By Barry Rubin
Everything has been so predictable. Designated “moderate” and U.S.-backed Egyptian leader Muhammad ElBaradei has made a profoundly shocking statement that should change U.S. policy overnight, show how disastrous Obama Administration policy was, and mark the beginning of the coming electoral defeat for the president.
But presumably nothing will change.
ElBaradei, a presidential candidate, said the following:
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“If Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime.”
And he’s the moderate! In other words:
–Despite repeated ridiculing of Israeli concerns, it is increasingly likely that the next Egyptian government will tear up the Egypt-Israel peace treaty.
–Egypt will be an ally of Hamas, a revolutionary Islamist terrorist group that openly calls for genocide against Jews and the wiping out of Israel. (Samantha Powers, alleged anti-genocide champion, where are you?)
–By making such irresponsible and warlike statements, ElBaradei is encouraging Hamas to attack Israel to provoke such a war. As I pointed out, events in Egypt are making such a war inevitable.
–In his interview with Al-Watan, ElBaradei also said:
“In case of any future Israeli attack on Gaza–as the next president of Egypt– I will open the Rafah border crossing and will consider different ways to implement the joint Arab defense agreement.”
Think about what that means! Muslim Brotherhood and other volunteers will flood into Gaza to fight the Jews. Arms from Iran and Syria will pour into the Gaza Strip including longer-range missiles, landed openly at Egyptian ports.
And that “joint Arab defense agreement”? That means Egypt would consult with Syria and other Arab states about joining the war, spreading it throughout the region.
Thank you, President Obama!
Of course, to be fair, ElBaradei might not get elected as president of Egypt. His opponent, Amr Moussa, is a radical nationalist who likes to play demagogue but seems preferable to the “American” candidate.
To make things even worse, such statements cannot be attributed to ElBaradei being a front-man for the Muslim Brotherhood since he is now quarreling with them, though presumably they will still vote for him to be president.
And, of course, it can be honestly said that he is just being demagogic to win votes. The problem is that Arab leaders are often demagogic to win support after they are elected to office or seize power.
Or maybe the Egyptian army will stop such a war? They will be pragmatic and say, “Look, if we fight Israel the United States will cut off our weapons and military aid. We might lose. And what about the waste of resources that we badly need at home?”
But believe it or not a lot of Egyptians think that they could defeat Israel and that only President Husni Mubarak and the Americans are holding them back. A lot of officers probably believe that, being too young to remember the 1967 war. Or they might be swept away by revolutionary, nationalist, and religious enthusiasm. And they might be afraid to seem like Israel’s “protectors” and thus traitors to Egypt and the revolution.
That’s how Arab politics works. But, of course, all the “best and brightest” in the U.S. government (the political appointees at least), those running American intelligence, the White House, the academic “experts,” and the mass media don’t understand it.
And to be fair once again, obviously President Obama and his administration is not responsible for the Egyptian revolution. But there is a long list of factors that do make it their fault:
They rushed the process of change; made it inevitable by demanding that the revolution succeed; acted so that it included the entire regime and not just Mubarak personally; preemptively approved the Muslim Brotherhood as a government party, didn’t press the regime for guarantees to Israel; made the new rulers feel that they can get away with anything; among other things.
Then there are the broader mistakes made previously: acting so weak that it emboldened radicals and makes everyone assume that the United States can’t or won’t do anything to enforce its interests; pressed Israel to minimize sanctions on the Hamas regime; gave several hundred million dollars to the Gaza Strip; defined only al-Qaida as an enemy and all other radical Islamists as moderates-in-training; coddled rather than comforted Syria and–to a lesser extent–Iran; distanced themselves from Israel; among other things.
What will it take for the United States and Europe to realize that they have uncorked the bottle and let out the genie? How’s this sound as an election slogan: Obama got taken for a ride, millions died?
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 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 at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com.