By Al Emid Author Journalist Broadcaster
The Glamourous Life of an Author
In my previous post I suggested that the downing of the Russian airliner, apparently by the Sinai affiliate of ISIS, raised some tough questions. In fact, the tragedy actually pushed a long list of questions into focus, more than I could discuss in one post. In this edition, I am posing a few more, all of them important and none of them coming with an easy answer.
Even if investigators eventually disavow the current theories about the downing, most of these questions still need answers.
At time of writing investigators and analysts still have several theories about the actual cause of the bombing, but accepting for the moment that the most popular current theory proves correct and that a member of ISIS’s Sinai affiliate masterminded the planting of a bomb while working at the Sharm el-Sheikh airport, does this mean that the affiliate and even the core ISIS are raising the stakes in regional terrorism? This appears to be ISIS’s first use of an airplane as an instrument of death. Given that from a terrorist’s point of view the operation was successful – both in its murderous intent and the worldwide attention it brought to the perpetrators — should we expect more such attacks?
Commercial airlines make approximately 100,000 flights daily, all of them from airports of greater or lesser security regulations and greater or lesser compliance with regulations.
Fortunately, Al-Qaeda has not managed to do this since 9/11. However, ISIS has signalled its intentions – again – to pre-empt its former parent terrorist group and to claim the supremacy of jihadism. Given the differences in approach between Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and given ISIS’s ability to inspire followers how far can it go?
Until now, the core ISIS has not attempted this type of terrorist attack. Will the murderous success of this attack prompt them to attempt more such attacks? Given the worldwide horror and continuing impact of the Sinai bombing they may feel prompted to attempt a repeat operation.
Accepting for the moment that an airport insider planted the bomb and the obviously elevated scrutiny of all airport workers that will result both at Sharm el-Sheikh and at airports everywhere – how can authorities reasonably prevent another such incident? Given the number of airports and the number of workers? How do we estimate vulnerability and what kinds of air travel do we accept and what do we avoid? How do we decide what compromises we have to make in travelling?
I have discussed previously in these posts the fact that ISIS competes with its former parent – Al Qaeda for funding from patrons, for recruits and certainly for pre-eminence on the terrorism world stage. Will its move from strictly ground battles and car bombs to this air attack boost its claim to leadership of the jihadi terrorism world?
Will the same weakness and political problems in the area that allowed the ISIS affiliate to grow make it easier for Al Qaeda to mount a comeback in Egypt?
I have also discussed the fact that other groups, such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, swear allegiance to ISIS and see ISIS’s modus operandi as a template for their own battles. Do we need to be alert to that possibility? That would mean that airports within Boko Haram’s reach could become suspect.
And what of American allies as the U. S. looks to increase airstrikes against ISIS? While Arab allies went on early missions their participation has greatly diminished and the U. S. does the vast majority of bombing. Will this tragedy force a re-thinking of their priorities?
Since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have shifted much of their attention – and many of their aircraft — to their fight the Houthi rebels in Yemen what can the U. S. expect from them?
Jordan has also shifted much of its attention to Yemen so how much can the U. S. expect from this traditionally staunch ally?
Bahrain, which has an uneasy relationship with the U. S., has reportedly not struck Syrian targets since February and Qatar which has a close relationship with the U. S. has participated modestly.(To be fair, while these countries have reduced their involvement, they continue to allow American use of their bases.)
And if as some analysts suspect, this operation was not under the direct command and control of the core ISIS but orchestrated by a quasi-independent affiliate of ISIS, should we expect more imitators?
And where does all of this leave President Barack Obama’s ‘degrade and destroy’ policy for dealing with ISIS?
Al Emid’s fifth book entitled What You Need to Know About ISIS – Terror, Religion, War and the Caliphate and set for release by Quidne Press behind the news about ISIS and what might lie ahead. He has begun developing a follow-up book set for release in 2016.