Archive for the 'Egypt' Category



When All Your Friends Are Authoritarians: Obama “Ratchets Up” Pressure On Egypt

BY Glen Tschirgi
8 years, 1 month ago

Poor Obama.  This just isn’t what he signed up for when he decided that the World needed him to heal the planet and slow the rise of the oceans.

All those pesky, little people, yearning to be free.  They just keep fouling up his Plan to make the World love him, er,  America, again.

Every time Obama finds a nice authoritarian that he can work with, those darn democracy types throw the guy out or at least threaten to do so.  In Tunisia, for example, the ambassador sent by Obama as the point man for U.S. policy there, had many fond things to say in 2010 about the now-defunct authoritarian regime.

Now comes this Reuters article by Matt Spetalnick and David Alexander, “Obama Ratchets Up Pressure On Egypt,” to further highlight what a tough time Obama is having with the protests against his buddy Mubarak in Egypt.

President Barack Obama called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Thursday to make “absolutely critical” political reforms, ratcheting up pressure on a key U.S. ally in the face of street protests seeking his ouster.

Weighing in for the first time after three days of Egyptian unrest, Obama was careful to avoid any sign of abandoning Mubarak but made clear his sympathy for demonstrators he said were expressing “pent-up frustrations” after decades of authoritarian rule.

Yes, one can imagine that after “decades” of authoritarian rule the people might have some “pent up frustrations.”  What kind of tongue-lashing did Mubarak get, exactly?

“I’ve always said to him that making sure that they are moving forward on reform — political reform, economic reform — is absolutely critical for the long-term well-being of Egypt,” Obama said as he answered questions from an online audience on the YouTube website.

Whoa!   That’s mighty strong talk, Mr. President.  Too bad Obama was not around in the 1970’s.   He might have said the same thing to Brezhnev after decades of authoritarian rule in Eastern Europe and saved the U.S.S.R. the trouble of collapsing on itself.  Talk about healing the planet!

Be careful, Hosni.  Barack might not send you a birthday present this year.   (Sadly, you will not be getting that bust of Winston Churchill that he was dying to unload).

How has that steady pressure by Obama worked out? According to the Reuter’s article:

Mubarak has rarely heeded U.S. pressure before over his government’s behavior, and it remains to be seen whether tougher language will translate into anything of substance.

Not fair, that.  Obama is trying to give Mubarak some tough love, but sometimes you just have to let a strong ruler figure things out on their own.

Then there is this:

U.S. influence at the street level in Egypt and the rest of the Arab world is also minimal. Anti-American sentiment remains high despite Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world and his efforts to ease hostility toward Washington generated by his predecessor George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

The administration is also hemmed in by its desire to avoid the impression of further U.S. interference in the region. Bush’s “freedom agenda” was widely reviled in the Arab world.

What???

That pesky “Arab street” again.   How could they have resisted the prophetic magic of the Great Orator’s 2009 speech?  Hasn’t Obama won them over with his teleprompter turn-of-phrase and smooth delivery?  According to the Reuters article, not so much.

Next we read that the “administration is hemmed in” because it cannot afford to be seen as interfering in authoritarian’s business.   Yes, that would be bad.   Afterall, the article notes, everyone knows that “Bush’s ‘freedom agenda’ was widely reviled in the Arab world.”

Funny thing about that, though.  Widely reviled?  Perhaps Spetalnick and Alexander suffer from a common ailment of the Left: revisionist memory syndrome.  Despite the undeniable unpopularity of the 2003 Iraq invasion, those pesky Arab people were surprisingly supportive of that Bush “freedom agenda.”

Strange, the average Arab seemed to strongly support democracy even while disapproving of U.S. “interference” in the region.   That darn Bush again!  He was just not sophisticated enough to realize that Arabs won’t support freedom if you interfere.

An excellent piece by Larry Diamond of Stanford University’s Hoover Institution is well worth a read in this regard.   Mr. Diamond has the audacity to suggest that more interference, not less, is the way to inspire greater democracy in the authoritarian Middle East.

Sadly, it seems that Obama, like much of the Left, is far more comfortable with authoritarianism than with the messy apparatus of democracy.  Time and again, the Obama Administration has failed to strongly condemn even the most brutal authoritarian regimes like Iran.

Why?  Ultimately it may be due to a basic worldview where it is far easier, in Obama’s mind, to effect change through one, strong, all-powerful ruler, than through persuasion of large groups of independent-minded people.  This is Obama’s approach, in general, to domestic policy as well.  He strongly favors Big Government solutions and is not afraid to act unilaterally (such as the FCC net-neutrality and EPA carbon emission rules) where Congress refuses to go along quietly.   It has been widely noted that Obama has a disturbing tendency to make himself the focus of everything he says or does.

In short, Obama treats authoritarians like Mubarak and Ahmadinejad with kid gloves because he has a natural affinity with them coupled with a deep fear of popular sentiment (see Tea Party movement, Obamacare opposition, reduction of Federal spending).

Not only does this not bode well for the cause of freedom in the Middle East, but we can expect more authoritarian reactions from Obama here in the U.S. as the Republican-controlled House increasingly resists his Big Government agenda.

What the USS San Antonio Can Teach Us About Iran

BY Herschel Smith
10 years, 1 month ago

The Amphibious Dock USS San Antonio has something to teach us about Iran and its intentions.

But before learning from the USS San Antonio, a framework must be constructed within which to view this information.  David Ignatius authored an article for the Washington Post on the A-Team for Iran.  Ignatius likes Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft because of their ability to help American foreign policy “turn a page,” so to speak.  Ignatius asks the two how they would begin negotiations with Iran.

Scowcroft replied that his brief to the Iranians would begin this way: “First, that we’re aware you live in a dangerous region, and we’re prepared to discuss a regional security framework. . . . Second, whether or not you want nuclear weapons, you’re proceeding on a course that psychologically destabilizes the whole region. It is dangerous. It will bring about a counterreaction. And let’s work on this security framework. You don’t need nuclear weapons.”

Brzezinski said he agreed and added: “The only way we can accomplish [mutual security] is by sitting together and figuring out some mechanism whereby you achieve what you say you want, which is a peaceful nuclear program, and we achieve what we need, which is a real sense of security that it’s not going to go any further.”

The obvious but unstated presupposition is that Iran is pursuing a nuclear program, and indeed, behaves as it does, because of its fear and need for survival, or in their own words, “mutual security” in a dangerous region.  That no nation has threatened them, and that no nation in the region would even be able seriously to threaten them, doesn’t weigh in on the axiom.  It is simply irreducible, the notion that Iran would live in peace with its neighbors if only it could assure its own security.

All mathematics and in fact all philosophy begins with presuppositions, propositions that are unproven because they cannot be proven.  But the investigation doesn’t end here.  When a system of thought based on these presuppositions yields conclusions, results, observations and consequences that are radically inconsistent with what would be expected given the presuppositions, then something is wrong with the starting point.  Under these conditions, one must be willing to relinquish his presuppositions.

That Iranian weapons, special groups, IRG, Quds and other rogue forces supported by Iran (Ansar al Sunna) created havoc inside of Iraq hasn’t been enough to convince the two A-Team members that Iran doesn’t intend on having peace in the region.  Neither, for that matter, does the fact that General Petraeus had to appeal to Iranian General Qassem Suleimani to stop the shelling of the Green Zone in the summer of 2008 (at which point it stopped) convince the A-Team that their ideas of a docile Persia just may not be panning out.

But this unwillingness to revisit presuppositions isn’t baggage carried by the Arab states.  In fact, the Arab states never started with these ideas.  They are uniquely Western.  With Iran’s push towards going nuclear, the balance of the Middle East is thinking the same way, and not because they need the energy.

The outstanding Middle East journalist Michael Totten has an important article on how the Sunni Arabs see Iran, and the role Israel is playing in regional resistance.

Most Arab governments, aside from Syria’s and possibly Qatar’s, are far more worried about Iranian regional dominance than they are about anything coming out of Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. They know perfectly well that the State of Israel is not going to undermine or overthrow them, while radical Iranian-sponsored Islamists just might.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia are threatening Iran with a nuclear arms race. Surely they weren’t happy when Israel developed nuclear weapons, but they never retaliated with programs of their own. Bombastic anti-Zionist rhetoric to the contrary, they know Israel isn’t really a threat. Nor are they a serious threat to Israel anymore.

While the Arab states fear for their very existence, the A-Team wants to convince the radical Mullahs that they aren’t in any danger.  They wish to tell the regime that it doesn’t need nuclear weapons for its defense, while the regime has flatly told them that negotiations and dialogue will only succeed if the U.S. accepts the Iranian nuclear program.  It isn’t just the evidence of Iraq, Hezbollah, Hamas, trouble in Iraq, and threats against the state of Israel that is available to convince the A-Team that they must revisit their fundamental axioms about Iran.  In fact, it’s not even the conservatives in America (who have mostly given up).  The Iranian regime itself is trying to convince the U.S. that what they believe about Iran is fundamentally wrong by dictating a starting point for negotiations that ensures that the end game is diametrically opposed to what the U.S. wishes.

And now to the USS San Antonio.

The U.S. Navy has assigned an amphibious transport dock ship, the USS San Antonio, to track Iranian weapons shipments to the Gaza Strip.

Officials said the San Antonio, flagship of Combined Task Force 151, intercepted and searched an Iranian-owned cargo ship in mid-January found to contain artillery, missiles and rockets. The ship was released and expected to arrive in Syria on Jan. 28.

Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the weapons ship intercepted in the Red Sea was determined to have been destined for Syria, a leading supplier of Hamas and Hizbullah. Mullen said the United States could not legally hold the Cypriot-flagged ship, owned by Iran.

“The United States did as much as we could do legally,” Mullen told a briefing on Jan. 27.

“There are authorities, limitations in complying with this particular UN resolution, and we basically went right up to the edge of that and we couldn’t do anything else. And we think those weapons are headed to Syria, which is obviously not a great outcome …shipping weapons to Syria that we think, quite frankly, are going to end up in Gaza.”

We learn many things about our own struggle with lawfare versus warfare with this example.  But saving this for another time, the U.S. has interdicted a ship bound for Syria with artillery, missiles and rockets.  Whether these weapons end up with Hezbollah or Hamas is not relevant.  They will end up destabilizing the region over nation-states which are not a threat to its own existence.  The weapons will end up contributing to the regional hegemony that Iran has pursued for twenty five years.

While the A-Team is confused about presuppositions, they don’t hold the exclusive right to dreary stubbornness regarding Persian intentions.  This has been going on for twenty five years now, and thus, the same page that has been read for twenty five years is being recited once again.


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