On December 8th 2012, former president Morsi’s aid Essam el-Haddad flew to the US and met with Obama’s Administration national security advisor at the time Thomas E. Donilon. While the meeting was ongoing President Obama joined in and had a thirty minute conversation with Haddad. Morsi’s spokesman Yasser Ali said the visit did not concern any domestic affair. A delegation from the CIA and NSA arrived in Cairo one month later and called for a meeting with Haddad and Muslim Brotherhood’s strongman Khairat el-Shater. The Americans wanted the Brotherhood to engage in unofficial talks with Al-Qaeda over securing US troops withdrawal from Afghanistan on behalf of the Obama Administration. US intelligence suggested two names for the job of contacting Al-Qaeda; Ayman al-Zawahiri’s brother, Mohamed, and Zawahiri’s cousin Mohamed Rafaa el-Tahtawi.
Egyptian authorities monitored the first phone call between Ayman el-Zawahiri and Tahtawi on January 20th 2013, Tahtawi put Morsi through to Zawahiri and the two spoke for a few minutes. Zawahiri’s Thuraya phone number was provided by the CIA. The communication resulted in the first meeting between the Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda which took place in Libya on February 7th 2013. Mahmoud Ezzat, Mahmoud Ghozlan, and Hadaad represented the Brotherhood while Abu-Anas el-Libi, Sofian bin-Qemmo, and Ibrahim Sofian- Bin-Laden’s driver in Afghanistan- spoke for Al-Qaeda.
In exchange for seeing to the Americans’ request Al-Qaeda demanded that
the Muslim Brotherhood regime release all imprisoned jihadists in Egypt, allow jihadists who fought in Afghanistan and Albania’s group to return to Egypt, create a safe haven for these jihadists in Sinai, and pay for their weapon deals. The Brotherhood agreed and all demands were met.
Mohamed el-Zawahiri confessed to receiving 15 million pounds from Khairat al-Shater to buy arms for the Sinai “fighters”.
Al-Qaeda also wanted the US to release Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman but the supplication was refused because that would encourage Israel to ask for freeing Jonathan Pollard.
Morsi, who had remained in contact with Zawahiri, strived to keep the Army off the backs of Al-Qaeda affiliates in Sinai, despite growing concerns, and prevented various operations against jihadist strongholds there. Sinai became home to Al-Qaeda friends from all colors. Then came June 30th revolution and removed the Brotherhood regime.
Fighting terrorism depends largely on gathering information. At first, Sinai bedouins declined to give the Army any leads on terrorists. Jihadists had their guns pointed to their heads and had already killed several Sinai residents who considered collaborating with the Army. The Army had to launch excessive preemptive strikes to better its position in the peninsula before gaining the bedouins’ trust. And it did.
The bedouins are now not only cooperating with the Army but surrendering the military-grade weapons they had stockpiled during the past three years.
With Morsi out of the way and the bedouins providing solid intelligence, the Army moved from preemptive strikes to eradicating the master minds orchestrating the wave of terrorism haunting Egypt since June 30th revolution.
Al-Qaeda and its affiliates are well-stationed around Egypt in Libya, Gaza and Sudan. Bitter, they are flexing all their muscles to avenge their downed invaluable ally the Muslim Brotherhood. But they are up against the Egyptian people, police and Army forces, and a charismatic leader named Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi.