Egypt: jihad against feloul?

Egypt's military is denying that its chief of staff, Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, told Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah that he will run for president in elections that are still yet to be scheduled. The newspaper quoted him as saying he could "not reject the demand" of the people that he should stand. Former strongman Hosni Mubarak meanwhile said in an interview with an independent Egyptian journalist that al-Sisi would be the next president. "The people want Sisi and the people's will shall prevail," journalist Fajer al-Saeed quoted Mubarak as telling her at the armed forces hospital where he is being held in Cairo.

Speaking about his relations with the Gulf States, Mubarak reportedly told the journalist that since his ousting nearly three years ago, no ruler has contacted him from any of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, not even to check on his health. He did say, however, that he feels "great admiration and gratitude" towards the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates and his children, "for their continuous support to Egypt and its people," mentioning his name several times throughout the interview. (BBC NewsAl Arabiya, Feb. 6) We have noted that the Gulf States appear divided on the Egyptian situation, with the UAE backing the military-led regime and Qatar backing the Islamist opposition.

In a development that points to a feloul restoration in Egypt, a Jan. 29 Reuters report tells us that "former members of Mubarak's party are back in action in the populous countryside, offering everything from refrigerators for newlyweds to welfare-like stipends to the poor in exchange for votes. This time, the slick political machine is drumming up support for army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who toppled Egypt's first freely-elected leader, Islamist Mohammad Mursi, and is expected to become president."

And a grim New York Times report of Feb. 5, Egypt's Islamist insurgency is gaining ground on a level not seen since the 1990s. Just over the past two weeks, militants have detonated a car bomb at the gates of Cairo's security headquarters, gunned down a senior Interior Ministry official in broad daylight, and shot down a military helicopter over Sinai with a surface-to-air missile. Named as leading the insurgency in the Sinai is Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, said to be allied with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). CIA director John O. Brennan told a House of Representatives hearing this week: "The number of attacks has gone up certainly over the past six weeks. And some senior-level Egyptian officials have been killed at the hands of these terrorists."