(See introduction here: “Second-Term Obama Agenda: Why U.S. Policy Betrayed the Moderates”.)
Named after Lawrence of Arabia’s version, these are the new — hopefully temporary — seven pillars of Middle East policy:
1. Other than aid and official government rhetoric, the United States is now neutral on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and — more accurately — is tilting toward the Palestinian side.
This does not mean disaster for Israel — and no Israeli official will say so in public — but it is a strategic reality. Some of the dynamics motivating this U.S. policy:
- The White House believes it can win over “moderate Islamists” in power, as in Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, Tunisia, Bahrain, Iran, and Syria, among other countries. This would form a pro-U.S. bloc against al-Qaeda, and secondarily against the Iran-Syria bloc. Only al-Qaeda cannot be won over; but the White House believes that even the Taliban, the Tehran rulers, Hezbollah, and Hamas might be convinced. (I’m not kidding, and can prove it.)
- Rather than mobilize active opposition to Palestinian Authority diplomatic gains in Europe, the UN, the World Court, and international institutions, the Obama administration is either leading, exploiting, or bowing to these gains.
- This, of course, intensifies Western cultural surrender to anti-Israel positions. Here’s an example: the highly prestigious Foyle’s bookstore in London has closed its Israel section. If you know London, you know what an intellectual earthquake that is.
- The United States will not privately pressure or publicly criticize Palestinian Authority policies or statements, but will not hesitate to do so for Israel.
- The Palestinian Authority is not even held responsible for its total inability to deliver half the Palestinian forces, including Hamas and the Gaza Strip. (Imagine a White House not thrilled to use the Egyptian coup regime to press and suppress Hamas. Their strategy would be to make a deal: Palestinian concessions to get a state, in exchange for the capture of Gaza! Who has even thought of that?) Of course the talks will not go anywhere, because the Palestinians know that they have a strong hand and they will overplay it. But, the administration’s willingness to punish Israel to win public relations points and to shore up the doomed U.S. alignment with Islamists has to be reckoned with.
The problem by no means regards U.S.-Israel relations alone, but with every Middle Eastern ally and with every potentially pro-U.S. democratic opposition movement.
2. The system the White House seeks to impose on the Middle East appears to be revolutionary Islamism.
If many objective Iranian, Turkish, Kurdish, Israeli, and Arab observers see this as self-evident, Islamists themselves view Western policy as a sign of their own victory due to Allah’s backing plus Western fear and weakness.
Consider the bizarre situation in regard to Egypt. Last time, Egypt had to join the enemy Soviet bloc and wage war on a U.S. ally to be America’s enemy. Now, it can do so by … joining American goals, opposing terrorism, and working closely with U.S. allies.
3. Conservative traditionalists, moderates, and liberals seem to be viewed by the U .S. government as enemies, because only the Muslim Brotherhood can stop al-Qaeda by out-jihading them.
Instead of applauding the army coup in Egypt, the White House opposed it based on the belief that the Egyptian masses were the most reactionary advocates of dictatorship, and hate Christians, Jews, Shia Muslims, women, gays, and of course Americans.
That’s partly true, but doesn’t mean we should want the Muslim Brotherhood in power there. Instead, there is no notion of realpolitik or national interests, but just this strange foreign policy philosophy:
- Surrender is better because it avoids international friction, especially for conflicts involving America.
- Sharing power with anti–American radicals will bring internal stability. If you force the army to have a coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood or a predictably unstable two-state solution, you will get immunity from civil conflict.
- Betraying allies will make more people want to be allies. These are the ideas that, remarkably, many pompous statesmen, prized experts, brilliant academics, and the totally ignorant (you’d be amazed how little many know despite their job titles) really believe. Just one example: a nationally leading political advisor to the government said that there were moderate Islamists. When I asked for examples, I was given two. Both have been dead for more than a century, and one a supporter of extreme radicals.
I have dozens of these examples.
The bottom line is the administration believes that if the Muslim Brotherhood is kept happy, it won’t cause any trouble. I’m not kidding here. Why, for example, is the Sinai Peninsula is heating up with violent terrorism? Because the Islamists aren’t running it! This has been the official propaganda line everywhere in the mass media, with only the rarest conflicting view presented, despite the fact that it is just common sense. The New York Times published four articles in one week alone complaining that President Obama was blocked by Israel from doing the right thing — opposing condemnation of the Egyptian coup, because it seemed inexplicably to oppose a genocidal regime ten times its population which supported its extermination while allied to a terrorist statelet on its border.
One Times story claimed:
While Israel is careful to argue that Egypt is critical to broad Western interests in the Middle East, its motivation is largely parochial: the American aid underpins the 34-year-old peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, so its withdrawal could lead to the unraveling of the agreement. More immediately, Israel is deeply worried that Egypt’s strife could create more openings for terrorist attacks on its territory from the Sinai Peninsula. Wouldn’t one expect that U.S. policy backed the same thing?
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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 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.