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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Egyptian bombings

I'm certainly not an expert on the politics of the Middle East, but I'm not going to let that stop me from speculating wildly about the motives behind the recent bombings at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort in Egypt.

Conservative bloggers, don't you know, have been somewhat sarcastically pointing out all week that Egypt didn't send troops to Iraq.*** Mubarak's Egypt wasn't part of the "coalition of the willing."

So, take away that ready explanation for terror (though perhaps not), and what's left?

The July/August Atlantic has an interesting short piece on the "Show Me" Sheikh of Egypt, Ali Gomaa. The latest grand mufti of Egypt openly denounced Wahhabism this past December and that likely makes him (and Mubarak's regime, since this is a government-appointed post) an enemy of Wahhabists. Apparently, Gomaa is a credible and popular anti-fundamentalist cleric. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the principal geographic center of Wahhabism.

Oh, and Mubarak's announced plan to democratize may also make Egypt a concern -- even to the Saudi state.

So...if you were a Saudi terrorist, or sympathetic to their cause, how would you counter Gomaa and Mubarak?

Perhaps by attacking the resort, the terrorists were drawing attention to the fact that Gomaa's Egypt (and Mubarak's Egypt, obviously) not only embraces western tourists, it hosts them in luxury hotels. The resort city has casinos and is sometimes known as the Arabian Las Vegas.

This seems simplistic, I know, but Sharm el-Sheikh is perhaps as symbolic a locale as the Pentagon or World Trade Center.

Question for Abu Aardvark (who is a genuine Middle East expert): does this mean hip-swaying Nancy Ajram's charity concerts later this week might actually emphasize the terrorists' point?

Alternative explanation: Earlier this year, Mubarak held talks with Palestinian President Abbas and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal at Sharm al-Sheikh. Indeed, an Australian newspaper recently declared that "the resorts of the Gulf of Aqaba have also become the destination of choice for Middle East peacemaking."

Perhaps the terrorist message is simpler: stop making peace?

*** Excellent retort by Abu Aardvark: "Given the recent gory murder of Egyptian ambassador to Iraq Ehab el-Sharif by Iraqi insurgents, this is pretty damn unfunny."

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