In Egypt the real war on terror has begun
It has been one year since Egyptian President Abel Fattah El Sisi was elected in a landslide vote. Egypt's economy is projected to grow at 5 percent in fiscal year 2015/2016, unemployment is down and rating agencies are positive about Egypt. Foreign investors, including BP and Siemens, have signed multibillion dollar deals with Egypt. Early on in the presidency, the government implemented reforms such as cutting subsidies and tackling bureaucracy. This is no small feat.
The country's economic resurgence speaks volumes to the resilience and diversification of the Egyptian economy—especially as Egypt's tourism industry begins to steadily rebound despite a relentless campaign of terror that has claimed over 1,000 army, police and civilian lives since the ousting of former President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood in June 2013. The performance of the economy is particularly impressive, given the resources diverted to both fighting terror and repairing the damage to infrastructure and buildings caused by regular terror attacks.
Visitors to Egypt note with surprise and some relief the sense of normalcy in the country. Signs of economic activity are visible as soon as one lands, along the car trip from the airport to downtown Cairo. Cafes are packed, construction is booming and stores are doing robust business. But these visitors must be forgiven for their initial surprise. Rarely has such a wide gap existed between the commonly accepted narrative of Egypt and the reality on the ground.
Analysts who focus on a supposed "cycle of violence" linking the government's alleged "crackdown" with the increase in attacks are completely missing the point.
There is no cycle of violence. On the one hand there is terror that kills, and on the other a slow judicial process that fails to deliver swift justice. Endless trials and appeals can take years until closure. After two years of over 200 terror attacks and 1,000 deaths, only one civil death sentence has been carried out. Such protracted due process has been misinterpreted by terrorists as weakness. The result has been a sharp increase in both scope and brazenness of the terror attacks.
On the eve of the second anniversary of the June 30 revolution that ousted the Muslim Brotherhood, the Prosecutor General was assassinated. A mere 48 hours later, 17 army recruits and officers died in simultaneous attacks on army posts in the Sinai.
The attacks follow the Kenana Declaration, made public in May. Signed by some 160 religious scholars, all affiliated with the Moslem Brotherhood, it calls for the assassination of members of the government, army, police, judiciary, media and political elite. The declaration, with its clear incitement to kill, should to put to rest any remaining doubts that the Muslim Brotherhood is inherently violent.
But it would be both disingenuous and naive to look at the attacks in Egypt in isolation. Earlier this month over 30 were killed in Tunisia in an attack targeting tourists. A few days later, 27 were killed when a suicide bomber detonated himself in a Shia mosque in Kuwait. In France, a suspect apparently decapitated his employer. Bizarrely, even as ISIS becomes ever more depraved, some commentators now argue that if it cannot be defeated, the U.S. should live with it and deal with it.
That is not an option Egyptians are willing to consider with any militant organization. Difficult as this period is for them, they understand that appeasement in this region is perceived as weakness. Following the attacks in Egypt, a furious population is now calling for speedy trials and for a real clampdown on terror.
There is pressure on the government this time to counter force with force, with loud calls for military courts to be put into practice. Egyptians argue that two-year long civil (and still unresolved) trials have been largely ineffectual against those who are literally at war with the nation. Military courts would have the advantage of meting out swift justice against militant extremists, and perhaps prove to be a more effective deterrent. They draw on their experience during Egypt's war on terror in the 1990s, when the Islamic Jihad was first rounded up and incarcerated before they made the decision to renounce violence. The same must apply to the Muslim Brotherhood and its militant offshoots.
Because as with any war, terror will only stop when confronted and defeated.
Dina Khayat is founder and chairman of an asset management company based in Egypt.
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