The British government announced today that it’s “delaying” flights from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh airport to the UK on account of how that Russian jet that crashed in the Sinai over the weekend “may well have been brought down by an explosive device.”
The two most obvious explanations for this move are panic and prudence. You could argue that the Brits are leaping to conclusions here absent any hard evidence. I mean, their own statement says that the plane “may well have been” bombed, and if you translated that phrase into emoji you’d get ¯\_(シ)_/¯. The plane really may have been bombed, but until the investigation gets a little further along, there’s no way for anybody, least of all anybody in David Cameron’s cabinet, to know. On the other hand, nobody apart from people in ISIS wants to see this happen again, and it’s not like flights from the Sharm el-Sheikh resort to the UK are carrying organs for transplant or evacuating refugees from a war zone. So the prudent thing to do is to put an end to flights coming out of Sharm el-Sheikh now, and see what the investigation turns up. If a few British vacationers are slightly inconvenienced by having to make other travel plans in the meantime, so be it.
However, there may (and I stress may) be a third factor at work here, by which I mean that the UK could be employing a clever tactic to try to ensure that the investigation is done above board. If Kogalymavia Flight 9268 crashed because of some mechanical or structural failure, then it’s possible that negligence on the part of either the airline or the Egyptian ground crew that (should have) inspected the aircraft before take off, or both, contributed to the crash. There’s always a possibility that inconvenient details about culpability could be covered up by the investigation, especially considering that we’re talking about two fairly autocratic regimes (Russia and Egypt) doing the investigating. The easy thing to do would be to blame a bomb and move on, right? Nobody’s to blame but the terrorists, and everybody already hates those guys. But now the UK has also, potentially, attached some negative consequences for Egypt to the “terrorist bombing” scenario, in the form of an impact on the Red Sea tourism business. It may not be in Egypt’s interest anymore to simply default to a bomb as the cause.
UPDATE: US intelligence is saying that the plane was “most likely” brought down by an ISIS bomb:
The latest U.S. intelligence suggests that the crash of a Russian passenger jet in the Sinai over the weekend was most likely caused by a bomb on the plane planted by ISIS or an ISIS affiliate, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter.
But the official stressed a formal conclusion has not been reached by the U.S. intelligence community.
“There is a definite feeling it was an explosive device planted in luggage or somewhere on the plane,” the official, who is familiar with the latest U.S. intelligence analysis of the crash, told CNN.
Other U.S. officials also told CNN that the analysis is pointing toward the cause being a bomb.
“There is a definite feeling” still sounds very ¯\_(シ)_/¯ to me, but it’s unlikely that both the UK and US would be talking like this without some evidence to back it up. That’s not proof positive, obviously, but it also ain’t nothing. I do still wonder if there’s some effort to prod the investigation, though, mostly because it just seems odd to have the UK and US talking so openly about the crash of Russian jet in Egypt. Usually you let the investigation play out in these situations and allow the countries leading the investigation to do most of the talking, but that doesn’t seem to be happening in this case.
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