Italy has become the target of the Islamic radicalism in Egypt, where the President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is fighting an endless campaign of terrorist attacks and guerrilla actions. The car bomb against the Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat, the man who applied for obtained the death sentence of the former President Mohamed Morsi, the mass attack against the checkpoints and police stations near Sheikh Zuweid, on the west side of Rafah, in Sinai, and the assault against the Italian Consulate in Cairo are the latest ones. The latter took place Saturday, July 11, at dawn. The bomb had been placed under a car in a street that runs along the building and hit the side and the entrance for visitors.
Some analysts have diminished the symbolic importance of Italy and insisted that the Consulate was just one of the easiest diplomatic sites to strike. Others have read an offensive, a warning to the Italian Government. There is no doubt, however, that it is evidence of an organized structure that damaged the symbols of the State, because they increase the effect of the actions, and can warn the indirectly hit States to stay clear of the fight against terror. Particularly exposed in the Mediterranean Sea because of its geographical position, Italy is the destination of migratory flows, the goal of many refugees who land at the coast and make the country sensitive to possible attacks. Further, Italy is committed to the fight against terrorism and radical Islamist-inspired movements, which rapidly expanded their operating range.
As matter of the fact, since its establishment, Italy has participated in UNIFIL II (the multinational contingent that monitors the proper implementation of Resolution 1701, which has authorized a ceasefire between Israel and Lebanon) and holds the lead for the second time; trains the Somali security forces who fight against al-Shabaab in Djibouti and, finally, provides assistance to the Afghan troops against the Talibans. In 2014, the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited Egypt and guaranteed Italian support to el-Sisi in the conflict against violent extremism and terrorism of Islamic origin. The jihad could have targeted the Consulate, because Italy has taken a position of support for the government of President el-Sisi, interested in commanding a military intervention in North Africa, especially in Libya, at the head of the joint Arab military force.
A diplomatic relationship that Islamic fundamentalism might want to stop, to cease their meddling and international interference in tribal disputes that are giving away the huge resources bequeathed by the Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Whether they are jihadist groups, Salafis, more or less close to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Italian government connections with el-Sisi is an obstacle that it must be removed, because it could open up Egypt to a vast horizon of investments and economic development that could strengthen the position of the current government.
Moreover, the attack could also undermine the Italian strategy in neighboring Libya, because Egypt could be the only actor of North Africa that has the interest and determination to intervene in Libya and defeat the Islamic terrorists. The Islamic terrorism that comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda or the Islamic State (ISIS), focuses on destabilizing Egypt, striking diplomatic place or international tourist attraction. Thus, the intention of weakening the authority of el-Sisi could go through a warning to Italy as well.
ISIS and the threatening growth of Islamic radicalism does not seem to stop. The militias of the ISIS have surpassed the borders of Syria and Iraq hitting Tunisia, Yemen and Kuwait. Algeria and Morocco are in danger. The ISIS examines the sub-Saharan Africa, has almost to occupy Libya, has destabilized the Northern Sinai and attacked Cairo. In this kind of scenario, so violent and dramatic, it is clear that el-Sisi could be an important partner, an ally placed at the forefront in the fight against jihadist terrorism, although it is important to not forget his history.
The Egyptian President came to power two years ago through a strong action, a coup against the Muslim Brotherhood. Since then, Egypt has returned to be an autocracy ruled by the army in worse ways than during the days of former President Hosni Mubarak. A dictatorship that, on one hand, enjoys wide popular support, on the other, controls the media, represses dissent, censures and pursues any form of opposition, so much so that pushes Muslim Brotherhood in the arms of ISIS. It is a precarious situation, which could implode, if the former President Morsi – who has been spokespeople of the movement – will be executed.
The car bomb against the Italian Consulate could conceal an attempt to remove Italy from the Maghreb and weakens el-Sisi. Be it the commitment to end the civil war in Libya or the cooperation to restart the development in Egypt, Islamic radicalism pushes diplomats and businessmen to escape from these countries in order to prevent the consolidation of bilateral relations between the Italian government and the Egyptian one, thinking of a common agenda that deals with economic growth, immigration control and the fight against terrorism. If el-Sisi, in his first inaugural speech, spoke about a Mediterranean Egypt opened to Europe, the terrorists pursue the opposite goal.