What if Daesh actually did do it? Five implications of the Russian plane crash

Published November 7th, 2015 - 07:27 GMT
Investigators walk near debris from the Russian plane crash in Egypt's Sinai. (AFP/File)
Investigators walk near debris from the Russian plane crash in Egypt's Sinai. (AFP/File)

Investigations of last week's Russian plane crash in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that killed all 224 people on board are well underway, but a cause has yet to be determined.

While Egypt reported Saturday that they 'support no hypothesis' for the cause of Russian plane crash, experts told French TV an explosion caused the crash and it was not an accident.

Meanwhile, Daesh's Sinai-affiliate claimed responsibility for the crash just hours after happened, later providing shaky accounts of shooting it out of the sky. It is entirely possible that the group was just taking advantage of a golden PR opportunity. Ultimately, we do not yet know why the plane crashed or who is responsible. But what if Daesh actually did manage to get a bomb on board and crash the plane? The implications of that possibility are huge. Here are five of them:

1. Russia's air campaign itself keeps Russian civilians away from Daesh and the conflict in Syria. However, Daesh's involvement in the plane crash would make it clear that Russia's air campaign has a human cost for its own citizens by endanging civilians. We may see Russian popular support for the operations in Syria diminish as a result. Conversely, as was the case with Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasasbeh, we may see them rally around the anti-Daesh cause.

2. To date, Russia's air campaign has been largely focused on bolstering the Assad regime. While Moscow's narrative denies it, Russian warplanes have mostly targeted moderate Syrian rebels, along with Daesh and al-Nusra Front militants. However, if Daesh is responsible for the crash, Putin may be compelled to reconsider the objectives of Russian involvement in Syria and redirect the campaign against Daesh.

3. Egypt's tourism sector has struggled since the revolution in 2011, but if the crash turns out to be an attack by Daesh, the blow to the industry would be huge. Tourists would be deterred from traveling to Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt, threatening many of the 2.8 million jobs related to tourism. People may also doubt the quality of airport security in general and avoid air travel worldwide.

4. Daesh has focused on territorial battles and their killings of 'deviant' Muslims and foreigners have evoked feelings of horror from the public through brutality rather than quantity of fatalities. This would be the first time the group has committed such a large and high profile attack on foreign civilians, and may indicate a turning point in the group's strategy and ultimately, the war against Daesh.

5. The plane crash would be the second deadliest jihadist attack since September 11th. Further, the explosion would serve as sort of a triumph over Al-Qaeda which has tried and failed to explode a bomb mid-flight for years.

By Allison Beeman

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