Weeks after the Egyptian government pledged action to halt growing unrest in the Sinai Peninsula, military action appears to have had minimal effect on stopping violence and safeguarding the country’s energy trade route to Jordan.
The promised action followed months of growing instability in the region, beginning shortly after the fall of the government of Hosni Mubarak. In addition to a growing number of kidnappings, the Sinai saw 15 direct attacks on natural gas pipelines bound for Jordan and Israel. In early August, a single attack that led to the deaths of 16 Egyptian soldiers spurred newly elected President Mohammed Morsi to launch a military initiative aimed at bringing the region back under control. However, as recently as this weekend, attacks have continued, including one that resulted in the deaths of three police officers in El-Arish.
This latest event was followed by the dismissal of the North Sinai security chief, General Ahmed Bakr as well as protests among local police groups demanding greater attention from government forces and the passage of emergency laws. In response, Morsi once again pledged direct action, but will likely face resistance from a local Bedouin population with a long history of conflict with Cairo.
In addition to the clear goal of returning order to the country’s eastern region, the government’s efforts are especially important to protecting a natural gas export route to Jordan and beyond. Although exports from Egypt have recently halted as Cairo deals with a surge in local consumption and dwindling supply, the country’s ability to exploit domestic reserves for future growth will rely on a dependable export route to the east. According to a Jordan Times report, talks between the two governments have suggested that exports could resume as soon as next month, with a possible boost in quantity on the table.
While the government is working to address local consumption issues through a reassessment of subsidy programs and energy diversification, they have also begun pushing for greater exploration efforts, including both on and offshore projects. Recently, the Morsi government offered tenders for fifteen on- and offshore blocks for natural gas exploration.
Image: The Guardian
Originally Posted in Newsbase’s MEA Downstream Monitor