The comedy of errors that is US involvement in Egypt is reaching new heights. The Obama administration continues to be torn by
Obama seems utterly incapable of choosing a direction in Egypt
conflicting preferences and concerns. This week its blunders reached new heights after it blessed the trip of Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham to Egypt. The ensuing farce was inevitable.
The GOP Senators are somewhat less obstructionist than others in their party; they have not always opposed Barack Obama’s policies simply because they were his policies. While many of the current Republican crew are virtually absolute in opposing anything Obama does, McCain, in particular, has only done that most of the time. But they are certainly not Obama’s allies, and, while the administration made it clear that the duo were not their representatives in Egypt, it was almost certain they would only complicate matters. So, they did.
It’s time to ask some tough questions about US policy regarding Egypt. The most pressing being what that policy is, exactly?
John Kerry in a pre-June meeting with then Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr, and then-President Mohammed Morsi
I agreed with the easily assailable decision by the Obama administration to refrain from labeling the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi a coup. It still is my belief that doing so might be consistent with US law, but would not be helpful to Egypt. Instead of taking funding away from the military which, since it now directly controls the Egyptian till, would simply divert the lost funds from other places (causing even more distress to an already reeling Egyptian economy) it would be better to use the aid as leverage to push the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) toward an inclusive political process that would include drafting a broadly acceptable constitution and, with all due speed, re-installing a duly elected civilian government. Continue reading →
Barack Obama’s much-anticipated speech has now come and gone, and those of us who had very low expectations for it were not disappointed.
There was nothing new, and much that was tired, familiar and demonstrably ineffective regarding Israel and the Palestinians, and a decidedly tepid response to the Arab Spring.
Obama presented a distressingly familiar, neo-liberal plan for economic assistance for Egypt and Tunisia, complete with a request for an International Monetary Fund plan, which generally includes strict austerity measures, for strengthening the local economies. Debt forgiveness and loan guarantees for Egypt, totaling $2 billion, as well as private sector stimulation initiatives were promised, but it seems likely that the agenda here is to re-establish American influence through economic controls.
Still, one shouldn’t entirely dismiss these measures—Tunisia and especially Egypt do indeed need economic help, and the measures announced will help, both in terms of debt reduction and in terms of stimulating the private sector.
But what was most important regarding the Arab Spring was what was not said.
While Obama criticized Bahrain and Yemen for their violent responses to protests, no action will be taken. And there was no mention at all of Saudi Arabia, an extremely repressive government that has squashed any hint of protest in its own country and helped Bahrain in their crackdown as well. Continue reading →
It is hard to imagine that a matter as explosive as The Palestine Papers (a massive leak of some 1,600 documents the Palestinian Authority had, including minutes, strategy papers, maps and e-mails) could be completely drowned out by other events, but the massive upheaval in Egypt has done just that. The implications for Israel and the United States of the widespread protests throughout the Arab world and the Papers are not yet fully predictable, but they are sure to be profound.
But the spreading protests in the Arab world signify a major shift in the status quo on the horizon. The United States, which learned nothing from its experience of forcefully keeping a ruthless dictator in power in Iran, has done the same with petty and violent dictators throughout the Arab world. Interestingly, the protests in Tunisia and Egypt, and the simmering ones in Jordan and Yemen, have been completely focused on those countries’ respective dictators, and there has been relatively little anti-American rhetoric thus far; or at least very little has been reported. This may have a lot to do with American silence on both matters and our quick abandonment of our favored proxies once it became obvious they had lost control. Or it may be yet to come.
In any case, the issues of the US and Israel, and even the Palestinians have been sidelined as Egyptians, like Tunisians before them, demonstrate for democracy to overthrow their tyrants. But these developments will have serious implications for the US and Israel nonetheless.