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Is Egypt Coming Apart?

Sectarian strife, remilitarized Sinai point to uncertain future

Marc Tracy
October 11, 2011
A Coptic Christian woman mourns yesterday in Cairo.(Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
A Coptic Christian woman mourns yesterday in Cairo.(Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

A quick Egypt update. On Monday, in a clash in Cairo seemingly instigated by security services, more than two dozen Coptic Christians (members of Egypt’s largest religious minority, over ten percent of the population) were killed and many more injured. As Coptic leaders blame the ruling military and the country’s leaders, in turn, deflect criticism, it seems like, eight months after President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the accusation that his rule has merely continued via different people—other members of the military that had previously been loyal to him—could gain traction. On the other hand, while liberals joined the Coptic denunciations, the powerful and popular Muslim Brotherhood, which has shown a penchant for striking deals with the military (which used to suppress it) over the past half-year, has kept relatively silent.

Meanwhile, up north, Israel is ever more anxious about the Sinai, due to both the half-dozen sabotage attempts on the natural gas pipeline and the August attack in southern Israel that was launched from the Egyptian peninsula. So, for the not first time this year, on Monday it granted Egypt the right to station yet more troops there, even though, under the Israeli-Egyptian peace, the area, which Israel captured during 1967’s Six Day War and returned as part of the peace deal, is supposed to be demilitarized.

Finally, the violence against the Copts has raised talk in the United States of slowing or cutting military aid to Egypt. Remember that that aid, as things stand now anyway, comes in tandem with Israeli aid; Egypt is the second-largest recipient of annual U.S. military aid, Israel the first.

Turns out toppling a dictator can get messy!

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.