Monday, September 3, 2012

Egypt Kicks Sand in Obama’s Face; Brotherhood’s Leading Liberal Ally Defects; West Still Doesn’t Get It

By Barry Rubin

I could write a 300-page book on how the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy has damaged Israel. I could write an 800-page book about how the Obama Administration’s Middle East policy has damaged U.S. interests. But why bother?

This is all you need to know:

The U.S. government asked its good buddy Egyptian President al-Mursi to inspect an Iranian ship suspected of carrying arms to Syria while it passed through the Suez Canal. Remember that to do so is arguably in Egypt’s own interest since Cairo is supporting the rebels while Tehran backs the regime. But it is also possible that the U.S. government blundered, or was badly timed, since international agreements dictate that Egypt is not supposed to inspect ships in the Canal itself.

The Egyptian government despite three decades of massive U.S. aid, licensing to produce advanced American tanks and other equipment, strategic backing, and an invitation to Washington to meet Obama—refused.  Indeed, al-Mursi headed for Tehran to attend a “non-aligned” conference.

Does this mean Egypt is going to ally with Iran? No, Egypt will fight Iran for influence tooth and nail. The two countries will kill the others’ surrogates. But it means al-Mursi feels no friendlier toward America than he does toward Iran. And Cairo will not lift a finger to help Washington against Tehran unless by doing so the Egyptian Brotherhood advances its own cause of putting more Sunni Islamists (anti-Americans, of course) into power.

And right now that means Syria. Indeed, at the Tehran meeting al-Mursi called for the overthrow of the Syrian regime while the Iranian media mistranslated that as a statement of support for Syria’s government. (Wow, that will make the Egyptians mad!)  

In other words, under Jimmy Carter’s watch we got Islamist Iran—and, yes, things could have turned out very differently—and under Obama’s watch—and, yes, things could have turned out very differently— we got Islamist Egypt.

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Egypt, the Arab world’s most important single country, has been turned from an ally of America against the Iranian threat into, at best, a neutral between Washington and Tehran that will do nothing to help America.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most important single country, has been turned from an ally of America—albeit an imperfect one of course—in maintaining and trying to extend Arab-Israeli peace into a leading advocate of expanding the conflict and even potentially going to war.

Egypt, the Arab world’s most important single country, has been turned from an ally of America in fighting international terrorism into an ally of most international terrorist groups except those that occasionally target Egypt itself. 

 But here’s one for the 600 rabbis who front for Obama: The destruction of the Egyptian natural gas pipeline and deal, as a result of the instability and revolution that the U.S. government helped promote, has done as much economic damage to Israel as all the Arab and Islamic sabotage, boycotts and Western sanctions or disinvestments in its history.

 But wait there’s more, lot’s more.

After meeting Egypt’s new president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, "I was convinced that President Mursi is his own man," adding that the new president is committed to democratic reforms and to representing all Egyptians.
Question: How does Panetta know this?

 Answer: This is what Mursi told him.

Of course, by endorsing Mursi before he does anything, the U.S. government puts its seal of approval on the Muslim Brotherhood regime. Shouldn’t it have to do something to prove itself before Obama gives up all that leverage? What next? Perhaps Mursi will get the Nobel Peace Prize after a couple of months in office.

Note the phrase “his own man.” What does that mean? Why that Mursi won’t follow the Brotherhood’s orders. He will even stand up against it, presumably to be more moderate, right? There is no reason to believe that this is true.

 Panetta added: "They agreed that they would cooperate in every way possible to ensure that extremists like al Qaeda are dealt with."  Of course, they are more likely to cooperate against al-Qaeda, a group they don’t like. But will they cooperate against Egyptian Salafist terrorists, Hamas, and lots of other terrorists? Of course not.

 Indeed, at the precise moment Panetta was meeting Mursi, the new president was releasing Islamist terrorists from Egyptian prisons. These include terrorists from Islamic Jihad which is part of the al-Qaeda coalition! How do you square that one, Secretary Panetta?

And finally, Mursi pointed out to Panetta that his own son was born in California, when the future Egyptian president was studying there. His son, Mursi pointed out, could be the president of the United States one day.

I’ll let you, dear readers, pick up on that previous paragraph.

Of course, the Obama Administration can claim one success in Egypt: the regime pulled its forces out of eastern Sinai in accord with the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. The problem is that it has been reported in the Egyptian media—a good source though not confirmed—that the regime made a deal with the al-Qaida terrorists who attacked Israel. If they promised to stop fighting (for how long?) the Egyptian government would release all of their gunmen.

Meanwhile the most important (formerly) pro-Islamist moderate intellectual in the Arabic-speaking world has defected, an event of monumental importance that is being ignored in the West. The Egyptian sociologist Saad ed-Din Ibrahim hated the Mubarak regime so much that he joined with the Islamists as allies and insisted that they were really moderate.

Now here’s an interview he just gave, Click here to view this clip on MEMRI TV.  spoke as follows:

Interviewer: "You indicated that the Muslim Brotherhood are hijacking the country, not merely the top political posts. Is the Muslim Brotherhood indeed about to hijack the country?"

Ibrahim: "Well, this is how it seems to me, as well as to other observers, some of whom are more knowledgeable than me about the Brotherhood," long-time members, who have now helped him understand the Brotherhood’s “desire to hijack everything and to control everything." [I assume he is referring to relative moderates in the Brotherhood--and some of these individuals have also spoken publicly--who have either quit the Brotherhood in disgust or been expelled.

I suggest Ibrahim and these people, not to mention the liberals packing their bags and the Christians piling up sandbags, know better than Panetta. 

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, has just been published by Yale University Press. Other recent books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center  and of his blog, Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.

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