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Sinai BedouinAs we expected, the real number of Egyptian troops entering Sinai to fight Islamists is closer to 9,000. The operation itself is a farce.

By now, the Islamic fighters have escaped to remote mountains. The troops may catch the relatively harmless dervishes here and there, but the hardcore terrorists have blended in with the Bedouins who live outside the government’s authority. Taking them out is nearly impossible. The government cannot bomb the Bedouins—they are barely content with Cairo’s rule, and bombings would provoke major strife, which would undoubtedly result in the Bedouins resorting to massive terrorism in Sinai resort towns, which are Egypt’s most important source of hard currency. Nor would the Israeli government accept such a major violation of the Camp David accords as aerial warfare on the peninsula.

The situation cannot be compared even to Afghanistan, because the hosts of terrorists fully dominate the area—unlike the Taliban, which only enjoys sanctuary in enclaves in Waziristan. Also, under no circumstances would the Egyptians be allowed as massive a presence as NATO has in Afghanistan. The Egyptian army is financially incapable of protracted aerial warfare.

The situation is rather like in Iraq, where the US bribed local tribes to fight terrorists instead of shielding them. That would indeed be an excellent strategy with the Bedouins, but the necessary funds are beyond the reach of the near-bankrupt Cairo government. The Bedouins rake in hundreds of millions of dollars annually from smuggling, weapons trade, and drug trafficking—and those businesses depend on the support of Islamists. Moreover, the Bedouin mentality allows them to take money from the government and continue aiding the terrorists nonetheless. Also, an army infested with Muslim Brotherhood agitators cannot be relied upon to fight Islamists.

Overall, the near-term prospects of reestablishing law and order in the Sinai are rather bleak.

Kuwait is building a large seaport named Grand Mubarak on its Persian Gulf island. Touted as a commercial port, it is reportedly being considered as a future base for the US Navy—possibly meaning that the US has accepted the loss of its base in Bahrain, mostly a result of Obama’s support for the Arab Spring.