The interesting news was not that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was
pelted with stuff while visiting Cairo, but rather who was doing the
Once upon a time, anti-American radicals threw things at US
leaders. But now...
Reportedly, the hurlers were members of the Free
Egyptians Party together with other Egyptian liberals. At the same time, leading
Christians, including Naguib Sawiris, the man behind that party and perhaps the
most outspoken anti-Islamist figure in Egypt today, refused to meet with
Why? Because these people see the Obama administration as an
ally of the Muslim Brotherhood. That might sound far-fetched to the mainstream
media (though not to you, dear readers) but it is taken for granted in much of
the Middle East. In the articles of liberal Arabs; the statements of Persian
Gulf Arab establishment figures; the conversations of Syrian, Turkish, Iranian
and Lebanese oppositionists, the idea that the US government is now helping the
Islamists is taken for granted.
Let me repeat that: It is taken for
So it is the liberals, the democrats and the moderates who now
view America as their enemy. Yet supposedly US policy is promoting moderation
and democracy, right?
These critics have a strong case. Obama’s Cairo speech was
precisely about encouraging Middle Easterners to redefine their identity from a
national one – principally Arab – to an Islamic one. Obama invited the
Brotherhood to sit in the front row. And when the upsurge in Egypt began and the
State Department wanted to support continuity along with reform, the Obama
administration demanded the end of the regime.
Next, without anyone
asking him, Obama said the United States wouldn’t mind if the Brotherhood became
the government of Egypt. And more recently, of course, he has supported the
Brotherhood against the army, demanding that the military turn over power right
away, or else.
And in Syria, the Obama administration backed a
Brotherhood-dominated leadership in the Syrian National Council. Islamist Turkey
was the ideal country from the White House standpoint, with Obama lavishing
praise and almost never criticizing it for becoming pro-Hezbollah, pro-Hamas,
pro-Iran, pro-Islamist in Syria, and fanatically anti-Israel. And in Bahrain,
the Obama administration was ready to back a revolution putting (Shia) Islamists
in power until the State Department stopped it.
“I want to be clear that
the United States is not in the business, in Egypt,” says Clinton, “of choosing
winners and losers, even if we could, which, of course, we
Wrong! While of course Islamists won elections in Egypt and
Tunisia (but maybe lost in Libya), the Obama administration has been working to
pick the winners and losers. The winners: revolutionary, anti-Semitic Islamists;
the losers: old regimes and liberal oppositionists.
Is it really the
West’s duty to help push a radical Islamist government into power in Egypt as
fast as possible? True, the Brotherhood won the parliamentary election, but the
election was invalidated. By who? One might expect a leading American newspaper
Here’s the Los Angeles Times
editorial on the subject: “To some
extent, the military’s power – along with economic realities – may have inclined
[Egyptian President Mohamed ] Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to a more
pluralist and moderate course. But if the generals overplay their hand, they
will lose popular support and antagonize Egypt’s allies, including the United
States, which provides the military with $1.3 billion a year in assistance. Both
Congress and the Obama administration have put the generals on notice that those
funds are in jeopardy if the transition to democracy is thwarted.
attempt to shut down a reconvened parliament would be interpreted inside and
outside Egypt as just such an obstruction.”
Let’s list the points made
• The Muslim Brotherhood has become more pluralist and moderate. Why?
Because of the military’s power and economic realities. How is this logical? You
mean the military’s pressure on the Brotherhood has made it more moderate? So by
that argument if the military ceased its pressure and turned over government to
the Brotherhood then the Brotherhood would be more radical. Yet that is
precisely what the Los Angeles Times and much of the media and the Obama
administration is advocating! How has the economic situation made the
Brotherhood more moderate? Presumably because it needs to be so in order to keep
Western aid and investment flowing.
But both of these factors will be
insufficient to help Egypt avoid a crack-up. Then comes the time for
Moreover, the bottom line here is to claim that the
Brotherhood can be bought off. Like Iran’s regime, Syria’s regime, Saddam
Hussein and others were bought off?
• If the generals try to limit or keep the
Muslim Brotherhood out of power they will become less popular. Well, maybe that
is so. But popularity isn’t the most important thing in the region. That’s an
American obsession, not an Arab one.
• The United States doesn’t like the
military’s policy and will punish the army (cutting off aid?) if it doesn’t
surrender. That’s a terrible policy. Talk about empowering your enemies and
bashing your friends! Why should the United States be the new patron of the most
dangerously anti-American group in the world? Because the Obama administration
believes that will make the Brotherhood more moderate? Yet even the Obama
administration has seen that this tactic didn’t work with Iran, Syria, Hamas or
Hezbollah. Why should it work this time?
Then there are the two extremely
important points the editorial doesn’t tell you about, and which you won’t see
in many places: First, let’s remember that the parliamentary election was not
invalidated by the army but by the Egyptian courts. Judges have been among the
most courageous dissidents in Egypt. Many of them spoke out against the Mubarak
regime and they are not the clients of the army but an independent force in
their own right. So if you want to exalt the rule of law, you should support the
military in trying to enforce a legally binding decision by two Egyptian
Second, the left and liberal forces are largely boycotting the
attempt to revive the parliament illegally because they fear the Muslim
Brotherhood’s monopoly on power. Have you noticed that moderate support for anti army demonstrations has dwindled away now? It is the Brotherhood that is
going up against the armed forces, though leaving the door open for a
deal.The writer is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs (GLORIA) Center.
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