“As I recall the military situation developing along the Israel-Egypt border is eerily similar to that which took place in the days before Israel’s 1967 Six Day War.”
A disclaimer: Following the debacle of Bush, Jr. I was among the enthusiasts for change who voted for Barak Obama. I had considered the possibility that the more experienced John McCain would have made a better foreign policy president, but the fallout from eight years of Bush Republicanism on the balance of power in the Middle East, the deception of funding two wars “off the books”, creating the conditions which resulted in the worst recession since the Great Depression: enough was enough. And today we confront the choice between a Democrat whose failings in the field of foreign affairs is monumental, and a candidate head of a Republican Party responsible for defeating any proposal to improve the economy because it might harm its chances to win the presidency in 2012.
Where I held off a decision until now, 2012 will be my first presidential election to vote with my feet, by staying home.
I rarely call out this president for his actions, not because I approve, but because I understand that presidents, as all politicians, can rarely deviate from traditionally accepted policy. When they do so they are stymied by a conservative bureaucracy that can, and does, determine which, and how quickly, policies are actually enacted. Yes Obama seems to stumble from mistake to mistake in the Middle East without apparently recognizing the blunders as “mistakes.” Certainly he appears naïvely dedicated to “truth, justice and the American way,” whatever its relevance beyond “slogan” to life within the United States. Based on history, culture and the current state of Islamic fundamentalism across North Africa and the Middle East, even the blind should see such slogans misguided as “policy.”
At least as far back as a sympathetic President Carter responded to “cries” of the 1979 Students of Tehran and chose to depose America’s long-time ally and important regional stabilizer, the Shah of Iran (soon replaced by an Iranian “democracy” under Khomeini and the ayatollahs); of Bush, Jr. bestowing democracy upon Iraq by installing a regime whose sympathies would self-evidently (Sh’ia Iraq, Sh’ia Iran) would be for Iran and against American (to say nothing of regional, (Sunni)) interests; of Obama, following that great bi-partisan ideal of democracy by responding to the cries of the 2011 Students of Cairo demanding only reform, but taking the opportunity, under the banner of Democracy, to overthrow America’s long-time “tyrannical” ally and successor to the “tyrannical” Shah as regional stabilizer, Hosni Mubarak for the gentle fist of today’s Muslim Brotherhood.
In each of the three cases American policymakers apparently did a calculus based on an imaginary rather that rational analysis. In the cases of Iran (1979) and Cairo (2011) the hoped for democracy could only have resulted in Islamist known to be anti-Western. According to reports at the time, Bush apparently did not understand that there were denominational differences in Islam, that Arabs were just Arabs. So his installing an Iran-oriented regime might be excused. Yes all three inheritor regimes had a “democratic” veneer. But how many lives of those in whose service our presidents supposedly acted were murdered by the American-installed successor regimes?
But back to President Obama’s unique incompetence. Several headlines over the past several days motivated this article, one involving the Palestinians, a second the United Nations, and the third the Egyptians, each an example of American policy incompetence and failure, and the loss of credibility reflected in Obama’s inability to effect policy even on those otherwise dependent upon the United States.
Debka headlined this story today: Two Hamas spies arrested among PA chairman’s personal guards. What on the surface appears just another muck-up by an incompetent Palestinian Authority allowing Hamas to be privy to all Abbas conversations and with world leaders and internal policy discussions, it turns out that under a system initiated by George Bush America was responsible for vetting not just Abbas personal guards, but the police and paramilitary services. Whether the result of highly capable Hamas operatives or the dismal incompetence of the Americans responsible; or perhaps simply reflective of the deteriorating motivation of the US interest in the region: whatever the cause the entire security apparatus of the Palestinian Authority is now considered compromised. And Hamas is assumed to know everything relating to PA-US, PA-Israel intentions and capabilities as transmitted to Abbas.
In an article appearing on 20 August in CNN, Panetta tries to help secure Sinai with intel aid,
In a move reminiscent of Reagan providing AWACs battlefield control aircraft to Saudi Arabia, Obama’s defense secretary is offering to provide Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime sophisticated and classified, “truck-mounted sensors that provide an electronic signal identifying which nation is operating the vehicle,” their intended purpose to provide Egyptian forces in the Sinai the ability to identify terrorists from “freindlies” as they hunt down terrorists. According to Panetta’s spokesman they are intended also to stop terrorist activity against Israel. As the Saudi AWACs were explained as providing that country the capability to monitor Iraqi and Iranian military movements, obviously they could as easily monitor Israeli ground, air and sea military maneuvers.
Regarding those “truck-mounted sensors” for Egypt, the message coming our of both the ruling Muslim Brothers and their president, Morsi, who would trust the future commitment of an Islamist regime that today has all the appearances of an Iran style theocracy?
A third article in Jerusalem Post of 20 August raises precisely the question of Egyptian motives. In J’lem mum on Egypt move to send troops to Sinai
Israeli officials declined to say whether of not Morsi was given permission to introduce tanks and ground forces into the Sinai, demilitarized under terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. According to Dennis Ross, past adviser and still informal consultant to Obama, the Egyptian did not notify Israel beforehand. “If this behavior continues,” Ross wrote in the Washington Post, “US support, which will be essential for gaining international economic aid and fostering investment, will not be forthcoming. Softening or fuzzing our response at this point might be good for the Muslim Brotherhood, but it won’t be good for Egypt.” Based on past behavior it seems as likely as not Obama will continue to have faith in the MB and its president.
I, and likely many living Israelis recall the rise of Gamal Abdel Nasser, how he manipulated the “great powers,” how he slowly introduced the Egyptian army into the Sinai, built up his forces along Israel’s border. Observing similar tactics being replayed as we look on; what might those forces do should Israel carry through its threat and attack the Iranian nuclear program? And while those Egyptian forces are presumably intended only to root out Sinai terrorists, might they not also represent a signal to Ahmadinejad? Can Israel attack Iran to the east with an Egyptian army sitting on its western border? And did not Morsi not days ago announce that he intends to attend Iran’s “non-aligned” conference, along with the UN’s Ban Ki-moon? President Obama was reported to have told both not to attend. What is the message of the visit, and what of the defiance shown by two entities dependent on American largesse for their very survival?
It appears that after a decade of open defiance by the mouse still roaring, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the rest of the second and third world has learned the lesson that America is not a power to be taken seriously.
As I went on-line to post this article the main article on JPost caught my eye, Int''l force in Sinai quiet amid concern of Egypt violations.
“Observers stationed in Sinai to verify the demilitarization of the peninsula abstain from publicly addressing Israeli concerns that Egypt may be violating treaty by moving weaponry into area without consent.
“The 1,650 strong Multinational Force and Observers in Sinai is keeping a low public profile amid growing Israeli concern that Egypt may be violating the 1979 Camp David Treaty by bringing heavy weaponry into Sinai without first coordinating with Israel.
“A representative for the force queried by e-mail whether Egypt asked permission to move the weaponry in, and whether Israel granted it, replied that "we are unable to respond to queries from the media at this time." The MFO, made up of contingents from 12 different countries, is in Sinai to monitor and verify the demilitarization of the peninsula under the accords of the treaty.
“This response came amid reports in both the Israeli and foreign media that Israel has turned to the US to mediate in the matter.”
As I recall the military situation developing along the Israel-Egypt border is eerily similar to that which took place in the days before Israel’s 1967 Six Day War. Not that I expect Egypt to challenge Israel openly at this time. But the presence of those forces, the silence of the UN monitors, the reliance on Obama for mediation. What effect will this have on Israel overall ability to respond to regional challenges facing it?