ISIS appears ready to announce expansion to Gaza

isis-flag (1)WND, by Aaron Klein, April 16, 2015:

TEL AVIV – Internet forums and group chatter among ISIS supporters indicate the brutal jihadist organization is debating when to declare the Gaza Strip part of its expansive caliphate, WND has learned.

Informed Middle Eastern security officials said Hamas has been preparing a major crackdown on Salafist cells supportive of ISIS ideology, fearing the group could indeed make such a declaration of control over Gaza.

The officials further said Hamas has been trying to bribe Salafist ideologues away from ISIS by providing them with salaries while integrating them among the ranks of Hamas’ salaried security forces.

Asked by WND for comment on the report, Mushir al Masri, a member of Hamas’ parliament and a media spokesman for the group, denied ISIS was even present in the Gaza Strip.

“This is not the first time Israeli and Western media tried to pit us against ISIS. There is no truth to these claims, and ISIS is not in the Gaza Strip,” he said.

Masri further clarified that “anyone caught breaking the law will be dealt with just like all lawbreakers according to the criminal justice system in Gaza.”

However, just last week Hamas reportedly arrested a prominent ISIS-aligned preacher from Gaza after the terrorist group went on a rampage earlier in a Palestinian camp in Syria.

ISIS last month took control for a time of the Yarmouk camp in Syria, home to one of the largest Palestinian camps outside of Gaza. The group took responsibility for beheading several Palestinian men in the camp and reportedly raped some of the women there.

This week, in an apparent attempt to gain sympathy with the Gazan population, ISIS supporters reportedly gave away Israeli-made space heaters adorned with ISIS logos. ISIS supporters also have been giving other so-called charity to Gaza’s Palestinian population.

According to informed Middle Eastern security officials, Israel is so concerned about the prospect of ISIS rising in Gaza that the Jewish state has helped to step up the transport of civilian goods into the territory. Israel fears a shortage could provoke a discontented population to turn closer to ISIS, which has been trying to endear itself to Gazans with numerous Islamic charity initiatives.

Last July, WND reported an attempt by jihadist organizations in the Gaza Strip to unite under the common ISIS banner. Contacted by WND at the time, Abu Saqer, one of the leaders of Jihadiya Salafiya, which represents al-Qaida ideology in the Gaza Strip, confirmed the attempt to organize various jihad groups to fight Israel under the ISIS umbrella.

Sinai to Gaza

Any ISIS gains in Gaza would pose a major threat to both Israel and neighboring Egypt.

The moderate regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has been fighting an ISIS and Salafist insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula and beyond. The jihadists seek to connect the Sinai with the Gaza Strip to form one big territory.

ISIS allies took responsibility for a roadside bomb attack on an armored vehicle in Egypt’s northern Sinai that killed six Egyptian soldiers last Sunday.

Also over the weekend, a group formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, now fighting under the ISIS banner, released a video that featured the graphic killing of an Egyptian soldier captured April 2 in the northern Sinai.

In December, WND reported Egypt arrested dozens of foreign jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula, stoking fears ISIS militants were seeking to open a new front.

In February, WND was first to report that thousands of foreign jihadists were attempting to infiltrate Egypt, with plans of a coming destabilization campaign akin to the insurgency in Syria, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.

The officials warned at the time of a troubling development taking place among the al-Qaida-linked organizations already inside Egypt. They said there is information the militant groups are forming a de facto chain of command, with alarming coordination between the various jihadist factions embedded around the country.

The terrorist infrastructure is being set up beyond the Islamist stronghold of the Sinai Peninsula. The officials said al-Qaida-linked groups in Egypt have been forming divisions replete with leadership and assignments to specific territories, including in the Sinai, Suez regions, outside Cairo and along the delta.

Sisi has appealed to the Obama administration and international community for help in battling the insurgency.

In a Fox News interview last month, Sisi appealed for an increase in U.S. military aid.

“It is very important for the United States to understand that our need for the weapons and for the equipment is dire, especially at the time when the Egyptians feel they are fighting terrorism and they would like to feel the United States is standing by them in that fight against terrorism,” he said.

Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Advisor And Former Clinton Employee Gets Life In Prison

Gehad El-Haddad

Gehad El-Haddad

By on April 14, 2015:

The  Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is reporting that Gehad El-Haddad, described as “spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood”, was sentenced to life imprisonment in a 2103 case known as “the media trial”. According to a report on the Brotherhood’s website:

April 13, 2015 On April 11, 2015, Gehad El-Haddad, spokesperson of the Muslim Brotherhood, was sentenced to life imprisonment in case 317 for the year 2013 known as “the media trial”.
Fourteen defendants received death sentences while thirty seven including Gehad were sentenced to life in prison. Among the convicted are 15 journalists and spokespersons.
According to the case evidence list (pp. 25 – 26, excerpts attached in Arabic), the evidence against Gehad is that he “conducted three interviews for the New York Times, an American TV channel (PBS), and a Spanish newspaper (Elmundo)”.
In the NYT interview, Gehad said that the MB group came “close to annihilation once under Nasser, but this is worse.” He also added that the crisis “is creating a new tier of youth leaders” and that this “happened at Rabaa.”
El-Mundo published a lengthy interview with Gehad in Spanish in which he said “we remain committed to non-violence and will continue the peaceful struggle to restore democracy.” He also added that he cannot give in to offers that exchange the freedom of the country with personal safety and that he “would rather die for the country he wishes to live under the tyranny of a dictator.”
“I’m a wanted man for saying my opinion and for standing politically in opposition to the coup” these were Gehad’s statements to the PBS. He added “They’re trying to wipe the existent, decapitate the Muslim Brotherhood. And they can’t do that. It’s an idea. You can’t kill an idea”.
Gehad’s family will appeal the verdict.

In August 2013, the GMBDW reported on the arrest of Gehad El-Haddad by Egyptian security forces. At the time, we noted that although we were the first and only Western source known to have reported on El-Haddad’s employment by the Clinton Foundation, mainstream media reports mentioning this employment failed to credit the GMBDW.

Gehad El-Haddad, the the son of Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam El-Haddad, was a Senior Adviser on Foreign Affairs to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood ‘s Freedom and Justice Party, a position he held since May 2011. His resume also says that he was is a Senior Adviser & Media Spokesperson for the Muslim Brotherhood as well as a Steering Committee Member of the Brotherhood’s Renaissance (Nahda) Project. Mr Haddad was also the Media Strategist & Official Spokesperson for the presidential campaign of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Gehad El-Haddad’s resume reports that he was the City Director for the William J. Clinton Foundation from August 2007 – August 2012. Among his duties at the Foundation were representing the Foundation’s Clinton Climate Initiative in Egypt, setting up the foundation’s office in Egypt and managed official registration, and identifying and developing program-based projects & delivery work plans.

An Egyptian media report provides further biographical detail for Gehad El-Haddad.

Also see:

Egypt, Libya: U.S. Not Supporting Us Against the Islamists

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood attack the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Several Islamic State flags can be seen in the crowd. (Photo: © Reuters)

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood attack the U.S. embassy in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2012. Several Islamic State flags can be seen in the crowd. (Photo: © Reuters)

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, April 9, 2015:

The anti-Islamist governments of Egypt and Libya are complaining publicly that the U.S. is not providing enough counter-terrorism assistance and is supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood. They remain appreciative of the U.S.-backed intervention to topple Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but criticize the U.S. for not having a plan to contend with Islamist terrorists and militias afterwards.

Egyptian President El-Sisi is gently criticizing the U.S. for not supporting the anti-Islamist government of Libya enough. He said, “there is a legitimate [Libyan] government and that government is denied the weapons it needs to confront terrorists.”

El-Sisi traces it back to original mistakes that the West made in Libya He said that the military intervention to overthrow Gaddafi was the correct decision but the West failed to implement a strategy to help Libyans tackle Islamist forces afterwards.

“The NATO operation in Libya was not complete, which led the North African country to fall under the control of militant and extremist groups,” he said. He was more forceful in another statement that “we abandoned the Libyan people to extremist militias.”

Gaddafi supported terrorism, hid chemical weapons and spread anti-Americanism and radical Islamic propaganda. His relatively secular dictatorship stimulated Islamism and committed gross human rights violations. The NATO and Arab League alliance militarily intervened when the Libyan rebels—a mixture of Islamists, designated terrorists and secular-democrats—were about to experience a bloodbath in Benghazi.

The Muslim Brotherhood lost the first elections in a landslide despite massive organizational advantages. Unfortunately, the U.S. turned a blind eye to Islamism and even welcomed the participation of Qatar, one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s biggest allies.

The Qatari-backed Islamists stabbed the West in the back by undercutting the secular-democrats and using its influence to benefit the Muslim Brotherhood’s political and militia operations. The West doesn’t even see the backstabbing because it doesn’t view the Muslim Brotherhood as part of the problem.

Libya is now in a civil war. The internationally-recognized government in the east, based in Tobruk, is backed by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. A rival government is based in the west at Tripoli and it has a coalition of loyal Islamist militias named the Libyan Dawn. This government is led by the Muslim Brotherhood and backed by Qatar, Turkey and Sudan. The West is neutral.

The chaos has allowed ISIS to grow in the north. The terrorist group has captured Derna and expanded to Sirte. ISIS is reported to have 800 fighters in Derna alone. The Libyan Foreign Minister says 5,000 foreign jihadists are now in the country.

And it’s getting worse. The spiritual leader of Ansar al-Sharia, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya responsible for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, announced his allegiance to ISIS. Abu Abdullah al-Libi tweeted a photo of a book titled, The Legal Validity of Pledging Allegiance to the Islamic State” and started a pro-ISIS Arabic website.

One of the biggest problems facing ISIS is that the legitimacy of its caliphate was widely rejected on procedural grounds and al-Libi can help craft rebuttals. He is presented expert on Sharia Law so he speaks with religious authority, making him a dangerous addition to the relatively unpopular ISIS’ ranks.

ISIS says Tunisia is next and its largest training camp is less than 30 miles from the border. The anti-Islamist government there faces a major threat because Tunisia is the greatest source of foreign fighters for ISIS.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni chastised the U.S. and Europe in February for not providing its army with the weapons to fight ISIS and the Libyan Dawn coalition of Islamist militias who loyal to the rival government in Tripoli. A growing chorus of U.S. officials are urging a lifting of the U.N. arms embargo on Libya.

“Libya Dawn is part of militant Islamists which get weapons, ammunition and supplies from all over the world, but America and Britain have other ideas against the interest of the Libyan people,” Al-Thinni said.

He accused the U.S. and U.K. of siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and trying to get the “terrorist grouping” into political power. Al-Thinni said his country would instead look to Russia and accused Turkey of supporting the Libyan Dawn forces.

“The British are trying with all their power to save the Brotherhood and ensure their involvement in Libya’s political scene,” said an anonymous member of Al-Thinni’s cabinet in December.

The Libyan Foreign Minister likewise lamented that his country is “not part of any international strategy against terrorism.”

The U.S. ambassador to Libya pushed back against Libya and Egypt’s statements in February that the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Islamist militias are part of the same problem as ISIS. She rejected the notion that the U.S. should favor the Tobruk-based secular-democratic government over the Islamist one.

” This is not to suggest that ideology has played no role in Libya’s internal conflict, although it is not the defining role that some – particularly external parties – have sought to highlight; Libyans are by and large conservative, Sunni Muslims who share similar values.  Labels are unhelpful and misleading,” she wrote on the fourth anniversary of Libya’s revolution.

The Libyan embassy’s charge d’affairs and women’s rights activist Wafa Bugaighis said the U.S. is not supporting the Libyan government enough with intelligence-sharing, arms transfers and training. She emphasized that Libya is not requesting U.S. airstrikes or ground forces.

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U.S. Lifts Weapons Freeze to Egypt but with Major Change

sisiobamaCSP, by Aaron Kliegman, April 1, 2015:

President Obama called Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday to inform him that the United States is lifting an arms freeze imposed on Egypt since 2013, and will continue its annual request for $1.3 billion of military assistance to Cairo.

Egypt will receive 12 F-16 fighter jets, 20 advanced anti-ship missiles, and up to 125 tank kits, and will remain the second-largest recipient of U.S. military financing. These weapons and the overall military aid will help Cairo in its fight with Islamic terrorist and insurgency groups throughout the Middle East, a battle for which Egypt has taken a leading role.

The suspension of aid came in 2013 when Sisi, then chief of the Egyptian Armed Forces, ousted democratically elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from power. The freeze was meant to be modest and temporary, but the Obama Administration, citing increased domestic repression – mainly against the Muslim Brotherhood – continued its policy. Beyond weapons, Washington withheld a $260 million cash transfer, but said some of it would be put towards humanitarian purposes. The U.S., however, has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Egypt in counterterrorism assistance despite the freeze.

Congress has helped slow the aid to Egypt by passing legislation to limit the disbursement of funds and delaying the transfer of ten apache attack helicopters. To receive half of fiscal year (FY) 2014 funding, the administration had to illustrate that Cairo was “maintaining the strategic relationship” and the peace treaty with Israel. For the other half, the Secretary of State has to show that Egypt is governing democratically, or at least progressing towards that end.

There is a catch, however, to the arms freeze being lifted. Until yesterday, Egypt and Israel had been the only two countries able to purchase American arms by “drawing credit from future foreign aid.” Obama will prohibit Egypt from doing this and drawing money in advance from expected FY 2018 funds and beyond.

U.S. officials say this move is supposed to “wean” Egypt from large, expensive weapons that are not conducive to insurgent and terrorist threats and that it will give Cairo more flexibility if its aid is not already allocated. More importantly, this change gives the U.S. greater ability to cut off future aid, making Egypt more vulnerable. Furthermore, because some people are calling Obama’s policy change a capitulation, such a shift could be an attempt to save face with human rights advocates and others who are critical of Egypt.

Prior to this move, Egypt could essentially use American aid however it thought best. Now, all military aid will be allocated to four specific categories: counterterrorism, border security, maritime security, and Sinai security. This fact will limit Egypt’s flexibility and give America more direct oversight over the aid.

The White House said its decision to lift the freeze was “in the interest of U.S. national security,” indicating that the need for an important strategic ally, given the current turmoil in the region, outweighs the president’s consistent calls for democracy and human rights in Egypt. The administration made it clear, however, that this aid does not mean that it feels Egypt has taken the necessary democratic steps, and Obama raised this point during his phone call with Sisi.

The military assistance comes as Egypt announced this weekend the creation of a joint Arab military force at the Arab League Summit meant to combat regional challenges such as the Iranian-backed Houthi coup in Yemen and ISIS’s growing influence. Furthermore, Egypt faces extraordinary security threats on both its eastern border, where Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, ISIS’s Sinai Peninsula affiliate, launches terrorist attacks against Egyptian police and military personnel, and on its western border, where Libya is a failed state overrun by jihadist groups, including ISIS.

Despite significant changes to Egypt’s aid, Obama’s decision to lift the freeze is necessary for American interests in the region. Sisi is not only leading the fight against ISIS and Iranian influence, but also confronting the larger global jihad threat facing the world. Some of Egypt’s policies are repressive – albeit primarily meant to target the dangerous Muslim Brotherhood – but Cairo’s strategic importance – including granting American warships priority access to the Suez Canal, unrestricted flights to American military aircrafts, and maintaining peace with Israel – takes priority today.

Egypt seizes Bab el Mandeb ahead of Iran. Saudis bomb Iran-backed Yemeni Houthis. US launches air strikes over Tikrit

Yemen3_1DEBKAfile Special Report March 26, 2015:

In a surprise step, Egyptian marine naval and marine forces Thursday morning, March 26, seized control of the strategic Bab El-Mandeb Straits to foil Tehran’s plans to grab this important energy shipping gateway between the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Suez Canal, DEBKAfile’s military sources report from the Gulf. Egypt disguised the raid as a counter-piracy operation. It rounded off the Saudi-led air strikes launched the same morning against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. These operations signaled the start of a major Sunni Arab revolt against Iran’s approaching takeover of Yemen, through its Houthi proxy, and advances in other strategic positions in the Middle East, with Washington’s support.
Thursday morning too, the US launched the US launched its first air strikes against Islamic State positions in the Iraqi city of Tikrit, rallying to the aid of the Iranian-commanded Iraqi operation, which had failed to dislodge the jihadis in two weeks of fighting.

The separate operations in Yemen and Iraq attested to the widening breach between the Sunni Arab camp and the Obama administration and the former’s resolve to thwart US strategy for buying a nuclear deal with Tehran by empowering Iran to attain the rank of leading Middle East power.
DEBKAfile reported earlier Thursday morning:

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are now leading war action in four Mid East arenas: Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon,while building Shiite “popular” armies deferring to Tehran in three: Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The formal announcements coming from Riyadh and Washington attempted to gloss over the open breach. The Saudis Wednesday indicated that their military buildup on the Yemeni was “purely defensive,” while Washington subsequently declared support for the Saudi-Gulf-Egyptian air strikes after they began.

According to our Washington sources, President Obama decided Wednesday to accede to the Iraqi premier Haider al-Abadi’s request for air support to de-stall the Tikrit operation against ISIS. Iran’s Al Qods Brigades chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who commanded the operation from the start has departed the scene.

Nothing has been said to indicate whether the Iranian forces, including Revolutionary Guards officers, remain in the area. It appears that the Obama administration prefers as little as possible to be mentioned about US-Iranian battlefield coordination in Iraq versus the Islamists, especially since it was not exactly a big success. At the same time, US air strikes launched to support ground forces are bound to be coordinated with their commanders, who in this case happen to be mostly Iranian. In the last two weeks of the Tikrit operation, liaison between the US and Iranian military in Iraq was routed through the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister in Baghdad.

Early Thursday, Riyadh reported that the Saudi Royal Air Force had taken out Houthi air defenses, destroyed numerous Houthi fighter planes and were imposing a wide no-fly zone over Yemen.

Egypt is providing political and military support for Saudi-GCC operation against Houthi fighters in Yemen, the Egyptian state news agency said Thursday. Egypt’s Foreign Ministry was quoted as saying this support could involve Egyptian air, naval and ground forces, if necessary.

DEBKAfile’s military sources add: The Saudis declared Yemeni air space a no-fly zone to achieve to goals: (1) To deny the Yemeni forces advancing on the key port city of Aden access to air cover which would undoubtedly have been forthcoming from mutinous elements of the Yemeni air force. Without it, the rebel advance would be severely hobbled, and, (2) to prevent Iranian warplanes from landing at Yemeni air bases with deliveries of military equipment and ammunition  their Houthi proxies.
Gulf sources disclose that Saudi Arabia has placed 100 warplanes and 150,000 troops with heavy weapons at the disposal of the operation against Iran’s Yemeni proxy, the Zaydi Houthis, as well as pressing into service Pakistani, Moroccan and Jordanian military units. This force is a sign that Riyadh intends of following up its air action with a ground invasion across the border into Yemen to crush the revolt in its backyard.

Developing…

Also see:

1a98a643-0240-4cf6-8929-fa817e6736ea

Egypt Fights ISIS—Obama Cuts Off Egypt

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

PJ Media, By P. David Hornik On March 18, 2015:

Again, those disturbing questions about whose side the president is on.

A disturbing report by Avi Issacharoff, one of Israel’s leading Middle East analysts, notes that Egypt is now under assault by ISIS from two directions—from its own Sinai Peninsula to the northeast and from the state of Libya, or what’s left of it, to the West.

It was last month that 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians living in Libya were kidnapped by ISIS and subjected to a mass beheading on a beach. In response to that violent episode, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi ordered airstrikes against ISIS in Libya.

And in Sinai, Egyptian forces trying to tame the region have been hit by at least three ISIS terror attacks just last week. The trouble, Issacharoff notes, is that “precisely during these difficult days for the Egyptians, Washington is delaying military assistance deliveries to Cairo . . .”

The Obama administration has held a deep grudge against the government ever since Sisi, backed by a massive popular revolt, overthrew Egypt’s short-lived Muslim Brotherhood regime in July 2013. The administration reacted by embargoing arms—even though Egypt had been a longstanding U.S. ally and Sisi’s is a nonradical, anti-terror government.

It was Sisi who, when recently addressing an audience of Sunni clerics at Egypt’s Al-Azhar University, called for a more moderate Islam that would not “want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants.”

Soon after, Sisi took the unprecedented step for an Egyptian leader of attending mass at a Coptic church.

Sisi also appears likely to keep the peace between Egypt and Israel. The two countries are tacitly collaborating against terror both in Sinai and Gaza, as Sisi cracks down hard on a common enemy—Hamas.

None of this is meant to say that Sisi is an angel who has brought democracy to Egypt by waving a magic wand. Seemingly, though, he deserves better treatment from Washington.

Things did seem to be improving last September when Washington said it was going through with a sale of ten Apache helicopters to Egypt.

But since then, says Issacharoff, Washington:

Has been making it increasingly difficult for Cairo to make additional military purchases.

For example, the US is delaying the shipment of tanks, spare parts and other weapons that the army desperately needs in its war against Islamic State.

So why is it? Why is an administration that seemingly has made fighting ISIS one of its missions choking off a would-be friendly state under ISIS assault?

The administration’s coziness with the Brotherhood—the incubus of modern Sunni terror, subject of a possible imminent crackdown in Britain—is well known (see, for instance, here and here). Thus, is the punishment for overthrowing a Brotherhood regime—even when that overthrow was backed by the most massive popular protest in history—getting thrown to the dogs amid an ISIS siege?

“According to an Egyptian official,” says Issacharoff, “the formal explanation [for the arms cutoff] is that Cairo does not respect human rights.”

As mentioned, Sisi has not transformed beleaguered Egypt into the Arab world’s first model democracy. Still, the idea that Egypt is being punished for human-rights failings is peculiar especially in light of reports of severe abuses by U.S.- (and Iran-) supported Shiite militias fighting ISIS in Iraq.

ABC now reports that “U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group…” Compared to such forces, let alone the Iranian regime itself, Sisi’s government is indeed a very mild human rights culprit (not to mention Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood regime, which was hardly a human rights beacon).

The situation is also parallel in some respects to the administration’s arms cutoff to Israel while it was fighting Hamas in Gaza last summer. That move may have been prompted by Palestinian civilian casualties, and the U.S.-Israeli defense relationship was eventually resumed. Still, a similar message came through: that being a U.S.- and Western-aligned country that is fighting terror is no guarantee of sympathy from the Obama administration.

The administration’s strange behavior at present—supporting ISIS-fighting forces on one front that are just as barbaric as ISIS; denying support to much more moderate ISIS-fighting forces on another front—can perhaps be explained in terms of moral confusion, of difficulty  distinguishing between friends and enemies. Or perhaps in terms of something darker. [emphasis added]

In any case, Egypt, the largest and, in some ways most important, Arab country and a would-be ally of civilization, is now in acute distress.

Also see:

El-Sisi urges ‘Arab ready force’ to confront ISIS, questions if US ‘standing by’ Egypt

 

Fox News, March 9, 2015:

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, appealed to the U.S. to play a greater role in helping his country fight terrorism — as he urged the creation of an “Arab ready force” to confront the Islamic State and similar groups.

The Egyptian leader spoke with Fox News’ Bret Baier in an extensive interview conducted in Cairo. He addressed the need for what he called a religious “revolution,” urging moderate Muslims around the world to “stand up” against terrorists twisting their religion.

But in the short term, he said more military might and funding will be needed to confront the extremist threat and questioned whether the U.S. was doing enough for Egypt.

El-Sisi, speaking mostly through a translator, said that while the U.S. has helped Egypt for decades, Egypt needs that help “more than ever,” and wants to see a “big response from capable countries.”

He said the suspension of U.S. equipment and arms to his country has sent a “negative indication to the public opinion that the United States is not standing by the Egyptians.”

El-Sisi — who eventually took power after former President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in 2013 — was referring to aid and shipments that have been held up in the wake of Morsi’s ouster. Though the U.S. continues to deliver nearly $1.5 billion a year in mostly military assistance, some high-profile shipments have been halted since the military leadership overthrew Morsi — and particularly since the military’s crackdown on Islamist groups. This includes holding back on deliveries of F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 tanks and Harpoon missiles.

In December, the Pentagon delivered a previously stalled shipment of 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt.

El-Sisi told Fox News the need for weapons and equipment remains “dire,” and Egyptians “would like to feel that the United States is standing by them.”

Asked directly how he and other Arab allies view U.S. leadership in the region, he answered briefly in English: “Difficult questions.”

He addressed his country’s campaign against terrorism weeks after the Islamic State released a video showing 21 Egyptian Christians being beheaded. That video triggered Egyptian airstrikes on ISIS targets in Libya — airstrikes that, according to the Pentagon, the Egyptians did not notify the U.S. of in advance.

At the time, even the top Pentagon spokesman acknowledged the U.S. and Egypt have a “complex relationship.”

While Egypt is not currently launching airstrikes alongside the U.S. and other Arab nations in Iraq and Syria, el-Sisi endorsed the idea of an “Arab ready force” with U.S. backing to take on security challenges.

He said this “ready force” could include his country, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and others, and be “capable of defending our national security” and confronting dangers in the region.

The Egyptian president first called for such a regional coalition in a speech last month. In the interview with Fox News, he stressed that ISIS and other groups pose a growing threat.

“We have to admit that terrorism is now a major threat not only to Egypt or even the immediate region, but it is a threat to the stability and security of the whole world,” the Egyptian leader said. “We can also see that the map of terrorism and extremism is expanding, it is not recessing.”

He also said it’s important to push to “reinstate the right meaning of religion.” Addressing the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, he spoke out against what he described as “political Islam.”

He said the people of Egypt have a “real fear of this kind” of system, adding they feel “these people have turned their lives into a living hell.”

He made these remarks in the course of defending the ouster of Morsi, who had been aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Responding to characterizations of his removal as a “coup,” el-Sisi acknowledged that “free and fair elections” resulted in Morsi’s election. But he said millions of Egyptians took to the streets when they wanted to remove that leadership — he claimed the country was headed into a “vicious cycle of civil war,” at the time he and other military leaders intervened.

Meanwhile, amid some concerns expressed by el-Sisi about the U.S. commitment to his country, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday he will travel to Egypt on March 12 to attend an economic development conference. Kerry plans to meet with el-Sisi and other senior Egyptian leaders to discuss various issues including efforts to fight ISIS.

Also see:

Sisi’s religious revolution gets underway

 

By Michele Antaki:

Last week, the news spread across the web that Egypt’s President Al-Sisi had “cancelled Islamic education” in all of Egypt. Was it in fulfillment of his New Year call for a religious revolution?  Was that dramatic announcement for real or a just a wild rumor?

Bonjour Egypte, a French-language online publication, announced on February 20th that Al-Sisi’s Ministry of Education had “published a manual of values and ethics, for all levels of education, after canceling the program of Islamic education.” It added: “The decision is explained by the lack of moral values in the Egyptian street. Sissi, a champion of secularism and an enemy of the Muslim Brotherhood, has canceled the teaching of Islam in the schools of Egypt.”

The same word-for-word announcement had already been made by a different publication on 26 June 2014, only to be denied as a fake in an online forum one day later.

On February 22, in the Saudi holy city of Mecca where a counter-terrorism conference was held in the aftermath of the slaughter of 21 Copts by the Islamic State, Grand Imam Ahmed Tayyeb called for a radical reform of religious education to prevent the misinterpretation of the Quran by extremists. “The only hope for Muslim nations to restore their unity is to deal with this Takfiri trend [accusing other Muslims of being unbelievers] in our schools and universities.” He offered no indication whether this reform had been effected in Egypt and to what extent.

When Sisi called for a religious revolution on January 1st, 2015 before an assembly of ulema and clerics at prestigious Al-Azhar University, the world caught its breath. Could it be that the leader of a great Muslim nation, seat of the foremost Sunni Islamic learning center, was truly intent on carrying out such a historic and unprecedented reform?

Sisi knew that in requesting the revisiting of the “corpus of texts and ideas” that had been “sacralized over the years” and were “antagonizing the entire world,” he was taking enormous risks and not endearing himself to the radical fringes of his people. And indeed, voices calling out for his death were quickly heard on programs broadcast by Turkey-based Muslim Brotherhood channels: “Anyone who kills Egyptian President Abdel Al-Fattah Al-Sisi and the journalists who support him would be doing a good deed,” said Salama Abdel Al-Qawi on Rabea TV.  On Misr Alaan TV, Wagdi Ghoneim clamored that “whoever can bring us the head of one of these dogs and Hell-dwellers” would be “rewarded by Allah.”

In calling for a ‘religious revolution,’ Sisi also knew that he was up against tremendous odds, owing to Al-Azhar’s educational curricula that had been promoting a radical Salafist and Wahhabist brand of Islam for quite some time.

On Jan 4, the popular satellite TV host Ibrahim Issa showed, with book in hand, that what Al-Azhar taught in its curricula was exactly what Daesh [ISIS] practiced. To wit, that “all adult, free and able men” were to “kill infidels,” and do so “without so much as a prior notice or even an invitation to embrace Islam.” Issa, in his characteristically refreshing and funny style, chided his audience for being so deeply in denial. “So you find Daesh horrible, don’t you? Oh dear, oh dear! But why, when Daesh does exactly what Al-Azhar teaches?” He added that there was “no hope that Al-Azhar would ever lead the “religious revolution’” requested by Sisi, unless Al-Azhar was first willing to “reform itself.”  For how could an entity that was “part of the problem be also part of the solution?”

As Sisi had done, Issa made the distinction between religion/doctrine/belief (deen/ akida) on the one hand, and the thinking/ideology (fikr) on the other. He further explained that what was meant by the latter was the body of interpretative and non-core texts — such as Bukhari’s Hadith, for example, which narrated violent episodes taken from the lives of the Prophet’s companions. Those were amenable to re-interpretation in terms of contextual relevance.

In an earlier, Dec.14 program, Al-Azhar refused to consider the Islamic State as an apostate. On Dec.11, Al-Azhar had called the Islamic State criminal while insisting that “No believer can be declared an apostate, regardless of his sins.”  Nonsense, opined Issa. Apostasy had been declared many times against believers. The real reason for the reluctance was simply that ISIS’s practices were based on Al-Azhar’s teachings,[i] which had been allowed to stand for decades with the regrettable connivance and complicity of the State. Consequently, if ISIS was now declared an apostate, so should Al-Azhar.

Issa’s views echoed those of Sheikh Mohammed Abdallah Nasr, a former Al-Azhar student and a leading figure of the “Azhariyyun” Civil State Front, which is opposed to political Islam. “Although many consider Al-Azhar a representative of moderate Islam, its curricula incite hatred, discrimination and intolerance, and are a doctrinal reference for the Islamic State,” he said to MCN direct.

Read more at American Thinker

Michele Antaki was raised in Egypt and France. LLM of Law – France. PG Diploma of Conference Interpretation – UK. She was a UN interpreter in NY for 27 years in 4 languages – Arabic, English, French, Spanish.

Also see:

Cojones: Egypt President el-Sisi closes 27,000 mosques to fight terrorism

al-sisi-300x180By Allen West, March 5, 2015:

I found the response from President Obama and certain Democrat Members of Congress regarding Prime Minister’s Netanyahu speech to be rather, well, disparaging.

Talk about “political theater” — especially the antics of House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. However, I was actually less concerned about their response than the response from the Arab world — where some were asking Obama to listen to Netanyahu.

On several occasions we’ve highlighted the actions of the brave leader of Egypt, the world’s largest Arab nation, President , former Egyptian Army general. He’s taken on and removed the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammad Morsi — something that still draws the ire of President Barack Obama. He’s taken the fight to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists in the Sinai. He delivered what was a seminal speech to Islamic clerics on New Year’s Day. And in the aftermath of the horrific beheadings of twenty-one Egyptian Coptic Christian men, he launched airstrikes against ISIS positions — even without requested U.S. intelligence support.

You’ll recall Egypt declared Hamas an Islamic terrorist organization — contrary to the opinion of Nancy Pelosi who stated that Hamas was a humanitarian organization because the Qataris told her so.

Now, President el-Sisi has taken another brave step which will certainly earn him the dubious title of “Islamophobe” from the coexist crowd.

As reported by The Gateway Pundit, “The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowment shuttered 27,000 local mosques under the pretext of fighting terrorism.”

Al-Monitor reported: The Egyptian Ministry of Religious Endowment has shuttered 27,000 local places of worship under the pretext of fighting terrorism, while awarding 400 preaching permits to Salafists.

“An Egyptian administrative court on Feb. 18 upheld the Ministry of Religious Endowments’ decision issued in September 2013 to close down neighborhood places of worship of less than 80 square meters (861 square feet), a move intended to protect young people from the militancy and extremism that can prevail in such places, which lack the legal standing to hold Friday prayers. This move sets a precedent that raises many questions about the fate of mosques in many Egyptian villages, the grounds of which are usually less than 80 square meters. In reply, opponents of the decision such as the Salafist Nour Party claimed that closing down places of worship without providing a larger alternative serves to further bolster extremist ideology, considering that the larger existing mosques cannot accommodate Friday worshippers who line surrounding streets to pray. On the opposite end of the spectrum, supporters of the decision such as intellectuals and scholars say that those mosques are time bombs that threaten national security, as they fall outside the purview of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and are used to spread subversive ideologies.”

Clearly there are some in the largest Arab nation in the world, home of the Muslim Brotherhood, who understand the enemy and how it proliferates its vile, insidious ideology of hate and supremacy.

Also see:

World View: Reports Indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia Planning Military Action in Libya

Reuters

Reuters

Breitbart, by JOHN J. XENAKIS, March 1, 2015:

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya
  • Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization
  • Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

Reports indicate Egypt, Italy, Russia planning military action in Libya

Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)
Russian warships in the Mediterranean (Russia Today)

Various unconfirmed reports are emerging indicating that there may be joint international action planned in Libya as early as next week.

Egypt is already conducting air strikes against ISIS-linked targets in Derna, close to where Egyptian Coptics were massacred recently, as displayed in a gruesome video. Debka reports that Egypt’s president Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi is planning further action in Libya, including more air strikes and possible ground troops, within a few days. According to the report, Egyptian commando and marine forces are preparing for sea landings to seize Derna and destroy the terrorist elements there. If this attack is actually launched, it will be the first time in modern times that an Arab country has sent ground forces into another Arab country.

Al-Jazeera television reports that the Italian navy is getting ready to carry off sophisticated military drills off the coast of Libya as early as Monday. Although Italy claims that it will be a regular exercise, there are many more vessels taking part in this year’s exercise than have in the past, which Italy explains by saying that they are testing out sophisticated new technologies.

There are several reasons why Italy is pursuing this show of force:

  • Italy considers the flood of migrants from Libya into Italy to be an existential threat to Italy itself, because there may be ISIS-trained terrorists smuggled in, along with the other migrants. Italy may be planning some kind of military action in Libya in conjunction with Egypt’s air strikes and other operations.
  • The GreenStream pipeline is a gas pipeline running underneath the Mediterranan Sea from Libya to Sicily. The pipeline is vital to economic relations between Italy and Libya. In recent months, there have been attacks by gunmen on oil installations in Libya, forcing some ports to shut down. The new show of naval force may be related to threats of attack or sabotage on the pipeline.
  • For over a year, Italy ran a search and rescue program called “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea”) that saved the lives of thousands of migrants attempting to travel from Libya to Italy. This program required Italian naval vessels near the Libyan coast. In November, the program ended and an EU program called Triton replaced it, but Triton restricts its operations to only 30 miles off the Italian coast. Triton has been considered unsatisfactory because many more migrants are drowning. Italy’s new show of naval force may be an attempt to restore a portion of the Mare Nostrum program.
  • Related to the last point, on Saturday there were large demonstrations in Rome by Italy’s anti-immigrant Northern League party for the government to do more to keep immigrants out. The naval show of force may help to mollify the protestors.

Some reports indicate that Russia has hinted at a willingness to participate in a naval blockade of Libya to prevent arm supplies from leaving Libya for other countries. Russia could play a role in this because it already has a naval fleet in the Mediterranean.

These are all unconfirmed reports of possible military action in Libya by Egypt, Italy and Russia. There are no reports of possible participation by Nato or the United States. Debkaand Cairo Post

Egypt court declares Hamas to be a terrorist organization

Egypt on Saturday became the first Arab country to name Hamas as a terrorist organization. The U.S. and the European Union have named Hamas as a terror group. An EU court took Hamas off the list in December 2014, ruling that the designation was not based on solid legal evidence, but the EU is appealing the court’s decision.

According to a decision on Saturday from the Cairo Court for Urgent Matters:

It has been proven without any doubt that the movement has committed acts of sabotage, assassinations and the killing of innocent civilians and members of the armed forces and police in Egypt.

It has been also ascertained with documents that [Hamas] has carried out bombings that have taken lives and destroyed institutions and targeted civilians and the armed forces personnel. It has also been ascertained that this movement works for the interests of the terrorist Brotherhood organization [which Egypt has already declared to be a terrorist organization].

About a month ago, the same court declared Hamas’s military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, to be a terrorist organization. Saturday’s ruling makes the political wing a terrorist organization as well.

A Hamas spokesman denied all the charges and said that the ruling was “dangerous”:

History has recorded Egypt’s support to national liberty movements in the Arab world and Africa, particularly in Palestine. … This ruling serves the Israeli occupation. It’s a politicized decision that constitutes the beginning of Egypt evading its role toward the Palestinian cause. This is a coup against history and an Egyptian abuse of the Palestinian cause and resistance, which fights on behalf of the Arab nation. We call on Egypt to reconsider this dangerous decision.

Al Jazeera and Al Ahram (Cairo) and CS Monitor and Al Resalah (Palestine)

Egypt and Turkey may try to create a ‘Sunni front’ with Saudi Arabia

By coincidence or by planning, the presidents of both Egypt and Turkey will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week. Egypt’s Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan will both be visiting King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the new king of Saudi Arabia, who has replaced King Abdullah, who died last month.

It is not known whether Erdogan will ever be in the same room as al-Sisi. The two have been bitter enemies ever since a coup by al-Sisi ousted Egypt’s elected president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, and later declared MB to be a terrorist organization. Erdogan’s own political party, the AKP, is an Islamist party like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they had good relations while Morsi was in power.

There has been some speculation that King Salman is going to completely reverse King Abdullah’s policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had branded MB as a terrorist organization, but some are wondering if Salman is going to shift from that policy. The Saudi foreign minister recently said that his government has “no problem with the Muslim Brotherhood; our problem is with a small group affiliated to the organization,” suggesting that shift is in the works.

Other problems make an Egypt-Turkey rapprochement unlikely: Erdogan vitriolicly hates Israel and supports Hamas. Al-Sisi vitriolicly hates Hamas and works closely with Israel on military matters, especially in North Sinai. It does n0t seem likely that any meeting, if one even occurs, will be pleasant.

If King Salman is able to pull off a miracle and mediate a new relationship between Egypt and Turkey, then it would appear to be the establishment of a new “Sunni front” in the Mideast, to oppose Iran, Hezbollah and the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Al Arabiya and Kurdistan and Arab Times

Hero of the Middle East: Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Gatestone Institute, by Bassam Tawil, February 23, 2015:

The courageous, historic speech yesterday by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam, calling for the reform of Islam, was the result of the even more courageous, historic speech delivered a few weeks ago by Egypt’s devoutly Muslim President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the current American administration’s great friend, is the tree whose fruit is the Islamist terrorism embodied by the ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and others.

Apparently some of the Sunni Arab States have not yet realized that their own national security, and ability to withstand Iran, depend on how strong Egypt is.

It is possible, in fact, that U.S. policy is to weaken the Sunni world seeking to unite under el-Sisi’s flag of modernity. With European complicity, the U.S. Administration is trying to defraud the Arabs and turn the Israel-Palestine conflict into a center of Middle Eastern chaos, in order to hide the nuclear deal they are concocting with Iran.

The treachery of the U.S. Administration is the reason why Egypt’s faith in the United States, which is supposed to defend the Arabs against a nuclear Iran, has effectively evaporated.

And now the greatest American insanity of all time: America and Turkey are arming and training Islamist terrorist operatives in Turkey, on the ground that they are “moderates” opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. They either ignore or are unaware that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist terrorist. The other name of the “moderates” opposing Assad is ISIS.

The Muslim Brotherhood, in effect, runs Turkey. According to recent rumors, Turkey is also planning to build a nuclear reactor, “for research and peaceful purposes.”

Sheikh Dr. Ahmed al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islam, yesterday delivered a courageous, historic speech in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, urging reform in religious education to curb extremism in Islam. Al-Tayyeb’s address was the result of an even more courageous and historic speech, delivered a few weeks ago by Egypt’s devoutly Muslim President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, at Al-Azhar University.

El-Sisi’s monumental statement, truly worthy of a Nobel Prize, is having a seismic result. Al-Sisi directed his remarks, about the ills of Islam to Islamic clerics in Egypt and around the world. It was enormously brave of him. He did not single out radical Islam, but he did call on all Muslims to examine themselves, carry out a religious revolution and renew their faith.

El-Sisi, a man of monumental courage, urged Muslims not to behave according to the ancient, destructive interpretations of the Qur’an and Islam that make the rest of the world hate them, destroy Islam’s reputation and put Muslim immigrants to Western countries in the position of having to fight their hosts. He claimed that it is illogical for over a billion Muslims to aspire to conquer and subdue six billion non-Muslims.

Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, delivered a historic speech to top Islamic scholars and clergy at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, December 28, 2014. (Image source: MEMRI)

Islam deals in depth with uniting the Muslim nation (umma) and mutual responsibility among Muslims, as though they were one entity. The Prophet Muhammad (S.A.A.W.) said that every drop of Muslim blood is more precious than the entire Kaaba. Thus the liberty ISIS took upon itself to burn alive a Jordanian pilot and 45 Egyptians, to spread terrorism throughout Syria, Iraq and Egypt and to kill other Muslims in various locations around the globe, claiming they were “infidels,” is heresy in and of itself.

The calls for the deaths of “a million shaheeds” and the killing of Jews for the sake of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, as was done by Arafat in the past, and is being done now by his heirs in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, are a crime; they are extremist incitement that is opposed to the forgiving and compromising spirit of Islam. The murder and terrorism carried out by terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad [PIJ] and other Islamist organizations against Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims is contrary to the modern Islam needed in the contemporary era.

El-Sisi was correct that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Sunni ideology, which drives most of the extremist Islamist organizations around the world, preaches forced conversion of “infidels” to Islam at any price, or death. Some of the “infidels” are supposed to join Islam of their own accord (targ’ib), out of self-serving interest, and some not of their own accord (tarhib), out of fear and death threats. Such conversions are also contrary to the original Islam, which states that no one is to be forced to convert to Islam and that a calm religious dialogue should be held.

However, a few days after President el-Sisi’s speech, which attempted to unify Muslims and Christian Copts, the Muslim Brotherhood and their affiliated terrorist organizations increased their attacks on Egyptian civilians and security forces throughout Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula, as well as murdering 21 Egyptian Christian Copts in Libya. The Muslim Brotherhood knows that behind the scenes, U.S. President Obama supports the movement, especially the branch in Egypt seeking to overthrow President Sisi. This approval from the U.S. encourages the Muslim Brotherhood to be even more determined to subvert and undermine Egypt’s stability, sabotage its economic rehabilitation and destroy the el-Sisi regime.

In this atmosphere of American support, the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis terrorist group in the Sinai Peninsula operates under Muslim Brotherhood protection. It recently changed its name to the “Sinai Province” of the Islamic State and swore allegiance to the “Caliph,” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. It is currently working hand-in-hand with Hamas in the Gaza Strip to weaken el-Sisi’s Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula.

Other Islamist terrorist organizations also kill Egyptian civilians and security forces with bombs and assault rifles. In the name of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, they indiscriminately attack people on public transport, in airports and in public places, with the intent of retaking control of Egypt.

For this reason, an Egyptian court recently designated Hamas a terrorist organization, along with its military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, and outlawed both of them. In response, Qatar, a slippery agent in the service of America but also, treacherously, in the service of Iran, allowed armed Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operatives to be interviewed by its Al-Jazeera TV. The operatives called the Egyptian president a traitor to the Islamic-Arab cause and to those seeking to “liberate Palestine.”

At the same time, Qatar continues to use its Al-Jazeera TV to broadcast hate propaganda targeting the el-Sisi regime, to disseminate videos and to fabricate insulting quotes intended to cause friction between el-Sisi on one side and the leaders of the Arab world and the Gulf States on the other — and to keep them from giving hungry Egyptians economic aid.

As the date for the economic conference in Sharm el-Sheikh (in the Sinai Peninsula) nears, Al-Jazeera’s propaganda machine has moved into ever-higher gear. Apparently, some of the Sunni Arabs states have not yet realized that their own national security and ability to withstand Iran depend on how strong Egypt is.

The U.S. Administration could easily halt the subversion of Egypt, but not only does it turn a blind eye, it suffers from a peculiar form of ignorance that makes it fight ISIS while at the same time supporting the Muslim Brotherhood, the hothouse of most Islamic terrorist organizations, including ISIS. The damage done to Egypt and the cracks in the weak Sunni Muslim ranks in the Middle East will eventually harm American interests and expose the Gulf States to the increasing Iranian threat.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the current American administration’s great friend, is the tree whose fruit is the Islamist terrorism embodied by ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Al-Nusra Front, Boko Haram and others. This linkage has become obvious to all the Arab states, while the U.S. and Europe steadfastly ignore the danger to their own survival, and refuse to outlaw them.

It is possible, in fact, that U.S. policy is to weaken the Sunni world that is seeking to unite under el-Sisi’s flag of modernity. With European complicity, the U.S. Administration is trying to defraud the Arabs and turn the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a center of Middle Eastern chaos, in order to hide the nuclear deal they are concocting with Iran. That is why the West does not really want to rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees by settling them in the Arab states, and why the West continues to nourish false Palestinian hopes that perpetuate this conflict.

The treachery of the U.S. Administration is the reason why Egyptians’ faith in America, which is supposed to defend the Arabs against a nuclear Iran, has effectively evaporated.

In the meantime, Iran’s Houthi proxies have taken over Yemen, threatening the entire Persian Gulf from the south. The el-Sisi regime is currently in the market for new allies, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin recently paid a visit to Egypt to examine the possibilities of building a nuclear reactor, sounding the first chord of a regional nuclear arms race.

The problems of the Middle East begin in the United States: that was the claim of participants in the Al-Jazeera TV show, “From Washington.” They described American policy towards Egypt as hesitant, indecisive and undemocratic. They claimed that the U.S. Administration had not yet decided whether or not to support el-Sisi, who heralded change and the willingness to fight radical Islam (a fight America used to participate in) or to remain neutral and waffle, in view of Egypt’s presumed instability. The Americans seem to be putting their all money on the extreme Islamists, who they seem to think will eventually win the bloody conflict currently being waged in Egypt.

The Americans have forgotten that under Mubarak, the regime turned a blind eye to attacks against Israel that were carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood and their carefully fostered agents. Unfortunately, since el-Sisi was elected, Egypt itself has become a victim of radical Islamic terrorism. The U.S. Administration, however, appears clearly to hate el-Sisi, and seems to be doing its utmost to undermine him and see him thrown out.

Under ousted President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt was tolerant and patient toward the U.S. Administration’s best friends, the Muslim Brotherhood, as well as Islamist and Palestinian terrorist organizations such as Hamas, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Al-Qaeda, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, all of which set up camp in the Sinai Peninsula. These terrorist groups smuggled weapons in from Iran, Sudan, Libya and Lebanon; dug smuggling and attack tunnels; developed missiles and carried out terrorist attacks “only” against Israel, the current U.S. Administration’s other apparent enemy, even though so many American Jews foolishly voted for them.

Now those same Islamist and Palestinian terrorist organizations are striking a mortal blow to the security or Egypt, and killing its civilians and security personnel.

The Muslim Brotherhood, mindful of America’s pro-Islamist policy toward it, is deliberately indulging in a wave of terrorism in Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula. Muslim Brotherhood operatives there are targeting civilians, public transport, airports and natural gas pipelines, all to undermine Egypt’s internal security and bring down el-Sisi’s regime in favor of extremist Islamists and a nuclear-threshold Iran.

In the current international situation, the U.S. Administration has apparently finally cut a deal with Turkey — which will be flimsy and ethereal — that allows Turkey to do the only thing it really cares about: to bring down the regime of Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad.

The U.S. is also trying to cut a deal with Qatar, which along with Turkey openly supports the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist proxies in Egypt, Gaza, Syria and Iraq, who in general work against Western interests.

The ironic result is that Turkey plays host to both NATO and senior Hamas figures, while it deliberately ignores the slaughter by ISIS of Kurds and other ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood, in effect, actually rules Turkey. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party make it easy for foreign fighters to cross the Turkish border into Syria and join the ranks of ISIS. Meanwhile, the Turkish government wages a diversionary propaganda war against Israel. According to recent rumors, Turkey is also planning to build a nuclear reactor, “for research and peaceful purposes.”

Another surreal result is that Qatar hosts the U.S. military bases, while it finances and encourages terrorist organizations operating against Israel and the Egypt. It also panders to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual mentor of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist terrorist who issues fatwas permitting the murder of civilians and approves death sentences for apostasy.

And now the greatest American insanity of all time: the U.S. and Turkey are arming and training Islamist terrorist operatives in Turkey, on the grounds that they are “moderates” opposed to Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria. They either ignore or are not aware that there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist terrorist.

The other name of the “moderates” opposing Bashar Assad is ISIS; Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei and Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah are now even saying that the U.S. is arming ISIS.

In the meantime, the Egyptian army continues its struggle against Islamist terrorist targets in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya, unaided, and even undermined, by the U.S.

In view of the U.S. Administration’s collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip, I am persuaded that in the near future it will be possible to find a joint Egyptian-Israeli-Palestinian formula for eradicating the Hamas-PIJ enclave of terrorism, this time by Arabs.

Most ironically of all, in the shadow of American zigzagging, a joint Arab-Israeli front is developing against Sunni and Shi’ite radicalism, and the Palestinians can only profit from it. Thus el-Sisi, who, with towering vision and courage, dares to speak openly about the tree of radical Islam and its fruit, when others are afraid, is a truly great Islamic hero.

Bassam Tawil is a scholar based in the Middle East.

****

On the Ground in Egypt: Patrick Poole and Stephen Coughlin – US Policy and Egyptian Counter-terrorism Efforts

Published on May 13, 2014 by securefreedom

Recorded at Center for Security Policy’s National Security Group Lunch on Capitol Hill on Friday, 9 May, 2014
Patrick Poole, National Security and Terrorism Correspondent for PJ Media; and Stephen Coughlin, Senior Fellow, Center for Security Policy

Also see:

Haftar – Sisi Alliance: The Road Block to ISIS bridge Into The Maghreb

February 21, 2015 / /

Our sources have reported that the Egyptian Special Forces Unit 999 executed a joint-raid with the forces of Libyan GEN Khalifah Haftar after the start of airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) positions inside Libya. Unit 999 and GEN Haftar’s forces conducted a raid on a camp located in the Dernah-area (variant: Darna) resulting in the total destruction of the camp. This particular camp is said to have a heavy-foreign fighter presence consisting of Tunisian, Egyptian and Algerian fighters. This particular camp appears to be part of the facilitation ratlines sending weapons and fighters to Syria through Egypt and Gaza, which is probably why the Sisi regime chose to target this location. IS responded by targeting the GEN Haftar stronghold of Quba in a series of bombings.

Libya: Egyptian troops launch ground attack in Isis-held Derna ‘capturing 55 militants’
http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/libya-egyptian-troops-launch-ground-attack-isis-held-derna-capturing-55-militants-1488522

ISIL claims responsibility for deadly Libya blasts
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/02/isil-claims-responsibility-deadly-libya-blasts-150220235037650.html

Egypt Strikes ISIS Positions in Libya: Moderate Muslims Rise Up Against Terror
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4889

Screen Shot 2015-02-21 at 10.03.48 AM

Unit 999 conducting training
Source: The ISIS Study Group

The ratlines coming out of Libya are also fueling IS-affiliate Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) to continue moving forward in their campaign to secure the Sinai Peninsula to use as the gateway to Gaza, Jordan and Syria. If you suspect there’s a great sense of urgency on the part of Egypt to eradicate the IS presence in Libya and the Sinai, you would be correct. The reason for the increased operations in both areas has everything to do with ABM attempting to reach out to other jihadist groups in the country to bolster their ranks and create a “unified” command. Unconfirmed reporting has come out over the past few weeks about ABM allegedly reaching out to the Cairo-based group Ajnad Masr for the purpose of conducting joint-operations against the regime. This is significant since Ajnad Masr splintered from ABM in 2013 over their pro-IS leanings and regional agenda as opposed to just targeting the Egyptian government. If confirmed, then ABM will have an effective action-arm for conducting operations inside Cairo itself (ABM’s Cairo operations had been disrupted over the last 4 months due to security sweeps). Adding weight to this possibility are the reports that Ajnad Masr may be looking to target western embassies in the capital.

Jordan Steps Up Airstrikes Against ISIS, Egypt Launches New Sinai Offensive
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=4669

Egypt and UAE Launch Airstrikes in Libya – US Kept in the Dark
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1302

Is Egypt Planning Military Intervention in Libya?
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=584

ABM video

ABM in their 2014 video pledging allegiance to IS
Source: Breitbart

The Libyan-affiliate of IS has been expanding rather quickly in the country and initiated the targeting of westerners, as demonstrated in the late-JAN attack on the Corinthia Hotel in Tripoli and early-FEB attack on an oil field near Sirt. Regarding the oil field attack, IS was looking for westerners but ended up killing one US citizen, a French citizen and three Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs) taken hostage. As we’ve seen in Syria and Iraq, a key part of increasing the group’s capabilities revolves around seizing critical infrastructure such as power plants, oil fields and refineries, and its no different here in Libya. We fully expect IS will continue to target Libyan oil infrastructure in order to target western workers, generate revenue and pressure the governments of other target countries – to include EU members.

Eight killed, including five foreigners, in ISIS-linked attack on Libya hotel
http://www.haaretz.com/news/world/1.639305

3 Filipino Oil Workers Kidnapped in Libya
http://manilastandardtoday.com/2015/02/06/3-filipino-oil-workers-kidnapped-in-libya/

corinthia hotel

The Corinthia Hotel Attack
Source: Harretz

We assess that GEN Haftar’s faction and the Sisi regime will continue planning for additional joint-operations similar to the Dernah camp raid. The UAE has been sending additional military equipment and weapons/ammo in support of these operations and has apparently signaled that they intend to increase their air campaign on IS targets in the country. Libya is of great importance as it gives IS a main hub from which to support expansion efforts throughout North Africa while providing additional logistical support to the war effort in Syria. The effort is deemed so important by IS leadership that they sent a “support package” consisting of cadre who fought US forces in Iraq to the country to assist in setting up the official affiliate. Furthermore, we assess that six months after IS sends such a group to an area that an affiliate is able to become fully operational. These personnel are a combination of structural IS fighters and personalities native to the target area. Regarding Libya, such personnel aren’t in short supply as the country was a major contributor of foreign fighters for the IS forerunner AQI during the OIF-era (its worth noting many of these personnel came from Benghazi). As such, what we’re seeing in Libya will likely be what we’ll see in the AF/PAK region six months from now. We also see indications that these same type of cadre were sent to Nigeria to assist Boko Haram 12 to 18 months ago. They have also sent similar cadre packages to other Maghreb states in North Africa, particularly those with active insurgencies.

The Strategic Importance of Egypt to ISIS
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=1392

The ISIS Expansion into North Africa
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=3257

Its also worth noting that both GENs Haftar and Sisi have not been receiving adequate US military support. More damning is that the Obama administration has even supported “moderate elements” of the Arab Spring that were not hardly at all moderate – such as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB -which is the father of the modern Sunni terrorist) for instance. The result was a MB-dominated Egyptian government that became increasingly pro-jihadist and a Libya that became far less stable than it ever was when the Qaddafi regime was in power. The result was our Cairo Embassy being overrun, Libya mission being closed and our ambassador to that country being killed by the very same “moderates” that the Obama administration supported. Once GEN Sisi seized power he took note of what happened to his mentor Hosni Mubarak and has grown closer to Russia. In fact, US influence throughout the Middle East – and globally – has been on significant decline for the past 6 yrs, which began to accelerate at the start of the Arab Spring. If you were wondering why we’re seeing Jordan, Egypt, the UAE and France are now “in the lead” in the fight against ISIS, that’s why – and that isn’t a good thing. The United States is not “more respected” as the Obama administration claimed we would be nor are we feared. The decisions of the American voter in the last two presidential elections won’t fully manifest itself for another 1-2 yrs – but when it does, there will be a lot of blood spilled.

Egypt Atmospherics
http://isisstudygroup.com/?p=614

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Egyptian beheadings show ISIS taking ‘global jihad’ to rest of Arab world

Published on Feb 16, 2015 by jim hoft  (who reminds us that Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility for the Benghazi attack and 3 emails were sent to the WH informing them of this on the night of the attack)

Fox News, Feb. 16, 2015:

The Islamic State’s mass execution of Egyptian Christians is the latest sign that ISIS is pointing its sword against not just the West but the rest of the Arab world — drawing the region into a spreading war that leaves the United States in a difficult spot as it tries to marshal a cohesive coalition.

That coalition started last fall as a U.S.-led airstrike campaign involving several Gulf states, and Jordan. Not only have a host of western nations since joined to offer at least financial support, but several other countries in the Middle East and North Africa are now launching their own military campaigns.

On Monday, Egyptian warplanes struck at ISIS militants in Libya, in retaliation for the mass execution of Coptic Christians from Egypt. The airstrikes reportedly were coordinated with the Libyan government.

Meanwhile, Iran is said to be fueling Shiite militias now battling ISIS militants on the ground in Iraq, as Iraq’s military loses strength. Syria’s Assad regime has been fighting ISIS from the start. And Jordan, a U.S. ally, has escalated its role in the coalition after a captured Jordanian pilot was burned alive by the Islamic State.

The distinct campaigns have raised questions about the direction of the anti-ISIS coalition and alliances in the region.

“It’s much more like Game of Thrones, and much less like a seriously thought-through strategy against a regional opponent,” Danielle Pletka, senior vice president for foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told FoxNews.com.

With ISIS-aligned militants battling on so many fronts in the region, analysts say the organization is trying to demonstrate its clout, in turn boosting its already-robust recruitment.

The multiple fronts, though, create challenges for the Obama administration. The Washington Post reported Monday that Iran-backed militias are taking the fight to ISIS in Iraq — which in turn increases Iran’s already growing influence in that country.

The impact of Egypt’s entry into Libya remains to be seen. But retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a former military intelligence officer now with the London Center for Policy Research, said: “Egypt jumping into Libya is not part of the [U.S.] plan.”

Amid the chaos, Shaffer said his group is urging the creation of a single “comprehensive treaty organization” — a standing coalition of countries in the region, which he describes as a sort of “Arab NATO.” Such a group, he said, could organize against ISIS and plan for establishing post-ISIS governance in areas where there is none. This could include Jordan, Egypt and several other governments all fighting a common enemy, which he stressed as critical.

“If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge,” he said, describing the current patchwork of local battles in the region.

Matthew Levitt, counterterrorism analyst with The Washington Institute, described the strikes in Libya as a separate issue from other Islamic State battles, and one fed by the severe instability in that country. “It’s a problem for Egypt, because they’re right next door,” he noted.

But regardless of how connected the Libya fighting is to the broader Islamic State crisis, the entire conflict has had a curious side effect: drawing attention away from what once was the No. 1 enemy in the region, Israel.

Even before the rise of ISIS, analysts say, some Arab states in the region were beginning to — quietly — work with Israel on various challenges including Iran. Now with ISIS the singular force uniting a region notoriously riven by tribal, religious and territorial differences, Israel is on the sidelines.

“This is actually not about Israel, for the first time in a long time,” Levitt said.

He suggested it best for Israel not to play any active role in the current conflict but said the reality is the Gulf states are now realizing “that not every evil in the world … has to do with Israel.”

Pletka said, further, “They and the Israelis see the region through the same prism.”

Whether this results in the long run in Israel being seen as less of an enemy of the Arab world — or simply means Israel becomes the target of fewer United Nations condemnations for a short spell — it represents a significant change, analysts say.

“This is a major, tectonic shift,” Pletka said.

The Islamic State, meanwhile, continues to incite surrounding countries, chiefly through the tactic of horrific executions.

The video released online over the weekend showed 21 Egyptian victims kneeling on a beach, before being beheaded. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi quickly vowed revenge, saying the whole world is in a “fierce battle with extremist groups.”

Both the Egyptian government and Libya’s fragile state are facing internal threats from militants claiming loyalty to ISIS. Egypt already is battling ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula, and the airstrikes in neighboring Libya mark an expansion of that fight.

“Clearly, this is a global jihad right before our eyes,” retired Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News military analyst, said of the ISIS-driven killings.

In a written statement, the White House condemned the “despicable and cowardly murder of twenty-one Egyptian citizens in Libya by ISIL-affiliated terrorists.”

The White House noted that the killing “is just the most recent of the many vicious acts perpetrated by ISIL-affiliated terrorists against the people of the region, including the murders of dozens of Egyptian soldiers in the Sinai, which only further galvanizes the international community to unite against ISIL.”

The White House urged a “political resolution” to the ongoing conflict in Libya. The White House is hosting a summit later this week on “countering violent extremism.”

FoxNews.com’s Judson Berger contributed to this report.

Also see:

French PM: West Must Fight Muslim Brotherhood Ideology

Muslims praying in the middle of a public street in France.

Muslims praying in the middle of a public street in France.

Clarion Project, by Ryan Mauro, Feb. 16, 2015:

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has stated that the West must “fight the discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood in our country” and scrutinize foreign funding of mosques, a sharp break from U.S. policy that views the Brotherhood as a moderate competitor to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS).

Prime Minister Valls said the country needs to enact policies to combat the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, making the point that Islamist terrorism is a product of radical preaching. He announced that the Interior Minister will lead a study on the foreign financing of mosques in France and the training of French imams.

“We seek to establish a model of Islam that is fully integrated, fully compatible with the values of the Republic,” Valls said.

France has a serious problem with growing Islamism that is hostile to nationalism, secular-democracy and integration. A 2011 intelligence report warned that “self-appointed” imams in Muslim-majority areas, specifically the city of Marseille, were spreading Islamism. It said only a “relatively low” percentage of the 250,000 Muslims in that city support violent jihad, but “Islamic fundamentalism has progressed to the point where it has won over the majority of the Muslim population.”

France recognizes that the problem is not just the act of terrorism, but the Islamist ideology that drives violence and is also detrimental to the West in many non-violent ways. The Prime Minister said after the attacks in Paris that the country is at war with radical Islam; a stark difference from the vague terminology of “violent extremism” used by the U.S.

Valls’ use of “radical Islam” wasn’t a slip of the tongue. It signaled a major shift in strategy and was repeated by the French ambassador to America afterwards.

“We are at war with radical Islam. It means that right now… Islam is breeding radicalism which is quite dangerous for everybody. So I think in the coming weeks or the coming months, we have to define the global strategy. Part of the strategy is to work with the Muslim countries,” the ambassador said.

The Prime Minister even said that Europe needs to recognize that Islamists slander opponents as “Islamophobes” to stop scrutiny of their ideology and leaders.

“I refuse to use this term ‘Islamophobia,’ because those who use this word are trying to invalidate any criticism at all of Islamist ideology. The charge of ‘Islamophobia’ is used to silence people,” he says.

The Prime Minister’s bold statements come as Egypt has agreed to become the first country to buy French Rafale fighter jets. The Egyptian government will sign a $5.93 billion contract to acquire 24 aircraft.

The coinciding of Prime Minister Valls’ statement with the deal suggests that France wants to wage an ideological war against Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood and sees Egypt as a major ally in that campaign. President El-Sisi banned the Muslim Brotherhood and forcefully called for a reformation of Islamic interpretations that denounce any violence.

French President Hollande said that the deal was made because his country desires for Egypt to act as a stabilizing regional power.

“I believe that, given the current context, it’s very important that Egypt is able to act to uphold stability and to be in security, not only stability on its own territory, but stability in the region,” he said.

The word usage is important. Hollande means that the sale is not just an endorsement of Egypt’s fight against the ISIS and Al-Qaeda terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula, but of Egypt leadership role in the Middle East. A central post of that role is crushing the Muslim Brotherhood and undermining Islamism, including airstrikes on Islamist militias in Libya.

The deal is seen as a subtle rebuke of the U.S. over its criticism of Egypt’s handling of the Brotherhood. The U.S. says it is “not concerned” about the deal, but observers recognize that Egypt is reducing its reliance on the U.S. for arms. Egypt immediately reacted to U.S. criticism by embracing Russia and signing a major arms deal, as well as a recent agreement for Russia to build Egypt’s first nuclear reactor.

The French government’s stance is also important because the President and Prime Minister are from the Socialist Party, heralding a political consensus between the right-wing and left-wing parties that Islamism is the threat and a strategy against that ideology and its proponents including the Muslim Brotherhood is necessary.

Current French President Hollande defeated his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy of the Union for a Popular Movement party, but they are both now on the same page in regards to this issue.

This is especially significant because Hollande emphasized his friendliness with the French Muslim community during the campaign. Soeren Kern wrote that Hollande’s victory was “the first time that Muslims have determined the outcome of a presidential election in a major Western European country; it is a preview of things to come.”

Sarkozy was warning about the lack of assimilation for years prior to the Paris attacks. He said policy adjustments were needed to integrate immigrants and to prevent “a society where communities coexist side by side.”

“Our Muslim compatriots should be able to live and practice their religion like anyone else…but it can only be a French Islam and not just an Islam in France,” Sarkozy said in 2011.

France and Egypt get it. They understand that Islamism is the problem due to the former’s experiencing of the Paris attacks by the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda and the latter’s experience of Muslim Brotherhood governance. If the U.S. still doesn’t get it after 9/11, the Fort Hood shooting, the Boston bombings and countless other acts of Islamist violence, then what will it take?

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.

Egyptian planes pound ISIS in Libya in revenge for mass beheadings of Christians

Fox News, Feb. 16, 2015:

Egyptian warplanes struck hard at ISIS militants in neighboring Libya, killing as many as 64 militants and destroying the Islamist terror group’s training camps and weapons caches a day after a sickening video surfaced showing black-clad jihadists beheading 21 Coptic Christians.

The strikes came after Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi went on national television in the world’s most populous Arab nation and vowed revenge was coming. The address was followed by the airing of military video showing the planes taking off for the mission and an Armed Forces General Command statement saying the strikes were “to avenge the bloodshed and to seek retribution from the killers.”

“Let those far and near know that Egyptians have a shield that protects them,” it said.

The ISIS video released online showed the Egyptian victims, poor men from Egypt’s rural areas who had traveled to Libya looking for work, kneeling before Islamic State executioners. In Egypt, which by some estimates is about 10 percent Christian, the video sent shockwaves through both Muslim and Christian communities. El-Sisi, the U.S.-trained, former military leader who in a landmark New Year’s day address called on the Arab world to reject radical terror, and then took the unprecedented step of attending services at a Christian church, told his nation the deaths would be avenged.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine our determination” said el-Sissi, who also banned all travel to Libya by Egyptian citizens. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

On Monday, el-Sissi visited the main Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo to offer his condolences on the Egyptians killed in Libya, according to state TV.

Egyptian state-run news service Al-Ahram, citing a Libyan military spokesman, reported that the strikes, which were coordinated with Libyan officials, killed 64 Islamic State fighters and left dozens wounded. Egyptian officials told the news service the strikes were the first of several to come.

Egypt is already battling a burgeoning Islamist insurgency centered in the strategic Sinai Peninsula, where militants have recently declared their allegiance to ISIS and rely heavily on arms smuggled across the porous desert border between Egypt and Libya.

The strikes also come just a month before Egypt is scheduled to host a major donor’s conference at a Sinai resort to attract foreign investment needed to revive the economy after more than four years of turmoil.

The Egyptian government had previously declared a seven-day period of mourning and President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi addressed the nation late Sunday night, saying that his government reserved the right to seek retaliation for the killings.

“These cowardly actions will not undermine our determination” said el-Sissi, who also banned all travel to Libya by Egyptian citizens. “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

Libya’s air force commander, Saqr al-Joroushi, told Egyptian state TV that the airstrikes were coordinated with the Libyan side and that they killed about 50 militants. Libya’s air force also announced it had launched strikes in the eastern city of Darna, which was taken over by an ISIS affiliate last year. The announcement, on the Facebook page of the Air Force Chief of Staff, did not provide further details. Two Libyan security officials told the Associated Press civilians, including three children and two women, were killed in the strikes. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The video was released late Sunday by militants in Libya affiliated with the Islamic State group. The militants had been holding 21 Egyptian Coptic Christian laborers rounded up from the city of Sirte in December and January. The killings raise the possibility that the extremist group — which controls about a third of Syria and Iraq in a self-declared caliphate — has established a direct affiliate less than 500 miles from the southern tip of Italy, Libya’s former colonial master. One of the militants in the video makes direct reference to that possibility, saying the group now plans to “conquer Rome.”

In Washington, the White House released a statement calling the beheadings “despicable” and “cowardly”, but made no mention of the victims’ religion, referring to them only as “Egyptian citizens” or “innocents.” White House press secretary Josh Earnest added in the statement that the terror group’s “barbarity knows no bounds.”

Also Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry called Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. He offered his condolences on behalf of the American people and strongly condemned the killings. Kerry and the foreign minister agreed to keep in close touch as Egyptians deliberated on a response, according to a release from the State Department.

The U.N. Security Council meanwhile strongly condemned what it called “the heinous and cowardly apparent murder in Libya of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians by an affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” using another name for the terror group.

The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, also condemned the mass killing, calling it an “ugly crime.”

“The United Arab Emirates is devoting all its resources to support the efforts of Egypt to eradicate terrorism and the violence directed against its citizens,” he said.

Sheikh Abdullah added that the killing highlights the need to help the Libyan government “extend its sovereign authority over all of Libya’s territory.”

The oil-rich Emirates, along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, has given billions of dollars in aid to Egypt since el-Sissi, who was then military chief, overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013 amid massive protests against his yearlong rule.

Egypt has since waged a sweeping crackdown against Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group, which it has officially branded a terrorist organization. El-Sissi has insisted the crackdown in Egypt, as well as support for the government in Libya, is part of a larger war on terror.

Libya in recent months has seen the worst unrest since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi, which will complicate any efforts to combat the country’s many Islamic extremist groups.

The internationally recognized government has been confined to the country’s far east since Islamist-allied militias seized the capital Tripoli last year, and Islamist politicians have reconstituted a previous government and parliament.

Egypt has strongly backed the internationally recognized government, and U.S. officials have said both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have taken part in a series of mysterious airstrikes targeting Islamist-allied forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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