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Thursday, November 05, 2015 

Supping with a long spoon, interrupted again.

The poor old government isn't having much luck when it comes to inviting round tyrants for a bit of the old supping with a long spoon.  Xi Jinping turned up just as the British steel industry was collapsing, no thanks to the dumping of the Chinese variety on the world market, and now here comes Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, Egyptian usurper, just as it seems to be emerging that the Russian jet crash in the Sinai last Saturday was likely the result of a bombAl-Sisi, bless him, insisted that the Egyptian government had complete control of the Sinai peninsula, and the crash couldn't possibly have been a result of terrorism.  Like with the Chinese, to suggest otherwise was to insult their good work and name.

Say what you like about Jinping and China's refusal to grant the most basic of human rights, at least he's not been directly responsible for the massacring of hundreds if not thousands of protesters.  Nor did he come to power in a coup, since given a fig leaf of a mandate via a blatantly rigged poll in which he won 96% of the vote.  Of all the world leaders David Cameron has invited to Downing Street in recent years, al-Sisi is without question one of the most illegitimate, and yet unlike with China there doesn't seem to be as much of a hint of human rights being mentioned.  In the government's book, anything's better than the Muslim Brotherhood, regardless of whether or not Mohammed Morsi was elected in relatively free and fair elections.  Reports that further action will be taken against the Brothers, apparently in yet another sop to both al-Sisi and the Saudis are to be expected.

It's a shame then that the government's decision to suspend all flights temporarily to Sharm el-Sheikh in light of the still undetermined cause of the downing of the Metrojet plane have rather put a dampener on it all.  Just like the decision in the aftermath of the attack in Sousse in Tunisia to get any Britishers who wanted to come home out as soon as possible, it's not clear precisely why there is such urgency.  Unless the intelligence is that another attack is imminent, and if there is we are not being told about it, this is an example of once again giving the terrorists what they want and acting after the fact.

If the jet was indeed brought down by a bomb, presumably planted by the affiliates of Islamic State in the Sinai, then the attack was almost certainly an opportunistic one, aimed specifically at the Russians after their intervention in Syria.  If security was or is as lax at Sharm el-Sheikh as has been suggested, then surely the realisation that this was not an accident but terrorism should lead to an immediate review, with any and all staff that could have been involved brought in for questioning and review.  It's extremely rare for jihadists to use the exact same tactics and target twice when it comes to attacks on Westerners, and it's also dubious whether the Sinai affiliate would have the resources to produce two bombs powerful enough to bring down planes in such a short period of time, unless they are being helped directly by Islamic State.  That Islamic State itself has not yet made a fuss about its role isn't necessarily a reason to doubt their involvement: it could be as Charlie Winter from the Quill.i.am Foundation suggests that a propaganda video detailing exactly how they pulled the attack off might yet emerge.

Nor if it does turn out to be the work of IS is it time to once again panic and ramp up security measures at airports in general yet further.  This wouldn't be the first time Russian jets have been brought down by jihadists: two planes were destroyed in 2004 by Chechen suicide bombers.  Of the numerous attempts by al-Qaida and its franchises since 9/11 to blow up aircraft, all have failed.  The success in this instance will likely be due to that lack of security, and will send a signal to airports and airlines operating in the most vulnerable areas to step up their checks and level of vigilance accordingly.  Ruining the holidays of people for little to no reason out of a misplaced sense of better safe than sorry helps no one.  There are many other issues we should be disagreeing with Sisi and Egypt on; this isn't one of them.

Update: Worth a read, as ever, is the War Nerd.  Especially this part:

So at the moment, it’s hard to say which theory works better, bomb or simple sloppiness. And what makes it even harder to guess is the fact that this crash happened after a relentless, sometimes ridiculous, propaganda campaign in the NATO press claiming that Russia would suffer terrible retribution for daring to intervene in Syria.

It wasn't so long ago that suggesting terrorism on British streets could in any way be connected to foreign policy was enough to bring every person on the decent left down directly on your head.  When it's the Russkies getting blowback however...

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