‘We Caved’: How Barack Obama’s Idealistic Rhetoric Collided With the Cold Realities of War and Dictatorship in the Middle East

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The persistent problem of how to deal with American-allied strongmen has long tripped up an inflexible president who boasts of his preference for ‘pragmatic solutions’ over moral purity but has been unable to find much of either in the Middle East.

Michael Crowley writes: On a late July day this past summer, a roar filled the sky over Cairo. It was the sound of Barack Obama’s capitulation to a dictator.

Eight new American fighter jets, freshly delivered from Washington, swooped low over the city, F-16s flying in formation. As they banked hard over the city’s center, they trailed plumes of red, white and black smoke—the colors of the Egyptian flag.

“The rhetoric got way ahead of the policymaking. It … raised expectations that everything was going to change.”

— Michael Posner, who served as Obama’s top State Department official for human rights and democracy in his first term

For Egypt’s brutally repressive president, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the spectacle was a triumph, symbolizing not only his militaristic power at home, but also his victory over an American president who had tried to punish him before surrendering to the cold realities of geopolitics.

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“He’s never quite melded his rhetoric with his policies.”

— Dennis Ross, who served as Obama’s top Middle East aide in his first term

Just two years earlier, Sisi had seized power in a military coup, toppling Mohamed Morsi, the democratically elected successor to Hosni Mubarak, himself a strongman of 30 years pushed out in early 2011 by mass protests in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In the summer of 2013, Sisi followed his coup with a brutal crackdown that would have done Saddam Hussein proud. His security forces arrested thousands of people, including much of his political opposition, and in one bloody day that summer, they gunned down some 1,000 pro-Morsi protesters (or more) who were staging peaceful sit-ins. The massacre was shocking even by the standards of Egypt’s long-dismal human rights record.

“It seems like we are swinging back to the idea that we must make a choice between supporting dictators or being safe.”

— Robert Ford, who was Obama’s ambassador to Syria before resigning in frustration over the president’s policy there

Obama was appalled. “We can’t return to business as usual,” he declared after the slaughter. “We have to be very careful about being seen as aiding and abetting actions that we think run contrary to our values and ideals.”

[Read the full text here, at POLITICO Magazine]

Several weeks later, Obama halted the planned delivery of U.S. military hardware to Cairo, including attack helicopters, Harpoon missiles and several F-16 fighter jets, as well as $260 million in cash transfers. He also cast doubt on the future of America’s $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt—a subsidy on which Cairo depends heavily, and much more than the United States sends to any country in the world aside from Israel.

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But a fierce internal debate soon broke out over whether and how to sanction Egypt further, a fight that many officials told me was one of the most agonizing of the Obama administration’s seven years, as the president’s most powerful advisers spent months engaged in what one called “trench warfare” against each other. It was an excruciating test of how to balance American values with its cold-blooded security interests in an age of terrorism. Some of Obama’s top White House aides, including his deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, and the celebrated human rights champion Samantha Power, now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, urged the president to link further military aid to clear progress by Sisi on human rights and democracy. But Secretary of State John Kerry, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Hagel’s successor, Ash Carter, argued for restoring the aid. Trying to punish Sisi would have little effect on his behavior, they said, while alienating a bulwark against Islamic radicalism in an imploding Middle East. “Egypt was one of the most significant policy divides between the White House and the State Department and the Department of Defense,” says Matthew Spence, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy. Read the rest of this entry »


John Kerry Awarded Historic Rating! Unfortunately, Not the Good Kind: Kerry Rated ‘Worst Secretary of State in 50 Years’

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The Survey of 1,375 U.S. Colleges and Universities was Conducted by Foreign Policy Magazine and the College of William & Mary. John Kerry Came in Dead Last.kerry-phone-2

WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — A new survey of scholars ranks Secretary of State John Kerry dead last in terms of effectiveness in that job over the past 50 years.

“I got beat by James Baker and Madeleine Albright?”

Henry Kissinger was ranked the most effective secretary of state with 32.2% of the vote. He was followed by James Baker, Madeleine Albright, and Hillary Clinton, as judged by a survey of 1,615 international relations scholars.

Kerry received only 0.3% of the votes cast. Read the rest of this entry »


21 Victim Salute: ISIS Beheads Egyptian Christians, Releases Another Snuff Video

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Hasani Gittens reports: The terrorists known as ISIS released a video on Sunday that seems to show the militant group beheading 21 Egyptian Christians kidnapped in Libya.

The Egyptians, dressed in orange jump suits, were beheaded after being forced down on the ground on a beach. An early caption in the video says the location is “Wilayat Tarabulus by the Mediterranean Sea,” which suggests that it was filmed near Tripoli.

“This undeniably means that the group now views Christian populations as not only targets but also part of the bigger ‘Crusader plot,’ not separate from the US-led coalition or aggressors. The group’s message is highly intimidating and it somewhat challenges the Western nations to intervene and save the Christians as it intervened to save the Yazidis and others.”

Each of the victims, who are all male, is paired with a masked, knife-wielding terrorist and, after a brief statement by the ISIS leader, they are all beheaded.

The video is called “A Message signed with blood to the nation of the cross” and was released by the group’s Al-Hayat Media Center, according to Flashpoint Intelligence, a global security firm and NBC News consultant. Read the rest of this entry »


Code Pink Founder Jailed in Egypt, Claims Police Broke Her Arm

MedeaBenjaminAP

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink announced on twitter last night that she had been jailed by Egyptian police as she was on her way leading a group of activists to “Hamas-lead” Gaza traveling via Cairo. This morning she tweeted that the Egyptian Police had broken her arm.

Code Pink had worked with the Muslim Brotherhood to over throw Egypt’s former President Mubarak. The current government of Egypt has declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization after Brotherhood leader Morsi was removed from the presidency. Perhaps that is why Benjamin was detained.

Last night her twitter feed read:

 

(see more of the feed at Breitbart.com) It’s unclear how Benjamin is tweeting with a broken arm, or allowed to tweet at all from her Egyptian jail cell.

Developing….

Read the rest of this entry »


Four Things China Learned From the Arab Spring

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As the Arab Spring enters its third year, events in the region remain fluid. Still, enough time has now passed that some preliminary conclusions can be reached.

Zachary Keck writes:  The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is one institution certainly drawing lessons from the Arab Spring. It is well known that the CCP studies political unrest in other parts of the world in search of lessons it can use to maintain stability at home. The most notable instance of this was the massive study the CCP undertook into the causes of the Soviet Union’s collapse. The lessons the CCP drew from its more than decade-long study into the Soviet bloc have since been incorporated into the curriculum at party schools, and are regularly referred to by senior Chinese officials.

Although the CCP’s study of the Arab Spring won’t be nearly as massive, the events in the Arab world are of significant interest to the party for a number of reasons. The first is simply their size and magnitude. Additionally, in its early days the Arab Spring inspired some Chinese to call for a Jasmine Revolution in China. Although nothing much came from these calls, there were a tense couple of weeks in China that saw the CCP on high alert.

Finally, Chinese leaders should be particularly interested in the Arab Spring simply because it provides an excellent case study. Although the protests seemed to be motivated by similar causes, they quickly diverged in terms of how each government responded, as well as their ultimate outcomes. Thus, the protests offer valuable lessons for how the CCP can maintain power in China. Four points from the Arab Spring seem particularly pertinent:

1)      Get Ahead of Events

The regimes that have best weathered the Arab Spring have gotten ahead of events on the ground. At the first sight of unrest in Egypt, Saudi Arabia sought to preempt protests by significantly increasing subsides. The Gulf Cooperation Council contained unrest in Bahrain by using overwhelming force to smother the then-nascent protests. Only after order had been restored did the government begin offering small concessions. In other countries like Morocco and Jordan, governments quickly appeased protesters by offering at least cosmetic concessions, such as removing especially unpopular leaders. The new Chinese leadership seems to be pursuing a similar course by initiating highly publicized anti-graft and mass line campaigns that are partly aimed at reducing public anger over the party’s excesses.

Read the rest of this entry »


‘Schizophrenic’ US foreign policy pushing Arab states toward Russia, Bahrain warns

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Obama administration’s stance on Iran and Syria could see US lose influence in the Middle East, Bahrain’s rulers warn

America’s “schizophrenic” approach to the Middle East could result in many key Arab states deciding to align themselves more closely with Russia, the rulers of Bahrain warned on Sunday.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, warned that Barack Obama’s administration would lose influence in the region if it persisted with what a “transient and reactive” foreign policy.

There has been a sharp rise in tensions between Washington and several major Arab states in the wake of last month’s controversial interim agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme.

Citing President Obama’s handling of the recent crisis over Syria’s chemical weapons, which allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to seize the initiative, Sheikh Salman said some states were now seriously reviewing their relations with the US.

“The Russians have proved they are reliable friends,” said Sheikh Salman, referring to Mr Putin’s diplomatic intervention to prevent Western military action against Bashar al-Assad.

Read the rest of this entry »


Chill: Egypt’s Military-Backed Government Issues Law Criminalizing Street Protests

A demonstration on Sunday marked 100 days since the mass killing at Rabaa al-Adawiya, a square in Cairo where security forces fired on protesters while trying to break up an Islamist sit-in.

A demonstration on Sunday marked 100 days since the mass killing at Rabaa al-Adawiya, a square in Cairo where security forces fired on protesters while trying to break up an Islamist sit-in.

CAIRO — David D. Kirkpatrick writes:  Egypt’s military-backed government has issued a law that all but bans street protests by applying jail time or heavy fines to the public demonstrations that have felled the last two presidents and regularly roiled the capital since the Arab Spring revolt.

The new law, promulgated on Sunday, is the latest evidence of a return to authoritarianism in the aftermath of the military takeover that removed President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in July. It criminalizes the kind of free assembly and public expression that many Egyptians had embraced as a cherished foundation of their new democracy after the 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. And the relatively muted outcry against the law, mainly from human rights advocates, demonstrated how far public sentiment has swung.

Rights activists said the new law appeared even stricter than those in place under Mr. Mubarak. It effectively replaces a three-month “state of emergency” declared in August, when the government used deadly force to crush street protests by Islamist opponents of the July 3 takeover, killing more than a thousand. The state of emergency — which suspended protections against police abuse — expired last weekend, but the new protest law now grants the police other added powers that they could use to squelch any attempt to mobilize.

Read the rest of this entry »


Breaking the Taboo: Saudi Men Assisting in Campaign to Allow Women to Drive

An image from a video uploaded by Saudi activists on YouTube on Oct. 26, 2013 allegedly shows a fully veiled woman driving in Riyadh during a planned nationwide day of defiance of the ban on women driving. Only a few Saudi women braved official threats of punishment and got behind the wheel in defiance of a ban on driving, but organisers say their campaign will continue. Photograph by: DSK , AFP/Getty Images

An image from a video uploaded by Saudi activists on YouTube on Oct. 26, 2013 allegedly shows a fully veiled woman driving in Riyadh during a planned nationwide day of defiance of the ban on women driving. Only a few Saudi women braved official threats of punishment and got behind the wheel in defiance of a ban on driving, but organizers say their campaign will continue.    Photograph by: DSK , AFP/Getty Images

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A growing number of men are quietly helping steer a campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s ban on allowing women to drive, risking their jobs and social condemnation in the conservative kingdom. [See below: VIDEO – CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom report: ‘Women Drive for Change‘]

Some of the men have even been questioned by authorities, and one was detained by a branch of the Saudi Interior Ministry — a move that sent a chill through some of the activists working to put women behind the wheel.
On Saturday, more than 60 women said they defied the ban, although they faced little action from police.
Read the rest of this entry »

Oscar-Worthy Documentary Shows How Egypt’s Revolution Fell Apart

 writes: When it happened, Egypt’s February 2011 revolution seemed an epochal global event. If Cairo was not the birthplace of the Arab Spring, it was its apogee. The people of the Arab world’s most populous, most important nation, long oppressed, had finally found their voice. Braving bullets, tanks and tear gas, they overthrew the entrenched dictatorship of three-decade President Hosni Mubarak. The whole planet watched a jubilant Tahir Square explode with fireworks and celebration, while the international media hailed the advent of democracy and people power in a part of the world where both were conspicuously lacking.

But, as we all know now, Mubarak’s exit marked only a fleeting victory. In the near three years since, Egypt has lurched from crisis to crisis, antagonism to antagonism, each time punctuated by mass protests in Tahrir Square, a traffic roundabout that has come to symbolize both the dreams and the failures of the Revolution. This summer, many of the same revolutionaries who gathered at Tahrir in 2011, calling for the downfall of Mubarak, returned to cheer in elements of his old regime as the military removed the democratically-elected Islamist government of divisive President Mohamed Morsi. In August, a bloody crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrators led to hundreds of deaths. The turmoil has effectively brought the revolution back full circle. Some commentators fear the counter-revolution has already won.

Read the rest of this entry »


Egypt? It’s About to Get Worse

Tires burn as Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police in Cairo on 6 October. Photograph: Mohammed Abdel Moneim/AFP/Getty Images

Tires burn as Egyptian Muslim brotherhood and supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi clash with riot police in Cairo on 6 October. Photograph: Mohammed Abdel Moneim/AFP/Getty Images

The US decision to stop military aid is not enough to stem the escalating violence. Terrorist attacks on civilians could be next

Jonathan Steele writes: The Obama administration’s decision to suspend some military aid to Egypt is a clear case of better late than never. Although an announcement was originally planned for August, its timing now is a warning to Cairo’s military coup-makersthat their repressive treatment of the opposition risks plunging Egypt into uncontrollable violence.

Troops again shot scores of peaceful Muslim Brotherhood protesters last weekend, and the next day unknown assailants struck a series of military and government targets in the most serious counterviolence since the coup. No one has taken responsibility for the attacks but it was predictable that General Abdul Fatah al-Sisi’s refusal to relax the clampdown on the Brotherhood would provoke violence. In what other country in the world today is an elected president held for three months with no access to his family or lawyers? In what other country are demonstrators routinely shot without warning, not with birdshot or rubber bullets but live ammunition?

Read the rest of this entry »


There Are Two Egypts and They Hate Each Other

 Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters Protesters throw stones during a clash between supporters and opponents of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, at Ramsis square, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo October 6, 2013.

Protesters throw stones during a clash between supporters and opponents of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, at Ramsis square, which leads to Tahrir Square, in Cairo October 6, 2013.

 reports: Egypt’s latest spasm of violence over the weekend—which led to at least 57 deaths and 400 injured—confirmed the troubled nation’s new reality: The emergence of two distinct, opposed Egypts that hate each other.

One Egypt is in the ascendant—that of a nationalist, pro-military populace that has nothing but contempt for the country’s Islamists, represented chiefly by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Egypt of the Brotherhood is reeling and embittered: it has seen its democratically-elected President ousted by the military this July and its supporters gunned down in the streets. But it’s showing no sign of backing down. Read the rest of this entry »


The Ethnic Cleansing of Christians in Egypt

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“By not acting in the face of atrocity, the U.S. has unintentionally given the signal that it is retreating from the region. The implication of this retreat is that violence against Christians and other minorities can proceed with impunity.”

Michael Armanious writes: Iskander Toss, who had lived all his life in the town of Delga in Upper Egypt, last week was kidnapped, severely beaten, and dragged on the dirt roads of the village until his spirit left him.

His crime? As in the Kenya mall massacre last week, he was a Christian.

A few days later, the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood] jihadists opened his grave, pulled his body out, and dragged it through the village until the majority of the Coptic families fled in terror.

What is unique about Toss’s death is that people know is his name. Throughout the land of the Nile, murders like his are taking place on a regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »


Egyptian Court Bans Muslim Brotherhood

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STEVEN EMERSON reports: An Egyptian court has banned the Muslim Brotherhood from operating and ordered that all its assets be seized. Read the rest of this entry »


Egyptian Arrested for Naming Donkey After General

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

CAIRO (AP) — A farmer in southern Egypt was arrested Saturday after putting the military chief’s name and an army-style cap on his donkey, and eight people were detained elsewhere in the country for spraying anti-military graffiti.

The arrests point to a long-standing taboo in Egypt against criticizing the country’s powerful military, an offense magnified amid the ongoing crackdown on supporters of the country’s ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

The farmer, Omar Abul-Magd, was arrested late Friday in Qena province for allegedly insulting Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi when he rode the donkey through town, reported the state MENA news agency. Read the rest of this entry »


Egypt: we may despise the Muslim Brotherhood, but a coup is a coup

Europe and the US need to accept that the Muslim Brotherhood may be foul, but it did not abolish democracy

Anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir square

Anti-Morsi protesters in Tahrir square in July 2013, before the Egyptian army massacres. Photograph: Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Reuters

When a state massacres 600 demonstrators, it is not just its own citizens it murders. It also kills the possibility of compromise. The perpetrators mean you to understand that there can be no going back. When they kill, they are well aware that they are shedding too much blood for normal politics to kick in and allow differences to be patched up and deals made.

The killers have the swagger of gangsters. “We know,” they seem to say, “that we are breaking all the basic standards of civilised behaviour. We know people will hate us until the day we die for what we have done today. But do you know what? We don’t care.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Egyptian artists fear for their future in cultural backlash after Arab spring

Leading Middle Eastern cultural figures and academics have warned that the arts of the Arab spring are under threat because of increasing violence, censorship and lack of political vision.

The popular perception that the region is experiencing unprecedented freedom of expression is “simplistic and misleading”, with many artists “wary of the increasingly violent nature of the Arab spring”, according to a study for the British Council by the postwar reconstruction and development unit at York University. The report, Out in the Open: Artistic Practices and Social Change in Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia, found that the system of strict government censorship that has existed for decades is “largely still in place”.

While artists have become emboldened by the 2011 uprisings, many were struggling to deal with the new political landscape amid worrying signs of a wave of political and religious censorship, said lead researcher Professor Sultan Barakat.

In Egypt, which held the second round of its constitutional referendum yesterday, and Tunisia, the predominant fear was the rise of political Islam, ranging from new moderate Islamist governments, whose policies are unclear, to ultra-conservative Salafis, who have attacked cinemas and artists.

“I think we are at a brink point. The Muslim majority [in Egypt] could just react and suppress artistic expression even more than Hosni Mubarak,” Barakat said. The Egyptian playwright Ahmed el-Attar said: “I’m afraid the country is sliding towards fascism. So far culture has been kept on the side. The Muslim Brotherhood don’t yet have a cultural agenda. They’re talking about focusing on historical Islamic figures. I’m not sure that applies to the Salafis, who question the notion of art itself.”

Karim el-Shennawy, a film-maker who protested in Tahrir Square, said: “A lot of things have been stopped and censored. This can get worse. There’s a lot of voices attacking directors and actors, accusing them of filling the mind of the new generation with inappropriate issues and images. One actress was accused of doing prostitution on screen.”

The report said some established cultural figures have become marginalised because they were regarded as too close to the fallen dictatorships, such as the Egyptian comedy actor who was criticised for being slow to criticise Mubarak and after the fall of the regime faced a charge of insulting Islam in his films…

Read the rest of this entry »


Egypt Continues to Follow the ‘Turkish Model’ of Sharia Totalitariansim

– By Andrew C. McCarthy

In Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy, which is generously reviewed by VDH in the current edition of NR, I argue that Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood will follow (and is following) the trail blazed by Turkey’s Islamist prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Brotherhood-influenced party, the AKP. This path is called the “Turkish Model” by enthusiasts of “Islamic democracy.” As I demonstrate in the book, the Turkish Model is actually a formula for turning a society that is pro-Western and reasonably democratic into a sharia state — the implementation of sharia, Islam’s societal framework, being the goal of all Islamic supremacists. As Erdogan put it, “Democracy is just the train we board to reach our destination” — not a way of life, but a route to Islamization.

For various reasons, I contend in the book that Egypt will descend into sharia totalitarianism much more quickly than the decade it has taken Erdogan to accomplish the still ongoing process in Turkey. That theory is borne out more with each passing day. One of Erdogan’s key tools of intimidation and the crushing of dissent is the abuse of prosecutorial authority. Mohamed Morsi is proving a quick study.

One of Morsi’s early moves was to sack the prosecutor general and appoint a Brotherhood loyalist, Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah. (See this photo of Morsi meeting with Abdallah within minutes of the latter’s swearing-in.) Today, in the middle of the debate over the new sharia constitution that Morsi is planning to ram-rod through in a referendum next week, the Egypt Independent reports that Abdallah has opened an investigation against several of Morsi’s principal political opponents — including former presidential candidates Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei, as well as Ahmed al-Zend, the head of the so-called “Judges Club” — on suspicion of espionage and sedition.

The report elaborates that the investigation is based on a lawyer’s complaint, alleging that

Moussa met with former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and agreed with her to fabricate internal crises, and that all of the politicians named in his complaint then met at the Wafd Pary headquarters to implement the “Zionist plot.” He requested that the accused be banned from travel and that the Wafd Party headquarters be confiscated for investigation. Filing criminal charges against opposition figures was a common practice during former President Hosni Mubarak’s era.

Yeah . . . and it’s a common practice in Islamic “democracies.”

via The Corner – National Review Online

 

 


Violence in Tahrir Square: Not What Democracy Looks Like

THIS IS NOT WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE: Take a look at this disturbing and tense video of mob violence in Cairo when Islamists and secular activists effectively went to war with each other in Tahrir Square. There are no cops in this video, nor are there any women. (Thanks to Jeffrey Goldberg and MEMRI.)

Instapundit » disturbing and tense video of mob violence….

 


When Islamists lecture us, it’s time to circle the wagons…

The Muslim Brotherhood stooge running Egypt doesn’t care about free speech or tolerance; he cares about his own theocratic will to power — and making Americans grovel.

…the tribe of barbarism doesn’t get to lecture the tribe of liberty about what freedom means…

…the thugs haranguing us about the proper limits of free expression aren’t members of that tribe. They haven’t paid their dues…

More  >>  via Jonah Goldberg NRO