An Egyptian Dictator is bad while an Iranian one is Okay?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 11th, 2011

The Handling of the Egyptian Crisis not our Finest Moment

Mubarak is out.  And the military is in.  They will try to restore order now and keep the country from degenerating into anarchy.  But did we back the right horse?

Early on the Obama administration joined the ‘democratic’ protesters in calls for Mubarak’s resignation.  Even though it looked like we didn’t know what was going on in Egypt (see Crisis Flummoxes White House by Adam Entous and Jay Solomon posted 2/11/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

All day, as rumors swirled Mr. Mubarak would step down, administration officials struggled to understand what was happening, and even U.S. intelligence officials appeared baffled at one point. At a Capitol Hill hearing, Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told lawmakers there was “a strong likelihood that Mubarak may step down this evening…”

A senior intelligence official defended Mr. Panetta, saying he was referring to press reports in his comments rather than to CIA intelligence reports.

Interesting.  Our intelligence chief uses the same press reports you and I read to brief Congress.  Probably was not a good idea.  Anything we can read will be in English.  And written for us.  The people who matter?  Those in the midst of the crisis?  They don’t read English.  Because English isn’t the official Egyptian language.  Funny, those Egyptians.  Using their native tongue.  Actually, that’s quite common throughout the world.  That’s why we usually collect intelligence from agents inside the country who immerse themselves in the language and customs of the local people.  That way we understand what the common Egyptian on the street is thinking.  Just hope that the rest of the intelligence we used came from hard sources.

Arab and Israeli diplomats said Mr. Obama’s decision to throw his full support behind the opposition after eight days of protests has likely broken ties with Mr. Mubarak beyond repair.

The move also had the effect of pushing Mr. Mubarak closer to regional allies Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have urged Mr. Mubarak to hold his ground.

As a result, said one Arab diplomat, Washington’s influence in dictating events in Cairo could be limited…

“I don’t think Mubarak trusts too many people from the U.S. anymore,” the Arab diplomat said. “It looks like Omar Suleiman is the right point of contact, but they’re all ticked off with the U.S. position, which they view as throwing Mubarak under the bus.”

We keep hearing about what a dictator Mubarak was.  If he was a dictator, he was a dictator that helped keep the region stable.  He honored the peace treaty with Israel.  He kept the Suez Canal open to navigation.  He supported us during Desert Storm.  He was on our side during Iraqi Freedom.  He has a secular government that has repressed radical Islam.  Yeah, we’re giving him a boatload of foreign aid, and there’s poverty and unemployment throughout Egypt, but to throw him under the bus?  We should be more careful in what we wish for.

In talks with American counterparts in Washington Thursday, top Israeli officials accompanying Defense Minister Ehud Barak made a similar case, warning that the upheaval could be the start of a broader “earthquake” that could sweep the region, said officials briefed on the exchange.

They questioned Washington’s wisdom in appearing to push for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster and whether the military can keep chaos and Islamist forces at bay, a participant said.

Israeli officials also told the U.S. Thursday that right-wing parties in Israel could gain strength in future Israeli elections as a result, complicating efforts to advance peace talks with Palestinians.

Mubarak was an ally.  Israel is an Ally.  The Palestinians?  Not quite an ally.  And yet we choose a course of action that hurts an ally.  And possibly benefits the nation who perhaps is not best aligned with American interests.  Funny.  Not in a ha ha way.  But in a puzzling, confusing way.

One of the biggest questions facing the administration is the future role of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Mr. Clapper, on Capitol Hill, muddied the picture when he called the group “largely secular,” despite long-standing U.S. concerns about its Islamist roots and ties to extremism.

Mr. Clapper’s spokeswoman, Jamie Smith, later issued a clarification, citing the Brotherhood’s efforts to work through Egypt’s political system. Mr. Clapper “is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.”

Oh, this doesn’t help.  Calling a group with a religion in its name secular.  Not only have we thrown an ally under the buss, but we’ve made ourselves look clueless at the highest levels of government.  If the Muslim Brotherhood takes power in Egypt, Egypt will become more like Iran than Egypt.  And if you haven’t been keeping score, that’s the worst possible outcome of this Egyptian crisis.

Our Allies Worry, our Enemies Jubilant

And how are our other allies in the region taking this?  They’re not exactly whistling a happy tune (see Neighbors Rattled by Egypt Shift by Angus McDowall, Richard Boudreaux and Joel Millman posted 2/11/2011 on The Wall Street Journal).

The resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Friday rattled regional allies and foes alike, threatening a decades long balance of power in the Mideast and putting Saudi Arabia and Israel, in particular, on the defensive.

Our two strongest allies in the area are now on the defensive.  That doesn’t sound like they were all for the removal of the stabilizing Mubarak.  How about a terrorist group in the region?  How do they feel?

Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite Muslim political and militant group, issued a statement of congratulations to Egypt. Mr. Mubarak has long battled to curb the influence of Hezbollah’s key sponsor, Iran. Celebratory gunfire broke out in some neighborhoods of Lebanon’s capital, Beirut. Cars honked their horns and people waved victory signs.

That doesn’t sound good.  Our friends feel threatened.  And those who aren’t friendly with us are celebratory.  It looks like we just strengthened Iran’s client in the area.  And how about Iran itself?

Iranian officials have been gloating over the turmoil in Egypt for weeks, comparing it to the Islamic revolution that toppled the shah more than 30 years ago. On Friday, Iran’s national news agency IRNA ran headlines including “Egypt is Without a Pharaoh” and “The Great Victory of the Egyptian People.”

“We congratulate the great nation of Egypt on this victory and we share their happiness,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said in a statement on Friday.

Oh, that is not good at all.  Iran and Egypt were not friends.  Now Iran likes what’s happening in Egypt.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why.  Their client, Hezbollah, was sandwiched between our two allies in the Gaza Strip.  Israel on the north and east.  And Egypt in the south.  No doubt Iran is looking at the possibilities in the Gaza Strip now that their old nemesis is gone.  Elsewhere?

In Amman, the capital of Jordan, and in the Palestinian West Bank, fireworks and honking horns also greeted the announcement. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip set off fireworks and shot firearms into the air to celebrate. Mr. Mubarak’s regime is widely blamed there for cooperating with Israel to isolate the enclave since it came under the rule of the Islamist movement Hamas nearly five years ago.

And this is even worse.  Should Jordan follow the way of Egypt, Israel will be surrounded by the most hostile of peoples.  This could lead to a huge disabling force in the Middle East.  Israel will never see peace.  And neither will Iraq.  All our blood and treasure spent in Iraq could be for naught.  And this will cause trouble with one of our most stalwart allies in the region.  Saudi Arabia. 

Mr. Mubarak’s departure represents a significant diplomatic setback for Riyadh. Egypt and Saudi Arabia has collaborated to counter what they see as growing Iranian influence in the region and also against al Qaeda.

“Saudi Arabia has lost a loyal ally today,” said Madawi al-Rasheed, professor of social anthropology of Kings College, London.

Saudi Arabia has been in a very difficult position.  Their large Wahhabi sect has been a major funding source for al Qaeda.  The Wahhabis, Sunnis, don’t like the House of Saud because they’re too Western.  But the Saudis had been reluctant to crack down on them for their al Qaeda funding lest it sparked civil unrest in the kingdom.  But they hate each other.  Make no bones about it.  But they tolerate each other.  Because of their mutual hatred of someone else.  Shiite Iran.   The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  To a certain extent.  Our invasion of Iraq forced the Saudis to crack down on that al Qaeda funding.  Because they would rather suffer a little civil unrest in their kingdom than see Shiite Iran filling the power void in a Saddam Hussein-less Iraq.

Now they, and a large percentage of the world’s oil reserves, are at risk.  Which brings us back to that earlier question.  Did we back the right horse in Egypt?

Mum’s the word on the Iranian Dictatorship

The name that keeps coming up in all of this is Iran.  They’re the great destabilizing force in the Middle East.  They hate us.  And have been our enemy since the Iranian Revolution in 1979 during the Carter administration.  They’re working on a nuclear weapons program.  They have vowed to incinerate Israel.  If we support the overthrow of any regime it should be the Iranian regime.  But when they take to the streets, we’re surprisingly mute (see Iranian opposition leader under house arrest after protests call by Saeed Kamali Dehghan posted 2/10/2011 on guardian.co.uk).

Iran has put opposition leader Mehdi Karroubi under house arrest after he called for renewed street protests against the government, his son told the Guardian.

The move came after thousands of Iranians sympathetic to the opposition green movement joined social networking websites to promote demonstrations on Monday in solidarity with protesters in Egypt and Tunisia.

For some reason, the Obama administration is all for democracy movements when they take place in nations friendly to the United States.  But not in our enemies.  Even when they have a worst record of human rights abuses.  And have committed the same acts of oppression the Egyptians have.

At the same time, opposition websites reported a series of arrests of political activists and journalists as the regime struggles to prevent the news of the planned protest from spreading.

Access to the blogging site WordPress was blocked and internet download speeds appeared to have been reduced.

Arresting political activists?  Shutting down social media?  Where’s the outcry like there was over Egypt?

The Revolutionary Guards, the regime’s most powerful military force, have warned against any protest. Commander Hossein Hamedani told Iran’s IRNA state news agency that the they consider the opposition leaders as “anti-revolutionary and spies and will strongly confront them”.

“The seditionists [opposition leaders] are nothing but a dead corpse and we will strongly confront any of their movements,” he said.

A threat by the most powerful military force?  Where’s the outrage?  Egypt didn’t do this and yet we demanded that the great dictator step down from power.  But Iran can oppress their people without a comment from the Obama administration.  Why?

Nice Guys Finish Last in the Middle East

It would appear that this is an extension of the apology tour.  Our foreign policy strategy appears to be this.  Be nice at all costs to our enemies.  So they will stop hating us.  Don’t flex our strength.  Roll over and show them our soft underbelly to show how willing we are to trust them. 

The problem is that they don’t respect weakness.  They just see weakness as room for them to maneuver.  To get more of what they want.  By making us give up more of our vital national security interests.  And we’re seeing that play out in the Middle East.  One ally is out of power.  And an enemy expands their reach.  All the while working on a nuclear bomb.

It’s times like this you miss a Ronald Reagan.  Or a George W. Bush.  Or one of the other grownups we had in office.  Someone who isn’t naive and easily fooled.  Someone our enemies hated.  But respected.

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