But what is the feckless, corrupted UN to do?
Developing Story: Is the Sinai the new battlefield against Israel and the West?
Lenny Ben-David: Middle East observers usually don’t read Uruguay’s press to follow events in the Middle East. But in the last two days, Uruguayan reports suggest a troubling development in the Sinai that could impact on the region in unexpected ways.
“Uruguay peacekeepers in Sinai surrounded by protesting Bedouins,”
is the headline in Mercopress. The 35 Uruguayan soldiers “surrounded” are part of the 1650-member Multinational Force and Observers stationed in the Sinai since 1981 to oversee the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Twelve nations provide troops to the MFO, with the United States providing the largest force — an infantry and support battalion, consisting primarily of National Guard units.
The article states that their base in the northern Sinai also has American and Columbian troops. Uruguay’s foreign minister explained,
”The actual situation is that a Uruguayan contingent in the northern Sinai is (…) surrounded by Bedouins linked to some insurgent movements in the region,“ he said. Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro said ”negotiations are underway“ with the Bedouins to end the standoff.”
The article claims that the Bedouins demand the release of four of their colleagues imprisoned in Egypt. The Bedouins are smugglers and have no military structure, the article continues. They have been involved in blowing up a gas pipeline from Egypt to Israel and Jordan, but “there is no political motivation for their actions other than mercenary.”
That relatively innocent description has been challenged by recent events in the Sinai and led an Arab expert to tell me today, “Yes, the Bedouins in Sinai are a mafia/militia, but they are increasingly Salafist and Jihadist.”