Egypt's recent actions against Hizbullah operatives are a watershed event for understanding the nature of the threat that Iran constitutes for both regional and global security. For many Israelis, Egypt's actions came as a surprise. For years this country has been appealing to Egypt to take action against Hizbullah operatives in its territory. With minor exceptions, it has refused. Believing that its operatives threatened only us, the Mubarak regime preferred to turn a blind eye.
Then too, now seems a strange time for Egypt to be proving Israel correct. Senior ministers in the new Netanyahu government have for years been outspoken critics of Egypt for its refusal to act against Hizbullah and for its support for the Hizbullah/Iran-sponsored Hamas terror group. By going after Hizbullah now, Egypt is legitimizing both their criticism and the Netanyahu government itself. This in turn seems to go against Egypt's basic interest of weakening Israel politically in general, and weakening rightist Israeli governments in particular.
But none of this seemed to interest Egyptian officials last week when they announced the arrest of 49 Hizbullah operatives and pointed a finger at Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah and his bosses in Teheran, openly accusing them of seeking to undermine Egypt's national security.
The question is what caused Egypt to suddenly act? It appears that two things are motivating the Mubarak regime. First, there is the nature of the Hizbullah network it uncovered. According to the Egyptian Justice Ministry's statements, the arrested operatives were not confining their operations to weapons smuggling to Gaza. They were also targeting Egypt.
The Egyptian state prosecution alleges that while operating as Iranian agents, they were scouting targets along the Suez Canal. That is, they were planning strategic strikes against Egypt's economic lifeline.
The second aspect of the network that clearly concerned Egyptian authorities was what it showed about the breadth of cooperation between the regime's primary opponent - the Muslim Brotherhood - and the Iranian regime. Forty-one of the suspects arrested are Egyptian citizens, apparently aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. This alignment is signaled by two things. First, many of them have hired Muslim Brotherhood activist Muntaser al-Zayat as their defense attorney. And second, Muslim Brotherhood spokesmen have decried the arrests.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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