WASHINGTON — It’s too soon to determine whether a new police department tasked with protecting the Suez Canal will do enough to secure the region, a supply chain security expert told JOC.com on Wednesday.
The Egyptian government’s announcement of its intention to create a new police force comes roughly three months after four boats ambushed an Egyptian Navy patrol boat near the Suez, ending in the destruction of the attacking vessels, the killing of four of the attacking gunmen and the capture of 32 others, according to reports. The Egyptian military had already strengthened security in the region after footage of a rocket-propelled grenade attack on a Cosco container ship traversing the waterway went viral.
“Any effective police force in the region will need to provide surveillance and protection to long swaths of canal banks in desolate and uninhabited areas where attackers could stage attacks on vessels,” Robert Shelala II, a supply chain security expert and author of a recent report on maritime security in the Middle East, told JOC.com.
An attack on the Suez Canal doesn’t just threaten the main driver of the Egyptian economy, but also the $8.4 billion project to build a second channel and a nearby logistics hub. Although the government says a second channel is needed to cut down wait times, many in the maritime industry say delays aren’t an issue. Foreign policy experts say the multibillion-dollar project is an effort for Abel Fattah el-Sisi, a former general and current president, to shore up support for his government after the ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in 2013.
For now, Egypt appears safe from ISIS attacks, which have inflamed much of the Middle East, because the country is far more stable than the likes of Iraq, Libya and Syria, Shelala said.
“We have no reason to believe that ISIS has made noticeable inroads in Egypt, and so long as Egypt has a functioning central government with a strong security apparatus, it is unlikely that ISIS will directly project itself there,” he said.