Barack Obama’s Middle East Miscalculation

Skeptics are right to ask whether Belman is making a Jordan Miscalculation. Certainly I have no example in the Middle East to hang my kipah on. So why do I think Palestinians in Jordan might break out of the mould? Basically, I am keeping an open mind. I think the possibility exists and that I have to nuture it. I am not interested in democracy in the ME per se. I am interested it pursuing the possibility that Mudar Zahran has massive backing for living in cooperation with Israel and not in confrontation and that he can be trusted. Ted Belman

By Mort Zukerman, US NEWS
The White House completely miscalculated in Egypt, as it did in Gaza. It seemed only to care for the mechanics of the electoral process rather than the meaning of the results. Washington vacillated on who its Egyptian allies really are. We had long shared with the Egyptian military understandings on national security, ours with an eye to maintaining peace in the region. That relationship is now pretty much lost.

Americans, in their perennial innocence, have demanded that the generals turn over power to the civilians whomever they may be, just as they did to the Persian shah, just as they did after Israel’s pullout from Gaza when they hadn’t a clue about the danger posed by Hamas. Our ingenuous attitude has been tantamount to handing over Egypt on a silver platter to the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists, who ironically are coming into power as democrats.

Their new foreign policy will include opening the blockaded border with Gaza, ending normal relations with Israel, and opening them with Hamas and Iran in such a way as to alter the balance of power in the region against U.S. interests. Indeed, one of the few things that unites the political parties in Egypt is an anti-Western foreign policy. Cairo has already allowed Iran’s warships to transit the Suez Canal; failed to protect pipelines supplying energy to Israel and Jordan; endorsed the union of Hamas and Fatah; and hosted conferences in support of “the resistance,” that is, terrorism.

The United States forgot the lessons of Iraq, namely, that it is easier to remove an Arab-state dictator by military means than it is to alter the internal balance of power and create a solid foundation for human rights. Had it kept the Iraq experience in mind, the Obama administration would have thought a lot harder and ensured that there was a foundation for genuine democracy in Egypt before demanding Mubarak’s immediate resignation.

[See photos of protests in Egypt.]

The Islamic groups can credit their success to better resources and organization, but they also have deep ties with Egypt’s religiously rooted public. Their work with social and economic welfare programs during the country’s long history of economic hardship gave them wide popularity among the illiterate poor. But as Robert Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has put it, “The Brotherhood is not, as some suggest, simply an Egyptian version of the March of Dimes—that is, a social welfare organization whose goals are fundamentally humanitarian.” It is a “profoundly political organization,” he added, that seeks to reorder Egyptian society along Islamist lines and “transform Egypt into a very different place.” As the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood put it in a sermon, “Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslims’ real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States.” The sermon was titled: “The U.S. is now experiencing the beginning of its end.”

In six months a new president of Egypt will be elected. This is important because the presidency has long been the supreme locus of power. After the presidential election, which is supposed to occur before June, authority will pass to the newly elected leadership, and at that stage, the army is supposed to exit. The army’s leaders seemingly intend to continue to play a central role, but this may lead to a clash between the army and the Islamic bloc.

[Read Jessica Rettig: Expected Win by Egypt’s Islamists Poses Dilemma for U.S. Policy.]

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is doing everything in its power to avoid transferring full control to civilian hands in order to retain the dominant status of the army, whatever may emerge. But army leaders are now seen as trying to steal the achievements of the revolution—and for the worst reasons, namely, their corrupt control of economic assets and the perks they have accumulated over the decades.

This does not bode well for America and its policy of deposing dictators and replacing them with “democratic regimes.” As collateral damage, Saudi Arabia, once America’s closest ally in the Middle East, no longer sees the United States as reliable, and the Saudi king’s willingness to listen to the Obama administration has evaporated.

The new regime in Egypt will face challenges. For one, it will have to stabilize the economy. For that, experts say, it will need tourism; maritime traffic through the Suez Canal; gas sales to neighbors; and Western investment, not to mention American economic and military aid. These probably are the main barriers to a renewed confrontation with Israel, for this vital aid would then be stopped.

[Read Mort Zuckerman: For Israel, a Two-State Proposal Starts With Security.]

Democracy in Egypt without the Muslim Brotherhood may be impossible, but so is democracy under its leadership. It is one thing for the Muslim Brotherhood to run in an election; it’s another to imagine what they will do if they gain power, for the Islamists will replace secular dictatorship with Islamic dictatorship, leaving only the army to prevent the establishment of an Islamic state. The young men and women of Tahrir Square toppled the regime. Then along came a second wave, the Muslim Brotherhood, whose founder, Hassan al-Banna, once declared, “It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated.” Now we will see how the Egyptian military faces its dilemma. If it holds fire, it will seal its fate, and the Islamic forces will take over by default. If army leaders decide to open fire, they will be classified as murderous dictators.

Of course, images of Mubarak on a hospital gurney in a metal cage in a Cairo courthouse, with the Robes­pierran prosecutor now demanding the death sentence, could provoke the SCAF to reconsider its eagerness to return to the barracks and hand power to the new Islamic leadership.

The West faces a dilemma: If it confronts the Islamists, it will confirm the Brotherhood’s claim that the West is conspiring to undermine the religious identity of the Muslim world. If it does not, it will ignore the forces within Arab society that yearn for genuine democracy and Western forms of government. At the very least, the United States should withhold economic or diplomatic support to Arab states that follow the path of political Islam. Cairo will now be painted in Islamic colors, but this is not a clash between the secular and the religious. It is a clash between freedom and tyranny.

January 21, 2012 | 17 Comments »

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17 Comments / 17 Comments

  1. What about Netanyahu’s Nobel? After repeatedly having either made a pompous ass or a garden variety traitor out of himself he should at least get one Nobel.
    The “12 hour” bbunny was down for the count even before the Dempsey visit started.
    Iran had 25 years to develop its nuclear systems and the 12 hour BBunny was at the helm in Israel for 6 of those years. The most of any of the rotating fellowship in Israel. Other than cute computer games and a hit here and there, nothing permanent was done by the Nobel candidate, so why he do anything now?
    For his next trick.
    Right after the Likud internal charade, he will have the 9000 GI’s join the special Barak beasts and destroy Jews in Judea and Samaria.
    Then he will get da Nobel..

  2. Shy Guy,

    Thank you for your compliment on my youth and good looks. I assume you linked to a picture of a handsome young man — which indeed I am, at 63. I wish you would write in English now and then, though, instead of just posting links — your link didn’t connect.

    Concerning the Straits of Hormuz charade, the latest installment of which you can read on DEBKA, the US has indeed caved in to the Iranians; only they did it much sooner than announced by Defense Secretary Panetta. He “threatened” them that we would resume patrolling the straits with our warships in March, unless the Iranians went back to negotiating with us. Since the Iranians have called for resuming negotiating for weeks now (as usual, as a stalling tactic), this was a patently empty “threat”. As it turns out, the US had already cut a deal with the Iranians as early as 21 Jan., apparently sending Gen. Dempsey to Israel as a cover to deceive the Israelis.

    As it stands now, the US warships have passed through, the Iranians have “peacefully” decided not to attack them (as though they could in the first place), and Israel will look like the enemy of world peace if she attacks Iran at this “sensitive” moment. If Netanyahu was coordinating all this with the Americans, in order to make Israel look like the world’s greatest fool, he has certainly succeeded.

  3. mollie mann says:
    January 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Sorry Mr. Guy, Shall I proceed to the back of the bus?

    And what does this have to do with the topic under discussion?

    Oh, I see. We talked about mistreatment of women as dictated by Islamic scripture. So now we have to even the score. Where in the Torah does it advocate seating women in the back of the bus or beating up wives. BTW, domestic violence in a Hareidi home is just as unjustified as in any other Jewish or non-Jewish home. So why did you bring that up specifically regarding Haredim? Jew hater.

    (Hymie, Pesky, is that you?)

  4. mollie mann says:
    January 23, 2012 at 3:41 am

    Are you referring to the heredis?

    Well, well, well. What do we have here?

    Hello Bozo(ette). When you pass Reading Comprehension 101, and when you perhaps know what you’re talking about, just let us know. Because right now, Moldy, you haven’t got a clue.

  5. US Quits the Straits of Hormuz

    President Obama has just brought the US to the same level of grovelling as Israel. Just as Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu unilaterally froze settlement building in Israeli territory for six months, offering to extend it indefinitely for a mere gesture from the Arabs. Obama has unilaterally ceded control of the Strats of Hormuz to the Iranians for two months, offering an indefinite extension if the Iranians will simply give some unspecified gesture.

    This is the end of effective American control of commerce to and from the Persian Gulf oil fields. If anyone thought Ron Paul’s preference for diplomacy over deployment would be the death knell of American foreign policy, think again: American foreign policy is already literally “dead in the water”. Our deployments, both in the Oil Region and in Afghanistan, are only by permission of our Iranian and Pakistani enemies; and our “diplomacy” is worse than Israel’s — which is to say, we have no real diplomacy at all. At least Ron Paul would save us the great cost of deploying enormously expensive carrier battle groups all over the world that we never intend to use.

    After saying all that, it is quite possible that the US WILL have to use some of its expensive assets; but that decision is in Israeli hands rather than American. This isn’t because Israel may draw America into a war that is only in Israel’s interests, as many charge, but that Israel is the only country in the world that says it is willing to stand up to the Iranian-Soviet-Chinese bully that threatens EVERYONE’s interests with runaway nuclear proliferation.

    Whether Israel actually IS willing or not, remains to be seen. If it is not, the great charade, and more American “deployment freeze” will continue until rogue states from North Korea to Iran to Venezuela hold the whole world hostage and we all hand over the keys to them (or worse).

    My prayers are with Israel.

  6. Catarin says:
    January 22, 2012 at 9:53 pm

    The Salafists want Sharia law implemented and want to install behavior police like the Saudis have who will go around beating Egyptians with canes for perceived wrong-doings. This was not what Mohammed envisioned. Women did not wear veils during his time, nor for a hundred years after.

    Does Islam permit a man to hit his wife?

    “Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty……And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms….” (Quran 24:30,31).

  7. I think the Arab Spring and the events in Egypt caught the world by surprise, and not just Obama. Information is only as good as the people gathering it, and it seems everyone missed it.

    The article Bland Oatmeal gives a link to was in my Sunday paper today. (Bland, you should change your name, because you aren’t bland.) It’s a constant battle fighting the Islamists and other enemies because most of them haven’t a clue of the delicate balance needed today to keep our Earth habitable. The Washington Times had an article with Islamists claiming they will take over America. I wrote back saying make one bad move, and we will blast your butts to Mars. If there is a catastrophe, will anyone want to save these people?

    I think Americans are ambivalent about Muslims. We may know individual Muslims we really like, but as a whole, any uprising en masse from Muslims in the U.S. will cause gun-toting Americans to take to the streets and solve the problem.

    You don’t give Obama enough credit for steering us through turbulent times. First of all, he has access to an unending stream of intelligence details, access to the world’s top experts, and he is really smart. So the Arabs don’t like the U.S. anymore? They will if Iran attacks. Ironically, the U.S. Navy has rescued three Iranian boats in the Strait of Hormuz in the past few weeks, supplying whatever aid is needed to keep them alive. That’s three boats of people who like the U.S.

    The situation in Egypt is anyone’s guess. The Salafists want Sharia law implemented and want to install behavior police like the Saudis have who will go around beating Egyptians with canes for perceived wrong-doings. This was not what Mohammed envisioned. Women did not wear veils during his time, nor for a hundred years after. But making up tall tales seems to be a trait of politicized Muslims.

  8. Mr. Zuckerman, appreciate your analysis, but in simple minded terms such as mine, why is everyone assuming Obama is a real President? He is not. His best interests ARE being served, not the interest of the people of the United States of America.

  9. If I hear the “miscalculation” sing song once more I will jump up and down and stomp… LOL
    Far from miscaculation, the Manchurian candidate was trained in every detail on THE plan long before and is carrying it to the hilt.
    And between us, no one is listening, right?
    I am not sure that the US elecorate has ben made aware of the facts at all.

    Israel desperately needs true leadership, not jelly fish mixed with rats up there.

  10. If anyone was wondering, Egypt is now more militantly politico-islamic than the Pals.

    Islamists Win 70% of Seats In the Egyptian Parliament
    Published: January 21, 2012
    CAIRO — Egyptian authorities confirmed Saturday that a political coalition dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the 84-year-old group that virtually invented political Islam, had won about 47 percent of the seats in the first Parliament elected since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. An alliance of ultraconservative Islamists won the next largest share of seats, about 25 percent

  11. There are few “forces” within Egypt that demand a democracy. The question is which dictatorship will be freely elected.Democractic procedures take generations to develop and so far those rights and responsibilities that we consider normal and which are necessary for a democracy to survive have not been developped in the Arabic countries. Given the traditions of Arabic Islam, it is questionable whether democractic traditions can ever be developped by these countries.

    So let’s just hope that Jordan will change its mind and accept (for whatever reason)
    the rest of the Judean and Samarian Arabs into its territory.