The National Strategy Forum Review just published an article I coauthored on the troubles of Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate. The article speaks for itself, so I won’t belabor it, but note that the section on insecurity is already out of date. The major natural gas pipeline that runs through the region, supplying both Jordan and Israel, has been blown up four times since the Egyptian revolution–we had to update the publishers once in April, and it’s been blown up twice in July. There’s really no telling who was behind it–the region is home to dissatisfied Bedouins, radical Islamist groups (foreign and domestic), and a range of organized crime groups. There are also human traffickers, drug runners, and rumors of Iranian-backed weapons smuggling. If I had to guess who’s blowing up the pipelines, I’d say it’s the Bedouin, as they’ve got a long history with the Egyptian central government. After years of displacement, corruption, sedentarization, and delegitimization, it’s no shock that they’re unhappy.
The pipeline bombings are really putting the squeeze on Jordan. It costs the Hashemite Kingdom about $4 million to keep the lights on for every day without gas, because they rely on the pipeline for 80% of their electricity. They’re becoming increasingly desperate to avoid this recurring crisis–they’ve been without gas, by my count, for about 90 days so far this year–and they’re turning to the outside for assistance. The Saudis have supplied them with a few million barrels of oil to take the strain off, but energy is a field of such importance that the only solutions are permanent solutions. Accordingly, there have been overtures to get a supply of gas from Iran. This will probably get the Saudis really riled up and prompt them to offer a good deal to the Jordanians. The Saudis are worried about Iran, yes, but we cannot forget that the current leadership is just one generation from King Abdulaziz ibn Saud, who drove the Hashemites from their native Hijaz. Even as they try to bring Jordan into the GCC, we must not underestimate the al Saud’s paranoia about their old rivals. They’ll fight to keep Amman away from Tehran, and they’ll feel like in doing so they’re following the old adage to “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”