The Russian government has announced last week that it is suspending all airline traffic to Egypt’s Sinai peninsula after a plane carrying travellers from the vacation town of Sharm el Sheikh to St. Petersburg crashed mid flight. Now, as questions about a possible terrorist motive surface, the American security establishment will likely assist the Egyptian and Russian governments in the investigation.
An unnamed source in the US government has indicated that some American security experts, most likely employed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), were asked by the Russian government to perform forensic analysis to figure out the cause of the Airbus A321-200 crash that tragically went down in Egypt. Much of the debris from the Metrojet plane is currently scattered throughout the Egyptian desert. However, Russian officials have secured several key components and returned them to Russia for analysis. American security experts will likely be limited to looking at just these components during their investigation, since other parts will be difficult to acquire in a hostile area of the Egyptian desert.
It is highly unusual for the Russian government to request assistance from outside officials, particularly of members of the US security apparatus. Some experts have indicated that perhaps the request is a result of the complexity of the investigation and Russia’s desire to find the culprit as quickly as possible. The Federal Security Service (FSB), Russia’ counterpart to the FBI, has previously worked with outside agencies in Europe and the US to counter Muslim extremist groups like Islamic State and Al Qaeda. In this case, the outreach may serve similar geopolitical interests. Foreign policy analyst and chairwoman of the Moscow based International Association of Diplomatic Cooperation Tatyana Adreynova notes “America and Russia have their difference, but historically when it came time to face existential challenges, they come together to fight the common enemy. Remember The second world war. Throughout the war, the Soviets and the Americans couldn’t stand each other, but Hitler presented an enemy to both nations and they formed a friendship to fight that enemy. You may say they really are frenemies, instead of friends or enemies.” In this case, the two nationals are involved militarily in Syria and over 5,000 Russian troops are currently on the ground fighting Syrian militants. At the same time, President Obama recently announced the deployment of special forces to Syria to train and arm militia groups friendly to US interests.
While Russia and the US seem to have joined forces to analyze the evidence, Egyptian officials in Cairo are conducting their own investigation. The head of the committee responsible for investigating the crash, Ayman Al Muqaddam, recently told the media that his team is looking at the sounds that were heard in the seconds captured by the cockpit voice recorder. In a reference to recent reports that a terrorist group, perhaps Islamic State, took out the plane, Muqaddam said that the reports “claimed to be based on official intelligence that favors a certain scenario for the cause of the accident,” but that official sources within his organization were not responsible for disseminating such information.