At the same time that POTUS was reaching what he hoped was a Solomon-like decision with regard to the JV team in Kobe Bryant jerseys, two of the most dangerous ISIS terrorists in the world, Khalid Kawasme (Code Name: The Engineer), and Abdul Aziz Al-Tikriti (Code Name: Sayef Al Islam – The Sword of Islam) were disembarking in Egypt from what had already been a long and arduous journey. From ISIS-controlled Iraq, they had made their way into Turkey in disguises and with false papers indicating they were Sunni-Iraqi refugees driven out of their homeland by the ISIS onslaught.
In April of 2003, Turkey had instituted its new law on foreigners and international protection, relating to the status of refugees. There were already almost one million refugees from Iraq and Syria living in Turkey: three hundred thousand living inside the camps, and seven hundred thousand living outside the camps.
This, of course, made it remarkably simple for the two “refugees”, who happened to be two of the most dangerous men in the world, to slip through the cracks, obtain new false papers identifying them as Jordanian textile salesmen traveling to purchase Egyptian cotton with money, new clothes, new passports, and new disguises, supplied by ISIS agents in Istanbul. Al-Tikriti and Kawasme were able to travel by train to the Turkish port of Mersin, where they were able to book passage to Nicosia, Cyprus.
From thence, outfitted with yet another set of identities, this time as Lebanese importers of licensed Egyptian antiquities, they booked separate flights to Cairo, on Cyprus Airways.
Once in Cairo, they were met by yet another of the growing network of ISIS operatives. They were outfitted with a third set of identities, this time as Kuwaiti tourists booking an eleven day/ten night, all-inclusive tour of Egyptian Sinai. Day one had them join their tour in Cairo, and proceed by air-conditioned motor coach to El Arish, in Northern Sinai, for a stay at the Palm Beach Hotel along the Mediterranean coast.
There, they paid their guide, an ISIS sympathizer, to erase any record of their ever having been part of the tour. They next rendezvoused with Sheikh Ahmed Abu Ali, a Bedouin smuggler, descended from one thousand years of Bedouin smuggler ancestors.
The Bedouins had a saying: “Allah created the fallah, or farmer, from the turd of a donkey. He created the Bedou from the wind.” The Bedouins of Sinai recognized no national boundaries, nor held allegiances to any country. They were completely tribal in every way. Abu Ali was a member of the Hawetat, and, like virtually all Bedou, was a migrant goat herder, brigand, and smuggler.
As times changed, so did the goods which the Bedou smuggled across the Sinai desert.
In the seventies and eighties, their main stock-in-trade had been hashish.
The hashish was molded into what were referred to as “soles”, because they resembled nothing so much as the sole of a shoe. These, they wrapped in plastic, and then inserted into the rectums of that reliable ship of the desert, the Bedouin camel. They were, thus, impervious to any authorities who might have the audacity to interfere with their smuggling operations. They plied the routes between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Gaza. From Gaza, in a remarkable, and indeed admirable show of Israeli and Palestinian cooperation, Palestinian gangs bought the hashish from the Bedouins, and in turn sold it to Israeli Jewish gangsters, who marketed the much sought-after Nafas to Tel Avivian hipsters. From Israel, the hashish could then be smuggled north into Lebanon, and from thence, into Europe. The crime families of the Middle East, and the Bedou of the Sinai, had no problems whatsoever in terms of peaceful, albeit criminal, coexistence.
When Hamas seized power in Gaza, in a bloody coup against the Palestinian Authority, both Israel, and Egypt’s now-deposed President Mubarak, acted to isolate the terrorist group.
Thus were born the smuggling tunnels, which became Hamas’ main source of income. Rather like purchasing a medallion for a taxi in New York City, Hamas sold licenses to independent contractors to dig and operate the dozens upon dozens of smuggling tunnels which ran from Egyptian-controlled Sinai into Gaza.
At first, the main stock-in-trade was weapons; AK 47s, Iranian-made rockets and, later, Libyan weapons from the arsenal of the deposed Libyan dictator, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Soon, the laws of supply and demand, however, took over, and there were so many weapons in Gaza that their prices plummeted.
The tunnels, though, and their various smuggling tunnel contractors and sub-contractors, had created a new class of millionaire entrepreneurs in Gaza; the tunnel millionaire.
This, in turn, created a new demand for consumer goods.
Soon, the Bedouins were smuggling flat screen TVs, European espresso machines, and even luxury automobiles from Cairo, through the desert, through the tunnels, and into Gaza.
Car theft rings flourished in Cairo. One could order a Mercedes with a tunnel contractor, who would transmit the order to someone like Sheikh Abu Ali, who would then transmit the order to one of dozens of car theft rings in Cairo. Whatever you wanted could be had, at a discount price.
Everyone was making out like bandits, which, of course, is what the Bedouin were. The market truly flourished once Mubarak was deposed, and the Muslim Brotherhood took over.
But all good things must come to an end, and Egypt’s President Mursi, who began his own jihad against Egypt’s minorities and “Secular hedonists” who rebelled against the notion of a strict Moslem society, was overthrown, much to the chagrin of President Rafik Mohammed Kabila, who oddly viewed the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderating influence in a world of Islamic extremism.
This attitude puzzled many old-hand Arabists within the State Department, who viewed the difference between the Brotherhood, and its offshoots of Al Qaeda and Hamas, and now, ISIS, as the choice between Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer. It was true that one guy didn’t eat the corpse, but both were serial killers, nonetheless.
At any rate, Egypt’s military prevailed, deposed and outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood, and replaced them with former General Mahmoud Ibrahim Fahmi.
Fahmi promptly clamped down on the smuggling tunnels, ordered them flooded with sewage, and literally drowned their operatives in a sea of feces. Thus, there were now only a few tunnels still in operation.
At the same time, The Sinai Peninsula, itself, had become a kind of no-man’s land. Al Qaeda offshoots had allied with Bedouin tribes, and few deadlier combinations ever existed in an already treacherous Middle East. A guerrilla war developed between the Al Qaeda-Bedouin alliance, and Fahmi’s Egyptian army.
Thus, when Sheikh Abu Ali of the Hawetat tribe of Northern Sinai, was approached with the proposition of smuggling two men into Gaza, he quickly assumed that the two in question, despite their false identities, must be high-ranking ISIS operatives, since no one in their right mind wanted to be smuggled INTO Gaza, BUT terrorists.
Ideologically, he was neither for, nor against, ISIS. From that standpoint, he subscribed to the age-old Arab adage: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
ISIS had its sights set on Egypt’s Fahmi.
Egypt’s Fahmi had his sights set on Sheikh Abu Ali.
Therefore, Sheikh Abu Ali would be happy to render a service for the ISIS operatives.
For a price.
A large one.
Despite being a desert-and-sheepskin-tent-dweller, Sheikh Abu Ali possessed a satellite television, powered by state of the art, stolen solar panels. As such, he kept in touch with the news of the day, supplied by Al Jazeera. Thus, he was aware that ISIS had taken possession of numbers of Iraqi oil wells and refineries, which provided it with an income of some two to three million dollars a day. In addition, they had robbed numerous Iraqi and Syrian banks, relieving them of dinars, dollars, and gold bullion. They sold stolen antiquities on the black market for truly outrageous amounts. Yet there were always buyers.
And, added to that, was a lucrative kidnapping enterprise. In that context, the YouTube beheading videos could later be seen as strategic marketing, the likes of which a Steve Jobs would have applauded, were he, too, a terrorist.
ISIS had kidnapped literally several thousand foreigners, primarily petroleum workers, and was quietly ransoming them off to their respective countries, who were paying an additional roughly one million dollars per day.
All in all, this gave ISIS a slush fund in excess of one billion dollars, making it the wealthiest terrorist organization in history.
Thus, Sheikh Abu Ali decided to charge the same price he would have charged for a BMW, for the smuggling in of the two ISIS operatives.
Unlike what most perceived to be the custom in the Middle East, neither Al-Tikriti nor Kawasme hesitated, nor bargained. Their dream of conquest was about to become a reality. They would not quibble about price. The two devout Muslims paused in prayer. They washed their faces and their hands, their forearms up to the elbows. They passed wet hands over their heads, and washed their feet up to the ankles, in order to purify themselves. Then they offered up a prayer of thanksgiving.
The hour in which they would bring America to its knees, and displace Al Qaeda in terms of the number of Americans killed in a single attack was at hand. Allah be praised, and peace be unto his messenger!