DE RUEHEG #2249/01 3410816
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 070816Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4389
INFO RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 1979
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 1230
S E C R E T CAIRO 002249
DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/ELA
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2019
TAGS: PGOV PTER EAID SOCI SNAR SCUL KPAL KCRM IS EG
SUBJECT: SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT IN NORTHERN AND CENTRAL
REF: A. CAIRO 1458 B. CAIRO 763 C. CAIRO 726 D. CAIRO 657 E. CAIRO 163 F. CAIRO 107 G. CAIRO 1889 Classified By:
Minister Counselor for Economic and Political Affairs Donald A. Blome for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).
1.(S) Key Points: -- In a recent four-day visit to northern Sinai, emboffs observed increased Egyptian security presence
at entry points into Sinai and in central Sinai. However, residents in El Arish complain that security in northern Sinai
is lax and ineffective. -- Despite increased Egyptian efforts to contain it, smuggling continues into Rafah, through
tunnels and across the Egypt-Israel border. Sinai contacts tell us this is partly because the area is difficult to
patrol and partly because smugglers bribe border officials. -- Prolonged drought and lack of development is forcing
nomadic Bedouin in central Sinai to depart the area leaving mostly smugglers and radicalizing the population. -- There
is a pronounced cultural divide between the Bedouin population in Sinai and Egyptian officials, and this leads to a lack
of understanding and significant communication problems. -- Sinai contacts agreed that local NGOs need to be involved in
development activities to build local capacity and ensure success.
2.(S) Comment: The lack of development in central Sinai continues to affect northern Sinai. Numerous Bedouin encampments
have sprung up along the main road between Cairo and El Arish. This is the first time we have seen nomadic Bedouin in
this area. We also witnessed Bedouin children herding goats to forage in trash dumpsters on the southern outskirts of El
Arish city. Development in central Sinai has many challenges not the least of which is that foreigners are prohibited to
travel there and access by Egyptians is restricted. Sinai Bedouin refer to themselves as "Arabs" to reinforce their
cultural and ancestral roots in the Levant and Arabian Peninsula and to distinguish themselves from "Egyptians" who come
from the Nile Valley. The influx of Egyptian workers who fill the best jobs, and the appointment of officials from the
Nile Valley in top North Sinai Governorate (NSG) positions is a point of tension. End Comment.
3.(C) Poloff and LES during the recent four-day visit to the Sinai and based on seven visits over the past 12 months
observed that the Government of Egypt (GoE) takes a much harsher approach to central Sinai than the Rafah border area
(reftels A-F). Military activity has increased in central Sinai in an attempt to gain control over the area. There was a
noticeable increase in security at the Mubarak Al Salaam Bridge crossing the Suez Canal into Sinai. Goods were being
offloaded from trucks and were checked by security officials. ------------------------------ Security Implementation
4.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that food, electrical appliances and other goods from Cairo were no longer reaching El
Arish due to increased security at the bridges and tunnels coming from "mainland" Egypt into Sinai because GoE officials
were concerned with Gaza smuggling. He said that the amount of goods in the local market had decreased and what was
available was either locally produced or were coming from warehouse storage in the peninsula.
5.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that all families in El Arish have firearms to protect them from the central Sinai Bedouin
because Egyptian police and security forces are ineffective. According to the XXXXXXXXXXXX Bedouin from central Sinai
routinely steal cars from El Arish to use in smuggling operations. However, he said no cases have been filed because
police are afraid to go to the Bedouin areas in central Sinai.
6.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said Bedouin control central Sinai because they are better armed than the Egyptian military. He
described these Bedouin as "raiders" who are harder, stronger and more independent than the Bedouin in northern Sinai,
and said the GoE's security posture is elevated because they represent a legitimate risk. XXXXXXXXXXXX a member of the
local council in central Sinai and President of the Bedouin Desert Association, which includes leaders from all nine
central Sinai Bedouin tribes, told us that Egyptian security measures in central Sinai were "oppressive" and the policy
of random arrests is creating criminals rather than citizens who respect the law.
--------------------------------------------- ----------- Goods Moving Through Tunnels, Across Egypt-Israel Border
7.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX stated that despite increased GoE efforts, goods are moving through tunnels into Gaza as well as
across the Egypt-Israel border. He said the tunnels were the easier, less expensive, and less dangerous way to move
goods, but using them is becoming more difficult. XXXXXXXXXXXX informed us that some Bedouin have started moving their
goods across the Israel border and subsequently into Gaza. He explained that different goods going to Gaza and Israel
have different routes. Food and medical supplies go through the tunnels in Rafah into Gaza, arms destined for Gaza move
through central Sinai, Drugs, women, and refugees also move through central Sinai, but cross the Egypt-Israel border and
into major Israeli cities.
8.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said smuggling will be very difficult to stop because there are no other employment options in
central Sinai and the Bedouin no longer consider the occupational risk because it has become a fact of life.
Additionally, he said corruption among police officials was high because smugglers are offering up to 50,000 Egyptian
pounds (USD 9,100) to let a shipment across the border. Atta believes that GoE support for the local Bedouin leaders and
sheikhs is the only way to change the perspective of the local population.
9.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX said the trafficking of contraband through the tunnels and over the Egypt-Israel border originates
with Bedouin in central Sinai. He said most Bedouin engage in these activities because they lack other economic
opportunities. He encouraged investment in deep (1000 meters) and shallow (20 meters) wells to help support animal
husbandry and farming because existing wells have dried up or become too saline. Hamad said that the provision of water
to farm one extra feddan (1.03 acres) could provide a living for 40 people.
--------------------------------------------- ----------- Bedouin Migrating Due to Drought and Lack of Development
10.(SBU) An American contractor, resident in Sinai said a prolonged drought in central Sinai is forcing nomadic Bedouin
from central Sinai to move to El Arish in search of food and water for their families and livestock. He estimated that
the Bedouin population in El Arish city has doubled in the past year while the population in central Sinai over the last
three years has reduced from approximately 45,000 to 35,000. He said most Bedouin in El Arish work as day laborers.
11.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX maintained that the lack development in central Sinai is causing people to migrate from central
Sinai to cities in northern and southern Sinai. He said that this phenomenon is emptying central Sinai of its
law-abiding citizens leading to a more radicalized population. ------------------------------------------- Cultural
Divide Between Arabs and Egyptians -------------------------------------------
12.(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us "social engineering" was needed to resolve problems between the Bedouin population and
Egyptian officials. He said the NSG had instituted a training program for Bedouin to teach them how to use channels
including NDP representatives, local and city council members, and tribal sheikhs to help them obtain their "legal
rights." XXXXXXXXXXXX both stated that Egyptian officials need to be trained in how to deal with the native Bedouin.
XXXXXXXXXXXX has suggested a formal training program for police, military, and government officials on how to deal with
the Bedouin, but no program had yet been established.
13.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that government officials in the Sinai misuse their ability to detain. He said police and
military routinely arrest mothers and sisters in order to facilitate the apprehension of Bedouin men. While this
practice is acceptable in Cairo, it is viewed as an insult to the honor of a Bedouin for which retribution must be
14.(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed Bedouin feelings of neglect and marginalization in central Sinai have led to recent
protests and conflict (reftel G). Hamad added that the situation will not be resolved until the Bedouin are treated
equally, and have job opportunities, security, justice, and legitimate channels to air their grievances.
----------------------------------- Development Must Involve Local NGOs -----------------------------------
15.(SBU) The contacts we talked with see the potential for the USG to help in the development of livelihoods in the
Sinai and most were excited about the transportation portion of USAID's Life Sinai program. Dr. Abu Hatab told us that
there needs to be a comprehensive program for development in North Sinai that addresses the different needs of the
central, coastal, and border regions. However, he asserted that the needs in central Sinai far overshadowed anything
needed in the coastal and border areas.
16.(S/NF)XXXXXXXXXXXX encouraged the USG to involve local NGOs, a step critical in creating a sense of ownership,
developing local capacity, and ensuring the success of the development projects. They expressed concern that the current
use of the Governor's office as a "one-stop shop" could lead to resentment and undermine the effectiveness of the
development projects. XXXXXXXXXXXX said local involvement will ensure that development projects benefit the people and
will help avoid the perception that development is being "imposed." 17. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX also encouraged promoting the
U.S. role in development assistance because it "instills confidence in the people" and "educates the people that the
U.S. cares about them." He said that NSBA followed this model in allocating USAID-funded SME and microcredit loans in
the border areas of Rafah and Sheikh Zoweid. He said that 50 percent of his customers now have a favorable impression
and local mosques have been promoting the loan program. However, he noted that due to the inability of the GoE and USG
to agree on a mechanism for continued funding the loan program in these two border cities was losing steam. 18. (SBU)
The contacts we talked with suggested programs that they felt would have the most impact on the Bedouin population.
XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that technical education in computers, English language, and handicrafts is needed to provide
livelihoods for Bedouin youth and women. XXXXXXXXXXXX said mobile education and water distribution centers were
essential to provide the nomadic Bedouin in central Sinai with needed services. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that mobile schools
for girls are important because many are forced to drop out due to family restrictions on unaccompanied travel. 19.
(S/NF) XXXXXXXXXXXX encouraged developing the medicinal herb and animal products industries for export to create
livelihoods that can sustain Bedouin families. (Note: Both mentioned the European market for medicinal herbs and the
Arabian Gulf market for camel meat and milk. End Note).XXXXXXXXXXXX asked if the USG could provide a model of
development in desert regions. He specifically mentioned Israeli development in the Negev as a potential model. Abu
Hatab said that vast mineral resources in central Sinai including cement and marble created opportunities for investment
and export. However, XXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the GoE rejected his and other Bedouin leaders' proposal to open a new
cement factory in central Sinai. Tueller