Obama's administration has now said that Mursi's government was not "democratic" in its actions. It also is releasing four jet fighter aircraft purchased by Egypt for delivery. I suppose this means that the Saudis and the UAE have "put in the boot." Israel would share their opinion that the MB version of Islamism is an enemy. SA and the UAE have pledged 12 billion in economic aid for Egypt. Who are the geniuses, educated in political science, who advised Obama in this matter.
And then, there is Syria, where Russia, rather than relying on IO lies actually collected samples on the groiund and decided that the rebels had used Sarin in the war. Why did the rebels do that? They probably wanted to try to "pin the tail" on the Syrian government and the US government helped them by lying and exagerating rebel propaganda.
Who will pay for these crimes? pl
IMO [not counting for much here due to lack of expertise on FA and IC] the question for history this day forwards is whether George W. Bush will be arguably the last Republican President and Barack H. Obama, the last Democratic one.
This references the party affiliations of GWB and BHO not some political science category. So Why IMO?
The politics of the 20th Century for the USA were largely marked by the impact of foreign wars although almost all the Presidents except Nixon were elected on their actual or proposed domestic agenda. Both Wilson (who is the subject of what may be a superb biography to be released latter this summer and FDR promised no American boys were to be fighting in Europe as of the elections of 1916 and 1940.
Nixon of course had a secret plan to end the American intervention in Viet Nam. And Eisenhower pledged to go to Korea.
Again while IMO the wealth and dynamism of the American economy have largely been frittered away by corrupt politicians and financial “experts” who have killed the golden goose the military industrial academic complex has readily and greedily assisted.
It would be hard to get an accurate assessment of which party does best domestically and in FP. The tragedy of the ego, and hubris, and almost total ignorance of MENA and its cultures and peoples and languages and religions certainly would come as a shock to any unbiased review. And of course I put myself at the top of the list of those accused above because I became totally focused on Asia after Viet Nam and missed MENA completely. 9/11 cured that illness.
I have written that in American history most political realignments on the grand scale meaning nationally take about 30 years to accomplish. This may not be accurate but it is my opinion. I thought the Presidential election of 1992 was the beginning and either Clinton or Bush would begin destruction of their own party. I missed totally the significance of Perot who seems to have ensured Clinton’s victory. There is no doubt in my mind that Clinton was really counting on 1996 to be elected and was somewhat surprised by his win in 1992. So by 2020 election the vision of new parties will may be seen over the horizon.
So in my view PL both parties will pay for their crimes in MENA and elsewhere. Perhaps am wrong. Individuals will probably get home free!
Um, I guess the disillusionment with Obama’s ME policies is that most every imitative and/or response to events seems to have been bungled.
On the other hand, and however little credit goes to Obama, the Muslim Brotherhood has been both removed from power in Egypt, and also discredited as a competent political entity. Nice combo. In addition, the most aggressive of the Islamist radicals have been lured into the meat grinder that is Syria. No tears about that. And icing on the cake, Netanyahu got told to stuff it. The impetus for bombing Iran seems to have gone away for the time being. Too bad these aren’t the things we were actually trying to accomplish.
The historical point that most advocates of democracy in the ME seem to forget, is that we ourselves did not start out with universal suffrage. We worked up to it over a considerable period of time. Maybe that is not such a bad way to go about it.
OT:Another dual-national nominated as the Ambassador of Israel to the US ( after Oren)
Dennis Ross is a happy camper.
You don’t understand that political Islamists are committed to the exclusion of democratic life from a possible future in which free will forms the basis of human existence. In the minds of people like the MB and other political Islamists, human free will counts for nothing and always will. Only their conception of God’s will matters and always will. pl
Is there any law or regulation requiring USA diplomats to not have dual citizenship?
In over 30 years of having a personnel security clearance under 5 CFR I never remember being asked whether I was a dual citizen but only if I was a citizen of the USA!
Not what I meant at all.
I am suggesting that the penchant of Neocons in the Bush and Obama administrations to push for democracy in the ME is too aggressive. They might be better advised to advocate democracy which initially enfranchises the upper and upper middle classes and let them work their own way towards universal suffrage. I don’t think for a moment that an electorate composed of land-owning Egyptians would touch the likes of Mursi with a 10 foot pole.
Col: If we had real jounalists in D.C. someone would ask POTUS about the rebels crossing his “red line.”
The problem with that is that there is not enough land in Egypt to have a “land owning electorate.” pl
If this spreads to other regions of Syria the rebellion’s chance of succes just dropped considerably.
“Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, a hardline Islamist group, killed Kamal Hamami of the FSA Supreme Military Council on Thursday. Also known by his nom de guerre, Abu Bassir al-Ladkani, he is one of its top 30 figures.
Rebel commanders pledged to retaliate.”
Oh yes, that’d be interesting. Off the top of mny head I propose these sets of questions:
0: “Are syrian rebels syrian rebels when they hail from places like Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia or Qatar?”
1: “Did syrian rebels cross a US red line when they cooked Sarin, used it and tried to pin its use on Assad? And why did you take their assertions at face value in face of their obvious interest to drag the US into the conflict? In light of the remarkable incuriousity on display – did the US administration want to be dragged in?”
2: “Did syrian rebels cross a US red line when they drive away Christian populations out of the territories they control? Did they cross a US red line when they murdered Father Murad?”
3. “Do syrian rebels cross a US red line when they cut people’s heads off, record it and then post the clips on Youtube? Do syrian rebels of the heart/lung eating kind cross a US red line, if not on grounds of their depraved brutality, perhaps on grounds of being profoundly gross?
4: “Do syrian rebels cross a US red line when they turn out to be Al Qaeda linked – i.e. people the US has been fighting in Iraq and is still fighting in Afghanistan? Is that an expression of cluelessness or unexpected magnamity?”
“POLITICAL ISLAM” – REALLY ON THE ROPES?
The overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Cairo has stirred speculation as to what it impends for politics across the Middle East. Washington’s commentariat is especially enamored with the notion that “political Islam” is dead – or fatally injured, or on its way to the dustbin of history, or something of the sort. This is understandable. Since 9/11 the United States has been at war with radical Islamist movements that are viewed as either the agents of terrorism or its enablers and incubators. Distinctions have been made among various types of political groupings, usually on a rough-and-ready basis, but there is an obvious discomfort with nearly all of them. Only the long-standing strategic partners like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies are in the comfort zone of American policy-makers – this despite the dubious role of the Saudis in particular in bankrolling fundamentalism throughout the region.
So now that the MB has been usurped by a popular movement, and its cadres brutally repressed by the Egyptian army, foreign policy analysts are joyously anticipating that the wave of Islamist political theology that has been the hallmark of recent Middle East politics has broken and a strong ebb tide about to disperse its energy into less turbulent seas. It is true of course that the Obama administration itself has harbored the hope that Egypt would be the laboratory for a successful experiment in reconciling Islamism with democracy. It has invested considerable political capital in the bet that it would join with Turkey as models for other Muslim societies. Still, that has been recognized as a risky gamble. Instinct has always been generally pessimistic. And certainly the country’s political class overall has found it a strain to imagine any Islamist forces in a positive light. These latter attitudes are clearly evident in the premature celebration of “political Islam’s” demise.
Wishful thinking on this score is encouraged by the failure to define exactly what is meant by “political Islam.” Nominally, the term refers to all and any groupings that cultivate a collective identity associated with the religion. This simplistic formulation does not carry us very far if we are interested in a serious assessment of what the future actually holds. So broadly conceived, it covers everything from Erdogen’s Development and Justice Party in Turkey to al-Qaida. Moreover, the place of religion in the organized political life of other civilizations reveals an even wider range of possibilities. Think of Christian democracy in Europe, the role of the Catholic church in Latin American and parts of sub-Saharan Africa – and, not least, the revived Christian Right in the United States itself. Beyond Christendom, we also note Hindu nationalism in India that spawned a ruling coalition; monk-led Buddhist activism in Thailand and Burma; and rampant Judaic fundamentalism in Israel that has a stranglehold on Israeli politics..
Islam remains somewhat special, though. It evokes stronger emotions and more powerful imagery linked to violence – actual or perceived – directed at Americans. As somebody has said: “all fear is local.” Dread and anxiety stifle critical thinking. We currently are seeing that phenomenon manifest in the hasty conclusion that “political Islam is dead.”
Let’s look at the multiple forms of Islamic political groupings as the first step toward a rough assessment of what their place and influence may be. At the far fundamentalist end of the continuum are the salafist formations. They include al-Nour in Egypt, al-Nousr in Syria, Ansar al-Shariah in Libya and Tunisia, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) in the Sahel, al-Shabab in Somalia, the Islamic salvation Front in Algeria, al-Watan in Libya, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and several groups of less prominence. None of the major ones appears to be on a downward trajectory; some in fact will benefit from the righteous indignation many practicing Muslims feel about the Brotherhood’s treatment at the hands of secularists. Moreover, the Muslim Brotherhood itself retains unique influence across the region as the fountainhead of Islamist ideology and organizational support. Its affiliates operate inter alia in Libya, Syria, Jordan and Tunisia. A further likely effect will be the radicalization of those groups and off-shoots of related parties that do not now include violence in their repertoire. Other violent salafist movements are al-Qaidi affiliated – as in the Sinai, Syria and Iraq – and will find fresh recruiting opportunities opened to them. Signs of that phenomenon already is discernible.
We should remember, in this regard, the empirical correlation between free elections and the rise of Islamist forces. In those countries where they enjoy wide popular support, as has been the case in Egypt and in Tunisia (to a lesser extent), they are well positioned to use the ballot to gain legitimacy while reaching for the levers of state power. We can expect the same pattern to occur wherever popular pressure for representative democracy attains a critical threshold, albeit and paradoxically the pressure usually being generated by secular, liberal elements.
A second category covers those avowedly Islamist parties that have embraced electoral democracy. The outstanding example is Turkey’s Development and Justice Party. While it has infringed on some civil liberties, especially freedom of expression and assembly, it has not called into question fundamental constitutional principles. One can also place in this category Tunisia’s el-Ennahda Party – although its long-term commitment is suspect, Morocco’s successful Justice and Development Party, Algeria’s Movement for a Peaceful Society (MSP), Yemen’s Islah and the Rashad Union. The existence of governing parties in particular has a two-fold significance. On the one hand, they may serve as models of “moderate” Islamist activism that leads to democratically determined power and competent governance. On the other, they could serve to lend credibility and impetus to Islamist political forces generally. Electoral success may also give incentive to non-Islamist parties to adopt elements of the
Islamist program. Whether such a development would be a good or bad thing for the societies involved is not for us to say. It could create a reality, though, where “political Islam” is alive and kicking. In addition, Islamist or Islamist-tinged governments are likely to be relatively more sensitive to concerns of fellow states and co-religionists elsewhere. This last has implications for issues like Palestine.
More acute awareness of developments across the Islamic ummah may have the pernicious effect of intensifying, and internationalizing, the sectarian tensions/conflicts between sunnis and shi’ites. One cannot talk of political Islam without due regard to the ensuing passions and deepening sense of collective religious identities. Taking sides – vicariously or literally – means taking that collective, parochial religious identity more seriously; greater saliency of that identity in turn points to a heightening of tensions in a high stakes competition at the very core of the Islamic world.
That brings us to Iran. Some commentators quickly have jumped to the cavalier conclusion that the Muslim brotherhood’s inglorious setback in Egypt is part of a wider phenomenon that includes Iran. Supposedly, the ruling mullahs will be dispirited by the Brotherhood’s frustrated attempt to turn Egypt into a sharia society. Basic differences of theology, tradition, and experience are slighted. Iran – Persian, cynosure of shi’ism and heir to a great historical tradition – will not see its fate determined by transitory events along the Nile. That political fate cannot be predicted. However, there is no compelling reason to presume that the current regime will collapse due to massive popular disaffection and economic afflictions. The recent presidential election of Hassan Ruhani suggests that evolution is far more likely than a sudden and sharp political rupture. Of course, that prospect discomforts many in the West, especially Washington, who cannot hide their wish to see the Islamic Republic disappear as soon as possible. Sanctions and isolation, the very sources of many current Iranian woes, are the means to that end. Instead, their effects probably have been to slow the evolutionary process. The end product of that evolution, in any case, will not be an Iran modeled on Westwood or Tel Aviv.
The discussion to this point has made no direct reference to the Muslims of South Asia. Yet, 65% of the world’s Muslims live there and not in the greater Middle East. This neglect stems from several causes – not least of which are lower stakes, the absence of the Israel factor, the absence of oil, and the even greater ignorance of both policy-makers and commentators. When we do look at Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and India, the rising importance of Islam as a political factor stands out. In the first two, democratic institutions and practices (imperfect but well rooted) are being directly challenged by Islamist parties at the ballot box, in the streets and through violent acts. Indonesia is experiencing an extensive process of cultural and social Islamicization as its traditional easy-going version of Islam is being reshaped by aggressive fundamentalist movements of various stripes – some financed by Saudi Arabia, some with jihadist tendencies. A similar intensification is evident in always more orthodox Malaysia. As for India’s Muslim minority of 160 million, it to date has been only marginally affected by the fundamentalist wave but its future orientation is uncertain. The odd state of affairs there means that in the country with the world’s third largest Muslim population, they are a small minority of about 12%. They do not vote as an unitary bloc but they are courted on a communal basis by most national parties – the Hindu nationalist BJP an obvious exception.
The broad stroke picture of Islamist political parties across the Muslim world highlights the striking strengthening of their presence and influence over the past twenty years. It represents a multifaceted phenomenon of historic proportions whose current importance and lasting effects cannot be vitiated by events in any one place. Moreover, the range and variety of Islamist movements belies any attempt at facile generalizations. So, it is discouraging to see highly visible commentaries by widely read persons of supposed knowledge and foreign policy experience issuing pronouncements that reveal more ignorance than insight. Their presence on the Op Ed page of the august New York Times – among other publications – magnifies the consequences of their intellectual shortcomings. The last thing our already impoverished foreign policy discourse needs is a bevy of pieces that suggest Junior Scholastic with attitude.
Even more disturbing is the staccato stream of public statements from our leaders in Washington that appear to be based on analysis and interpretation pitched at a level disconcertingly close to that at which so much of the commentariat operates.
Kind of reminds you of the Orcs fighting each other in the tower in LOR’s Return Of The King!
On a more serious note, possibly one group now easier to “vett”. Many previous reports have recruits flowing to Al Nusra et al because they have the reputation of being most effective. If more secular FSA who are at odds with Quaida types are far better armed and increasingly effective, perhaps the human tide flows the other way. Long term however, this will be a fight to the finish. SAA hands must be a clappin right now.
More reasons to send weapons to Syria:
Pakistan Taliban ‘sets up a base in Syria’
It is not only that they set up a base. The white flag the Taliban use has also be raised at the Turkish Syrian border.
It is gigantic – some 12 times 6 meters:
From a Tafkiri point of view these ‘secular’ FSA goons probably are not any different than Assad’s forces – they are heathen all the same.
I read that Mitt Romney, in his patriachal way, once told a Mormon supporter – a single mother – that, for being a single mother, she was ‘not his kind of Mormon’.
In sharp contrast, not being a Tafiri’s kind of Muslim can be lethal, because that probably means he sees you as an apostate. To them, there are true believers (them) and then there are nonbelievers (the rest).
I found this categorization used by the Syrian president Assad helpful:
In an interview published by Syrian daily, al-Baath, Assad said what he had meant by the term of “Political Islam” are those parties which take advantage of religion.
The Brotherhood “takes advantage of religion and uses it as a mask… and it thinks that if you don’t agree with it politically, that means you don’t stand by God”, said Assad.
He pointed out that “this is not the case with Iran and Hezbollah,” he added.
Hezbollah “does not judge people based on religion or sect, but rather on patriotism and politics,” said Assad.
One must “distinguish between those who use religion for the benefit of a few, and those who use religion to defend causes that are just and right,” the Syrian leader said.
That is the average size that one sees all over Texas of the Stars & Stripes flying from used car lots, ecumenical TacoDelis, hot sheet motels, and all public buildings. Of course, here they have to compete with Republic of Texas flags of equal size. I guess we’re on a par with the Taliban when it comes to shaky status identity.
“I hate bungling as I do sin, but particularly bungling in politics, which leads to the misery and ruin of many thousands and millions of people.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Betrug war Alles, Lug, und Schein.”
— All was deception, a lie, and illusion.
Not just “O” [specifically], I believe ALL the Actors involved in the mena bungled AND lied.
In speaking with Syrian Christians clergy -( I think they are Coptic Elders) part of a small but growing diaspora in Central Texas- I am told first hand that Hezbollah is defending Christian Peoples & Sites from the al Nusra.
That’s one of the things I can’t wrap my head around.
So Hezbollah, perhaps as a result of being a majority party assigned minority status in the Lebanese constitution, respects and even enforces religious toleration in Lebanon and beyond? Them being Shiites certainly makes them a minority in the larger middle East.
They probably have come to the conclusion that the minorities are their only possible allies in that sea of Sunnis. I have always understood Iranian foreign policy to be emphasising making friends and deepening existing ties in face of hostile neighbours. Hezbollah protecting Christians is not just morally just, it is also making perhaps friends and allies. It is smart from a utilitarian point of view and it is also wise, as far as policy goes.
It is apparently also in line with a general Shiite tendency of toleration, if one looks ate the rather unmolested minorities in Iran – be they Jews, Yazidies or Zoroastrians.
That sort of culture is notable by its absence in the Sunni countries. I think it is lunacy that the US have adopted a policy of empowering what I see as Sunni triumphalism.
The US public is totally indifferent to this sort of realities on the ground. As far as Hezbollah is concerned, the Israeli narrative of them being terrorists dominates – and if they say so then Hezbollah is an enemy of the US also. Inane. And on the political level nobody bothers taking realities into account that run counter than narrative, be that out of timidity or being uninformed.
IMO the US and Iran would be natural allies against the Jihadis, considering that in fact they share interests. The only thing that prevents that reality from changing policy is the foolish Israeli insistence that nobody in the region must be able to stand up to them, and if a country is able, it must be destroyed.
If Sunni Jihadis in syria kill FSA people for being secular – then the only reason why they are not attacking the US or Israel also is that they want to wait with that after they have finished cleaning house and have consolidated power – of course, if the odd hapless US ambassador comes along he’s fair game, after all, grudges held against the US are perhaps on hold – but not forgotten.
That is probably the main difference between them and Al Qaeda, the latter wanted to attack the far enemy – the US, whereas we now see Jihadis attacking near enemies. But that is a difference in tactics, not outlook at the world.
Anybody in the west flirting with the idea to empower these people, and pit them against ‘the Shia crescend’ or some such, ought to be clear about that, and be held accountable for the predictably horrible consequences of such policies.
Seems to me you’ve grasped it pretty well.
What is the comparison between giving the four aircraft to the Egyptian military as opposed to Morsi/MB? That is, isn’t the military our allies; the ones who enforce the peace with Israel, etc.?
Interesting read of the tea-leaves. The only thing I would add is to speculate that Hezbollah’s nature is greatly influenced by their mission as a nationalist militia and their geographical ties to a particular area.
By their very nature they are much more concerned about the temporal consequences of their actions. They are also much less likely to be found operating outside of their own area without being invited to do so.
Yes, I also see Hezbollah as a local player first of all, that sees their task at protecting the Lebanese Shia in Lebanon against the predations of Israel and the various Lebanese players. I can see why they would intervene in Syria in light of the conflict spilling over into Lebanon. If the Jihadis start causing trouble in Lebanon they have every reason to.
With so much on their plate and at stake locally, I find it hard believe the assertions that Hezbollah being active in South America, let alone them being engaged in a plot to kill the Saudi Ambassador, or having conducted other plots in Bulgaria or Buenos Aires.
So why on earth would they do such things? Because they feel they need some more enemies?
Hezbollah appears to be a learning organisation that is meritocratic – two traits that are IMO not typical in the Middle East.
The proponents of their guilt have the easy answer in spite of all that: We can’t understand them because they ‘aren’t rational’, and also, their actions are being determined by Iranian influence, and since they are ‘Iranian proxies’, they do things that would hurt themselves out of sheer evil and/or blind obedience to Tehran. Well, whatever – it doesn’t satisfy me.
Now, of course, with Hezbollah, there is an example next door where in fact a local group has emphasised larger interests over their own, and that I see in Hamas’ move into the Muslim Brotherhood’s camp (were they bought out with Gulf money?).
Events may have forced Hezbollah to do the same, but I would be surprised if they lost sight of their primary interests in such a way. The way they stood up to Israel does not suggest they would do that.