ISIS has decided to extend its war for the Caliphate to the Sinai, I demand that our troops be armed all the time, with orders to defend themselves as appropriate to any self-defense situation.  If the Administration is going to insist that our troops be unarmed, then its time to pull back our soldiers and replace them with diplomats.  That would be there function after all, n'est pas? 

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