Monday, May 23, 2011

In September, Obama’s Middle East Policy Will Collapse

This article is published on PajamasMedia.

By Barry Rubin

Prediction: In September, President Barack Obama’s Middle East policy blows up in his (and our) face(s). It’s totally obvious and yet no one is focusing on it.

I’m not referring to the Palestinian Authority’s bid for unilateral independence at the UN. I’m referring to the Egyptian parliamentary election.

It is totally obvious that in that election Egypt will elect a radical, anti-American, hate-Israel parliament which will then write the country’s new constitution. This is a turning point in Middle East history. And Obama is unaware of it. Quite the contrary, he declared in his State Department speech that everything is great with the “Arab spring.” Nothing can go wrong. It is the expression of a yearning for prosperity and freedom.

The Arab spring began when a frustrated man in Tunisia set himself on fire.

It will now move to the new phase: the whole Middle East will be set on fire.

Is that alarmist? Not at all, except in the sense that when one sees a fire he sets off the fire alarm.

Don’t be distracted by the question of whether Islamists will have a majority or the even narrower question of whether the Muslim Brotherhood will have a majority.

There WILL be a radical majority, there MIGHT be an Islamist majority, there won’t be a Muslim Brotherhood majority but it will ALMOST CERTAINLY be the largest single party.

Why do I say this? Well, Amr Moussa, who isn’t an Islamist and is Egypt’s most popular and important Egyptian politician says so.

There is no sign—no sign—that the moderates are organizing serious parties. Instead of getting to work, they’re complaining. Meanwhile four radical, anti-American, passionately anti-Israel forces are organizing:

--The Muslim Brotherhood, which should get one-third or more of the seats and is contesting half of them, obviously in the districts where it has the best chance of winning.

--Smaller and even more radical Islamist parties (referred to as Salafists) who could form agreements with the Brotherhood so that they won’t hurt each other’s chances.

--Left-wing neo-Marxist parties.

--Radical nationalists.

There will probably be a number of independents who will be courted and won over by one of these blocs.

Imagine the day after that election. What will the mass media say? What will the American politicians say?

--That they were wrong about the Egyptian revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood?

--That by helping to bring down the old regime, U.S. policy foisted a disaster on the region and on its own interests?

--That by celebrating how great the “Arab Spring” is and refusing to acknowledge the real threats and problems, Obama made catastrophic errors.

--That his policy has led to many advances for America’s enemies?

--That Israel is in a far worse strategic situation and certainly can’t and shouldn’t make any more concessions?

--That the Islamists are emboldened and thus both Hamas and the radicals who run Fatah are taking an even harder line?

--That the loss of faith in America by its Arab allies is now undeniably clear and they are scrambling to make their own deals with Iran and other extremists?

--That there is a real possibility of a war in which Egypt either joins directly or backs Hamas? Imagine, Egypt stays “neutral” but nobody stops thousands of Egyptian volunteers from crossing into Gaza to fight or even across the Egypt-Israel border to launch terror attacks?

--What will the Obama Administration do if in practice Egypt tears up the Israel-Egypt peace treaty even if it pretends that it isn’t doing so?

--People are insisting that if Hamas in practice becomes part of the Palestinian Authority that the United States, and certainly Congress, will cut off aid. But what will happen when the Obama Administration does everything possible to prevent an aid cut-off and nothing possible to pressure the PA into changing its policy or behavior?

These are not speculations. These things WILL happen. Nobody in the United States or Europe is seriously discussing these scenarios and what should be done about them.

And I didn’t even mention the Egyptian presidential elections or, for that matter:

--An emboldened Turkish Islamist government if it wins the June 12 elections the:re,

--A Lebanese government controlled by Syria and its clients, especially Hizballah, if it ever gets a new prime minister and cabinet installed in that country.

--The survival of an anti-American Syrian government that has murdered hundreds of its citizens and will be arresting and torturing thousands, in part due to the Obama Administration's failure to try to overthrow it?

--The sight of Iran ever closer to nuclear weapons and admissions that the sanctions had only a limited effect?

These are not far-out scenarios. All of them have a 90 percent or more likelihood of happening.

I don’t want to take your time here for a history lesson but consider precedents:

--1952. Radical regime takes power in Egypt. U.S. realizes the threat by April 1955 but then saves the regime from being overthrown by Britain, France, and Israel in 1956. Result: Violence, disruption, and anti-American problems in the region for decades.

--1979. Radical regime takes power in Iran. U.S. policy makes a mess in dealing with the revolutionary crisis. Americans taken hostage, revolutionary Islamism flourishes, thirty plus years of violence, September 11, Islamist movement still growing. By the way, why does not one of the hundreds of "experts" on television and in the mass media remember that the Iranian revolution began after President Jimmy Carter urged reform on the shah and ended with the United States calling on the shah to go away? Remind you of anything?

September 2011 will be another of those moments. Mark that on your calendar. On the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the United States will be watching the triumph of the ideology and movement--not Usama bin Ladin, of course, but his smarter counterparts--in much of the Middle East.

PS: Here's an excellent guide to Egypt's political parties so far which proves my point . Note that there isn't a single serious moderate party. Amr Mousa isn't forming a party while Muhammad ElBaradei, Obama's favorite, isn't doing anything but complain. There is a "Facebook party." So far it has 1000 "likes." Egypt has about 85 million people.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal, and a featured columnist at PajamasMedia His latest books are 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 is His PajamaMedia columns are mirrored and other articles available at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.