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 US interests. But why bother?
This is all you need to know: The US government asked its good buddy Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy 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.
The Egyptian government, despite three decades of massive US aid, licensing to produce advanced American tanks and other equipment, strategic backing and an invitation to Washington to meet Obama – refused. Indeed, Morsy headed for Tehran to attend a “nonaligned” conference.
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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 each others’ surrogates. But it means Morsy feels no friendlier toward America than he does toward Iran. And Cairo will not lift a finger to help Washington against Tehran unless, perhaps, America is willing to put a Muslim Brotherhood government in place in Syria, which might well happen.
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.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most important 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 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 of going to war.
Egypt, the Arab world’s most important 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).
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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 US government helped promote, has done as much economic damage as all the Arab and Islamic sabotage, boycotts and Western sanctions or disinvestment in Israel’s history.
Egypt alone is a catastrophe, even without mentioning another dozen examples. How much longer is the obvious fact that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime is anti-democratic, anti- American and anti-Semitic going to be denied?
But wait, there’s more. Lots more.
After meeting Egypt’s new president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “I was convinced that President Morsy is his own man,” adding that the new president is committed to democratic reforms and to representing all Egyptians.
How does Panetta know this? Simple: this is what Morsy told him.
Of course, by endorsing Morsy before he actually does anything, the US government puts its seal of approval on the Muslim Brotherhood regime. Shouldn’t it have to prove itself before Obama gives up all that leverage? What’s next, the Nobel Peace Prize? After all, Morsy’s been in office for a few months.
Note the phrase “his own man.” What does that mean? Why, that Morsy won’t follow the Brotherhood’s orders. He will even stand up to it – presumably to be more moderate – right? Except 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-Qaida are dealt with.” Of course, they are more likely to cooperate against al-Qaida – 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 Morsy, the new president was releasing Islamist terrorists from Egyptian prisons. These include terrorists from Islamic Jihad, which is part of the al-Qaida coalition! How do you square that one, secretary Panetta?
And finally, Morsy pointed out to Panetta that his own son was born in California, when the future Egyptian president was studying there. His son, Morsy pointed out, could be the president of the United States one day.
I’ll leave it to you, dear readers, to ponder that statement.
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 Sa’ad Eddin Ibrahim hated the Mubarak regime so much that he joined with the Islamists as allies and insisted that they were really moderate.
Now here are some tidbits from an interview he just gave (full interview can be watched on MEMRI TV):
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,” a reference to long-time members who he said have helped him understand the Brotherhood’s “desire to hijack everything and to control everything.”
Ibrahim was the most articulate advocate of a liberal-Islamist alliance. Now he’s scared – and that should warn all of us to change policies.
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.