A series of press releases is now hitting the newswires worldwide, bringing major hope to the refugees hurdling via the Aegean from Turkey to Greece, via Serbia to Austria, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and all the way to Sweden, France and the United Kingdom. The Islamic Republic of Iran, whose Government is proud to represent the entire Islamic Umma, and who has just received 150 billion dollars via the Iran deal, has magnanimously offered to absorb all the three million refugees now frustrated at the borders of several European countries. The Supreme Guide ordered the earmarking of 15 of the 150 billion dollars, a mere 10%, to be granted for the resettlement of the refugees, not just from Syria but also from any parts of the Middle East and North Africa, in multiple regions inside Iran, including on the beautiful less inhabited coasts of the Caspian sea and the southern coasts on the Indian Ocean. The Islamic Republic gesture would in one shot solve the entire crisis of the refugees by absorbing them as migrants among their brothers and sisters in Iran.
Most Lebanese, including the younger generations, have repetitively heard the official story of the “liberation of the south by Hezbollah” in May 2000, a “coup” that prompted the Lebanon-based Khomeinist organization to seize power across the land and throughout the country’s institutions.
Indeed, over the past decade and particularly since 2009 when President Obama sent his letter to Ayatollah Khamanei as a prelude to engagement with the Islamic Republic, voices in Washington and in Brussels have asserted that the Khomeinist regime is strong domestically and is the only option available to the West for stabilizing the region.
The Iranian global construct can be perceived as a “Khomeinist Dome.” Iran’s strategy has been twofold—and sustained over decades, not simply implemented over the past few years and months. The regime has two simultaneous goals. One is to create a defensive sphere over the forthcoming strategic weapon before it is unveiled, and two is to suppress any internal opposition to the regime’s policies. The “dome” is a complex integration of Iranian foreign policy: Terrorism backing, using financial luring, exploiting Western weaknesses while at the same time expanding influence in the region so that by the time the greater shield is established, most U.S. and allied measures will be useless.
When the argument was made in The War of Ideas that the U.S. Middle East Studies elite had been causing failures in foreign policy and psychological distress on citizens for providing faulty expertise on the roots of Jihadi terror, some of the book’s projections had not yet been reached. They now have been. A Boston bombing victim Adrianne Haslet-Davis was frustrated by NBC’s repetitive use of the names of the bombers who caused her injury last year. She was participating in Meet the Press to discuss her experience. It turned out that the panel shifted the discussion to the personality of the bomber as if the terror act was a criminal aggression against her personally, causing her to leave the set. The media elite’s fascination with the personality of terrorists has been generated by U.S. academia’s assertion that the terror acts are expressions of individual frustrations by the Jihadi perpetrators, not products of their ideology.
Hence the discussion grows about the “private life of Dzohar” instead of the ideology that recruited him into the battlefield. This is a war, not a crime scene, and the Jihadists are members of a movement, not Hollywood stars. Ms. Haslet-Davis is right: she has no personal connection to a “frustrated Dzohar.” She is the victim of a Jihadi terrorist. NBC should thus discuss the terror ideology or the fate of victims of this ideology. Creating a link between criminal and victim in a global war serves to shift attention from the threat to national security to unnecessary mental torture of the victim.
NBC’s approach to the homegrown Jihadi menace needs to be corrected and so should the dominant Middle East Studies analysis of the roots of that threat. The victims of Ft. Hood had no connection to Major Hassan; the victims of the Boston bombing had no ties to the Tsarnaiev brothers; and civilians in Detroit had no relation to Abdelmuttalib, the so-called “Christmas Day Bomber.” The actions by terrorists against U.S. citizens, and citizens around the world for that matter, are generated by a conviction by indoctrinated groups and individuals that the Jihadi ideology is right and that killing in its name is legitimate. Unfortunately, the U.S. educational and opinion-generating elite is attempting to create a link between killers and victims rather than the global war waged by the Jihadists. In a sense, directly or indirectly, this trend aims at minimizing the real root cause of the threat. If anything, this might help the terrorists and dis-educate the public.
The visit came at the heels of severe crises in international relations—from Crimea to Kiev, Libya’s resurging violence, the unending war in Syria, an escalating security breakdown in Yemen, urban terror in Egypt, and car bombs in Lebanon and Iraq.
The Obama administration, in its first and second terms, has committed strategic mistakes in the Middle East which will undermine U.S. national and security interests for many years, even under subsequent administrations after 2016.
As Americans and humanity celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy of justice, equality and freedom, there are millions around the world who continue to suffer discrimination and oppression of the kind the African American pastor and leader struggled against until he paid the ultimate price for his engagement. MLK, Jr. led a tireless civil rights movement to end segregation and inequality—and to help his community and all citizens attain dignity under a one flag, one law for all. America has been identified for decades as the greatest liberal democracy in history and around the globe, in part, due to this man’s journey for public good. It has taken similar struggles by Americans from all races, ethnicities and religions—who from the founding fathers to modern times have made sacrifices in blood and treasure—to produce who we are as a nation, composed of both natives and emigres.
A miracle on the Nile has been accomplished this week. Tens of millions of Egyptian citizens from all walks of life, Muslims and Christians, conservatives and liberals, seculars and religious, young and old, and in some instances, healthy and sick, have come out to cast a vote in the referendum of the century: either to say yes to new moderate constitution, relatively democratic, or to say no and revert to an Islamist constitution adopted by the previous Muslim Brotherhood regime. Most likely, an overwhelming majority of voters will chose to move away from the 2012 Islamist regime of Mohammed Morsi and select a more liberating draft, one that reinforces fundamental rights to women and minorities. The referendum will seal a popular uprising that exploded almost a year ago, and culminated in two gigantic peaceful demonstrations last summer against the political oppression of the Ikhwan regime. In short, we are finally witnessing a real democratic revolution emerging in the largest Arab Muslim majority country in the world.
South Sudan is the newest country in the world and unfortunately seems to be on the edge of the newest civil war in the region. For the past week, clashes and killings have ravaged the capital and other areas of that young African country, yet all that comes from Washington is a heavy silence. Some observers believe that the U.S. administration is silent on purpose, allowing the confrontation to spread until the country no longer able to govern itself, ultimately leading the northern Jihadi regime to recapture influence over the south and restore itself as an Islamist power in the region after the loss of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Cairo. While there is no hard evidence to directly blame the Obama administration for this looming new disaster, we certainly can see that the protracted U.S. absence from the scene as indirect proof that pressure groups within the Beltway might want to see free South Sudan go down in flames. But is the drama only due to U.S. policies, or are there also local disastrous politics to indict? A full review is warranted to see clearer through the fog of war.
The African people of southern Sudan, trapped against their will within a wider border under violent regimes that suppressed their traditions since the late 1950s, struggled for sixty years, resulting in the massacre of a million (mostly) civilians, the enslavement of half a million, and four generations of men and women devastated by an atrocious war. From 1983, and increasingly since 1989, a northern Islamist regime unleashed ethnic cleansing and extreme horrors on the populations of the South, devastating villages and towns. Omar Bashir’s forces, indoctrinated by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, committed genocide in the South before they later turned to Darfur. But the African resistance led by John Garang, commander of the Sudan Popular Liberation Movement, stood firmly, even as the movement lost most of its ground to the Jihadist army. Eventually, and thanks to support from American churches, Western lawmakers and NGOs, the Bush Administration helped the oppressed Black nation to obtain its right for self-determination in January 2011. In my book The Coming Revolution of 2010, I projected a victory to the south Sudanese who would then face the challenge of building a new republic. Indeed, after a referendum handsomely legitimized their claim to liberty, the Africans of South Sudan obtained their independence and separated from the oppressive northern regime, which was later accused by the International Criminal Court of Genocide in Darfur.
The Republic of South Sudan joined the international community and was endowed with hopes and oil resources to bridge the gap of poverty created by Khartoum over decades. International companies and foreign countries rushed to invest and help the new country rise. But the old “colonial power” in the north did not let go of the formerly enslaved people. Omar Bashir maintained his military pressure on border areas, including Abei province, to preempt similar African revolts among Nubians, Beja and Darfuris in the north. On al Jazeera, Jihadi ideologues often menaced the south with retaliation for separation “from the Umma’s land” and many programs “predicted” an internecine war inside the south. These “predictions” finally materialized when followers of the Vice President Riek Machar and the troops of the President Silva Kir clashed over a so-called “coup attempt” in December. Sources in the region said outside parties, with the blessings of Khartoum, worked on encouraging these fights as a way to trigger a civil war that would end in the economic and political collapse of the landlocked country. The sources added that the Islamist regime of Bashir made the same promise to both sides in the south – to open northern Sudan’s pipelines to the seaports, the only access for Petrol exporting, if the one camp defeats the other – hence pushing the two influential parties in Juba to clash.
While it looks like the international Islamist networks drove South Sudan over the cliff, the leaders of the young African countries are to be lamed as well. Both Silva Kir and Riek Mashar were longtime deputies to the historic leader of the southern struggle, Colonel John Garang, who was killed in an accident which many believe was an assassination by the north. President Kir and Vice President Mashar were supposed to lead South Sudan to democracy and prosperity, but post-independence experiences, particularly in Africa, present the danger of power struggle. However, Kir and Mashar and their friends in the West could have and should have avoided this bloodbath over power. Some indicate that Mashar has in the past sided with the regime against Garang before reuniting with the southern resistance. We will leave that argument to the southern Sudanese themselves to resolve, democratically, at the ballot boxes. For now, we need to do all we can to stop the violence, restore legal order, and insure human rights.
The Obama Administration has shyly stated that these are regrettable incidents and sent few dozen Marines to protect the embassy, as well as dispatched an envoy. This is not foreign policy at the level of the challenge. President Obama should say more and do more to save this African country born under his watch as a leader of the free world and first black president of the United States. President Obama should phone leaders of southern Sudan and ask them publicly and sharply to stop the violence immediately and initiate an immediate reconciliation process, with all measures needed to stabilize south Sudan. To allow the situation to decay to a point of no return is to indirectly be part of its demise. Sources in Washington are advancing that the Muslim Brotherhood lobby, backed by petrodollar interests groups, is behind the Washington “laisser-faire” policy attitude towards Juba. According to these sources, South Sudan is the most experienced resistance against the Jihadists on the continent, and since the fall of the Ikhwan regime in Cairo, the Brotherhood lobby wants to reinstall itself in Khartoum to counterattack the new Egypt with further destabilization. It seems that the price for Bashir to go after General Sisee and the Egyptian revolution is to topple South Sudan and give Khartoum a say over its lost oil. Are these sources going too far in their analysis? Facts on the ground seem to validate such an analysis, particularly the irresponsible inaction of Washington vis-à-vis South Sudan’s tragic events. The U.S. Congress must rise to hold the administration accountable for the potential fall of the newest and freest African nation, now submitted to the horror of Brotherly killings.
Dr Walid Phares advises members of the US Congress on the Middle East and is the author of The Coming Revolution (2010). He is writing a new book on the future of the Arab Spring to be published in 2014
On June 30, according to BBC, thirty-three million Egyptians marched against the Muslim Brotherhood regime, accusing Morsi’s elite of oppression, militia enabling, backing Jihadists, suppressing women and minorities, and economic failure. President Mohammed Morsi responded by a call for Jihad and promised a “bloody answer” with the help of his militia. A civil war was about to explode. Responding to the overwhelming popular revolt, as one third of Egypt’s 90 million were marching in the streets, the Egyptian military technically refused to take orders from Morsi and dismissed his government on the grounds they posed a direct threat to the country’s national security. As an interim management for the country, the military asked civilians to form a cabinet in order to oversee another transition to democracy. Heavily criticized in the West by the Ikhwan’s friends and partners, General Abdelfattah al Sisy asked the public to prove to the international community where they stood, whether the people of Egypt wished to confirm the June 30 revolution or rather desired the return of Mohammed Morsi. While in the public square of Rabia Adawiya close to 700,000 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other fundamentalist allies and factions marched for the Islamist state and the return of their leader, across the rest of Egypt, from Tahrir Square and seemingly in all Egyptian cities, close to 40 million civilians demonstrated against the Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt’s voice overwhelmingly spoke to irreversibly confirm their stance on July 26.
The Ikhwan, however, decided to re-seize the country by way of “Urban Jihad.” And as al Qaeda linked cells waged terror attacks in Sinai, the Ikhwan built two armed enclaves in Cairo. The Muslim Brotherhood, who are now acting as an urban insurgency across Egypt, in addition to the Jihadists of Sinai, have seized several blocks and two public sites, Rabia Adawiya in Cairo and the area close to Cairo University, using women and children as shields while launching raids against other neighborhoods. The Egyptian armed forces avoided using immediate maximum force in order to avoid large scale violence, but also to show that the people of Egypt are the ones resisting the Brotherhood’s terror.
Egypt’s civil society was fast to respond to the Urban Jihad. A female leader of secular democratic movement Tamarod in Egypt, responsible for mobilizing for the June 30 revolt, told al Arabiya that “the Egyptian people [are] fighting a Terrorist Cancer inside the country.” She said “the Ikhwan are using women and children as shields to demand the reinstatement of a fascist state ruled by the Islamists. Such a regime will crush women, liberals and Coptic Christians. The armed militias of the Brotherhood are threatening our civil society and our freedom. Egyptians will never accept these terrorists to rule over our destiny and the future of our children.” The Brotherhood are backed by al Jazeera anchors who have been accused by the seculars of “helping in mobilizing the Islamists of Egypt.” As an example, at 10:15 AM (EST) Wednesday, al Jazeera pressured the representative of the Islamist al Nour Party, which is not taking part in the confrontation in Egypt, to engage in the urban insurgency. The anchor repeatedly summoned al Nour to “join the fight on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood.” An observer in Cairo said “al Jazeera is now acting as a direct propaganda tool of the Muslim Brotherhood insurgency. And since this tool is owned and funded by the Qatar regime, the latter assumes responsibility for the bloodshed taking place in the country.”
Muslim Brotherhood Pogrom against the Christian Copts Rages
But more tragic are the attacks now waged across Egypt against Christians and Muslim seculars, including police stations. Reports from Egypt revealed that the Muslim Brotherhood have burned many Coptic Churches, including in Suhaj, over the past 40 hours. (Link to al Ahram Canada, reporting on Muslim Brotherhood burning churches across Egypt)
Troubling reports by “Middle East Christian Alert” are showing dramatic pictures of churches across Egypt burned by Muslim Brotherhood terror militias. These pogroms are waged, according to government, media and civil society reports, by the Muslim Brotherhood Organization in Egypt. These reports are solid evidence of the open transformation of an Ikhwan regime into a terrorist organization, similar to Hamas, Hezbollah and al Qaeda.
Reports from Egypt are now confirming that the Ikhwan Islamist militia has committed a series of massacres across Egypt, including the execution of Egyptian police officers in several cities and towns. In Miniah, the Ikhwan militia controlled four police stations and seized all weapons inside these offices. Al Qahira TV reported: “dozens of Jihadist detainees were released by the Ikhwan.” “The Jihadi rage of the Brotherhood is uncovering their mask” said an observer in Washington. “With this barbaric behavior in its own country, the Muslim Brotherhood has to be classified as a ‘terrorist organization’ and not a ‘loose federation of secular and moderate reformers’ as the top intelligence director in the U.S. claimed a few years ago.” The observer went on to argue that “the massacre of Police officers and soldiers, the torture of citizens, the rape of women, the burning of Christian churches and the use of mosques by jihadi snipers is a clear indictment of the Muslim Brotherhood as a Terrorist organization. Those who represent its interests in the United States should be ashamed.”
Internationally, the AKP Government of Turkey and the Khomeinist regime in Iran accused Egypt’s Government of perpetrating a “massacre against the people.” An observer in Cairo said “the Islamist regimes in the region are watching a democratic revolution ending the violent Ikhwan regime in Egypt. These regimes fear popular revolutions in their own countries led by civil society forces.” In Beirut, the Committee Mashreq, a coalition of Middle East Christian NGOs, and in Washington the Middle East American Coalition for Democracy accused the Ikhwan of “pogroms against the Christians in Egypt” and called on the United Nations to condemn the terrorist attacks against the Copts and other citizens of Egypt.
At last, the Government of Egypt responded to the repetitive calls from Egypt’s civil society to save the country from the Brotherhood’s Urban Terror. Egyptian security forces, applying international norms in counter insurgency, moved on Rabia Adawiya and other armed militants spots in the Capital, forcing the Ikhwan leaders to flee. This could be the beginning of the end to the urban Jihadi insurgency but could also be the beginning of an all out Terror war waged by the soon to become the underground Ikhwan cells along with al Qaeda groups against the new post Brotherhood Egypt. Egyptians are fighting their own war on Terror, in their own midst. So are other Arabs. Western democracies should be on the side of civil societies seeking real democratic freedoms not on the side of Jihadists promising just elections
As soon as the Egyptian military asked President Mohammed Mursi to step down and dismantle his Muslim Brotherhood regime, millions in the streets of Cairo and other Egyptian cities and towns celebrated the end of what they felt was a dangerous fascistic regime. But despite an overwhelming popular support for the ousting of the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood) from power, some U.S. leaders, starting with President Barack Obama and later joined by Republican Senator John McCain, expressed their rejection of the move because they argued it was “directed by the Egyptian military against a democratically elected Government.”
Awkwardly, the United States executive branch, along with some of its supporters in the legislature, sided with the Muslim Brotherhood, known to be hard core Islamists, against a wide coalition of democratic and secular forces which called on the military to help them against what they perceived an oppressive regime. Observers both in the Middle East and in the West have asked how this equation can hold. Why would Obama and McCain end up backing the Ikhwan while the liberals and seculars forces of Egyptian civil society rise against the Brotherhood? The chaos in Washington has several roots but one global fact is clear: U.S. Foreign Policy has lost momentum in the Arab Spring.
The first waves of the revolution in January 2011 were launched and inspired by secular and reformist youth, as I had projected in my book The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East published in 2010, before the upheavals. The first Facebook page of the “Egyptian Revolution” attracted 85,000 “likes.” Many of these early online supporters hit Tahrir Square and drew up to a million citizens from the middle class, from labor, students, women and minorities. The revolution was the baby of moderate, secular and democratic segments of Egyptian civil society who have never spoken in public or taken action on the streets. Once the U.S. and international community recognized them as peaceful demonstrators, the Muslim Brotherhood rushed in and created their “quarter” inside the Square.
From there on, the Ikhwan maneuvered between the military and the youth, pitting one against the other and taking full advantage of the Obama Administration’s vigorous support. In June 2012, Mohammed Mursi won Egypt’s presidential election. This election was praised as “democratically held” by Washington and Western chanceries. While vastly questioned by the Egyptian opposition, the results were accepted as a democratic fact, internationally. Mursi was “democratically elected” in as much as the opposition was not able to draw any attention from a U.S. influenced Western coalition. The sour reality was more of a Washington endorsement to the Ikhwan, trusting their ability to change towards the better, than a truly popular representation. All observers agreed that half of the Mursi voters were not even members of his party, but were rather simply opposed to the other candidate, a remnant of the Mubarak regime.
Mursi then used the next twelve months to deconstruct every aspect of the democratic achievements of the initial Egyptian revolution. He issued a Presidential “constitutional decree,” modifying the constitutional basic rights of Egyptians with major setbacks for women, minorities and seculars and without consultations with the opposition. On those grounds alone, Mursi has committed a breach in constitutional and human rights of Egyptians. He then attempted to transform the leadership of the Army and security forces into Ikhwan extensions; appointed extremist governors throughout the country, including a member of a terrorist group as a governor of the Luxor district, a target of the group’s terror strikes in 1997. In parallel, the Brotherhood regime allowed Islamist militias to grow across the country and opened a dialogue with al-Qaeda linked groups in Sinai. In foreign policy, Mursi stood against the African campaign against al-Qaeda in Northern Mali; consolidated ties with the ICC-indicted head of Sudan’s regime, General Omar Bashir; hosted terror group Hamas in Cairo, aided the Nahda Party in Tunisia as the latter reduced women’s rights in their country and established cooperation with the Jihadi militias of Libya, one of which was responsible for the Benghazi attack against the U.S. consulate in September 2012. In 2013, Mursi presided over a rally to support the A-Q affiliated al Nusra Front in Syria and backed suicide fatwas issued by his allies.
On the economic level, the Brotherhood regime mismanaged the country’s fledgling finances while at the same time receiving significant funding from the United States, Europe and Qatar. The social disparities already monumental under Mubarak became epic under Mursi.
The Ikhwan regime, though democratically elected, has deconstructed the democratic legitimacy of the one-time election process by becoming an isolated oppressive elite ruling the country at the expense of all other citizens. One election rendered Mursi a legal President, but by his anti-democratic actions, the legitimacy of his presidency was lost.
Unfortunately, Egypt has no recall process or impeachment mechanisms. Besides, the Brotherhood had secured as much power as the national socialists and fascists had in pre-WWII Europe after being elected at the helm of the legislative and executive powers by the power of “brown shirts.” Egypt’s democratic forces had no choice but to resort to demonstrations and free expression. They staged marches after marches since the end of 2012, but the U.S. and Europe were silent, hoping Mursi would survive the tremors. The Ikhwan took the deaf-ears policy of the West as an endorsement to their agenda and applied more violence against their opponents. The liberal opposition appealed to the Army for months, to no avail. It was only when civil society revolutionary groups such as “Tamarod” (rebels) mobilized the masses against the Brotherhood suppression that Egypt was closer to its second revolution. Revolutionizing the Arab Spring, “Tamarod” called for a national popular demonstration to vote with their feet for the removal of Mursi on June 30, 2013.
Very few in the West paid serious attention to Tamarod and its bottom-up uprising. The second wave of the Arab spring was boosted by the shocking practices of the Islamist regime in Cairo. On Sunday June 30, more than 22 million Egyptians marched in their capital and in other cities. Statistically, this was the largest demonstration in history, topping the Cedars and Green revolutions of Lebanon and Iran combined. What was morally left of Mursi’s regime was shattered by this mega referendum. The demonstrators were three times the total numbers of his voters one year ago. A petition calling for his resignation gathered another 22 million signatures. But Mursi refused to resign and ordered his followers via a live speech, to mobilize for “Jihad till death.” Responding to a nation gathered on the streets, the Egyptian Army stepped in to prevent a civil war and to end a regime-coup against its own people. The shock of removing Mursi reverberated worldwide, particularly across the petrodollars web of influence backing the Ikhwan. The people’s revolution in Egypt was the accomplishment of the real Arab Spring, at last. The overwhelming majority of Egyptian citizens that took part in the second revolution prompted the country’s armed forces to remove the Muslim Brotherhood and contain the Jihadists across the country.
Sadly, the Obama Administration resisted the popular revolt, arguing Mursi was “democratically elected,” forgetting that he governed oppressively. Some international media also endorsed Mursi and his followers as armed Islamists roamed throughout Egypt, killing and maiming. The second Egyptian revolution is now facing and will be confronting for a long time the counter revolution forces including a non-repentant Ikhwan and a myriad of dangerous Jihadi Terrorists. Egypt will have to fight this cancer for years, but thanks to its courageous civil society, it has already survived the extremists’ yoke. Egypt will not be Iran. The millions who took to the streets formed a Nile of democracy that will flood the Jihadists of Egypt. It will be long and hard, but the Egyptian Spring is now, finally, in progress.
Dr Walid Phares is the author of The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East which in 2010, predicted the Araab Spring and its evolution. He serves as a Co-Secretary General of the Transatlantic Parliamentary Group on Counter Terrorism.
On the Arab Spring President Obama committed to insure “universal rights to all people in Egypt.” Which means that these rights are under attack, two years after the revolution. Indeed daily images from Cairo, Suez, but also Tunis and other Arab cities are showing a greater discontent by civil societies against the ruling Islamist regimes. The President remained abstract by not mentioning the abuse of these rights by the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt and its comparable regime in Tunisia. It is unfortunate that the state of the union address missed an opportunity to speak to the American people about the struggles of peoples in the region, validating further America’s role in the Middle East, as an ally to freedom seekers. As in June of 2009 in Iran, President Obama missed a historic opportunity to speak to the youth, women and minorities in countries undergoing a massive change affecting a large part of the Planet.
As Governor Romney and President Obama continue to debate foreign policy and national security, voters would be wise to evaluate the “Obama Doctrine” against the current combustible state of affairs that it has led to in the Greater Middle East. In less than four years, the Obama administration’s policies have transformed the region into a powder keg with a hairpin detonator that could be set off by the slightest diplomatic misstep, engulfing the region and the world in war. And, as if an economy on the brink wasn’t daunting enough, the current administration’s feckless diplomacy in the Arab world have begotten a near-impossible foreign policy conundrum that Mitt Romney will be forced to attend to from the moment he is sworn in as the forty-fifth President of the United States.
In order to help voters see clearly where unfolding events in the region are headed, I have summarized the salient facts and provided a brief analysis below.
President Obama’s denial of various forms of Islamist radicalism have amplified the jihadist threat and altered American foreign policy in the Middle East. In his Cairo speech in 2009, Mr. Obama affirmed the misperception that America had been on the wrong side in wars “against the Muslim World” by announcing his new expiative approach to US foreign policy in the Arab world. Since then his and the State Department’s actions in the region have been characterized by retreat, abandonment of civil democratic reform movements, and partnership with Islamist movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood. The administration’s freedom-antagonistic policies coupled with a desire to find common-ground with the Iranian regime, have effectively quashed hopes for true democratic reform while Obama remains in the White House. The Obama doctrine has dangerously impacted US national security.
Barack Obama’s ill-advised pre-election commitment to bilateral negotiations with the Ayatollahs was put to the test in June 2009 when millions of mostly young Iranians took to the streets of Tehran in what almost became an “Iranian Spring.” With the Iranian regime teetering on the brink of collapse, the administration turned a deaf ear to demonstrators’ cries for America’s help as evidenced by the President’s silence on their plight and stubborn insistence on seeking understanding with the Khomeinist regime. But instead of obtaining concessions on Iran’s nukes, the Ayatollahs multiplied Uranium enrichment efforts and produced large numbers of long range missiles to deliver Apocalypse to Israel and the “Great Satan.” Hoping keep his grandiose illusion of US-Iranian nuclear talks alive, Obama imposed belated, near-symbolic economic sanctions on Iran with predictable negligible effect. In return, the Iranian regime expanded their destabilizing efforts in the Middle East, inciting Shia in Eastern Arabia, Bahrain and North Yemen to penetrate legitimate social movements and overthrow their US-friendly Governments.
Mitt Romney’s position on Iran is radically different and infinitely more sensible than Barack Obama’s. Sanctions should be tightened and all-encompassing to force the regime abandon its nuclear ambitions, not induce negotiations toward a partial solution. Furthermore, Governor Romney’s policy on Iran would include partnering with the forces of civil democratic reform in their efforts to replace the current extremist regime once and for all.
Obama’s miscalculation on Iran led to other regional catastrophes. As soon as the administration withdrew American forces from Iraq abruptly in December of 2011, Iranian influence penetrated Iraq. By not supporting Iran’s popular movement, Obama left Iran unrestrained. By failing to reach an agreement with Iraq before US withdrawal, Obama allowed Iran to infiltrate its neighbor, further threatening Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and reaching Syria’s borders. Romney would have contained the Iranian regime first, and then consolidated a pro-Western Government in Iraq.
Similar strategic mistakes were made by the administration on the Arab Spring as a consequence of its misguided apology doctrine. Instead of working with the initial forces of change in Egypt—youth, women, middle class, workers and minorities—the Administration chose to partner exclusively with the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama’s team and the Islamists worked to put the Brotherhood and their Salafi allies in power, first by sidelining the secular reformers with the help of the army, then the army with the help of secular youth, before they rose to power and marginalized all other players. Under Morsi, Egypt is quickly morphing into an Islamist state, threatening the Camp David Accords, as well as seculars, women, and Copts. A similar scenario unfolded in Tunisia where Washington partnered with the Islamist Nahda at the expense of seculars, women, and reformers. Romney would pursue partnership with civil societies, particularly with women and seculars, and tie US financial aid to performance by governments.
In Libya, the Obama Administration again sought partnership with the Islamists and neglected working with government and secular groups to disarm the militias and after Gadhafi’s downfall, sowed the seeds of al Qaeda’s growth, and opened a path for attacks against US targets, the most recent being a terrorist attack in Benghazi that killed the US ambassador and embassy staffers. A Romney Administration would first seek the disarming of the militias and, above all, provide better security for American lives in installations where Jihadists operate.
Barack Obama’s worst and most dramatic failure has obviously been in Syria. One-year late to respond, Obama’s team was unable to create a coalition to bring down Assad. Out of Iraq by 2012, the US was unable to encircle Assad and prevent Iranian support from getting to the brutal regime. Thirty thousand civilians were massacred while the US administration was incapable of obtaining a UN resolution for action against Assad, despite its being called a “reset button” with Moscow. By being two years tardy, the administration has allowed the massacre in Syria to proceed. Iran is now connected to Assad in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and has reached the sea by land. Furthermore, al Qaeda is now operating in Syria and Iraq.
After Osama bin Laden was killed, the Obama Administration began claiming that al Qaeda was in decline, a claim proven false as AQ jihadists continue to conquer villages and towns in Yemen, fight in Somalia, are back in the Levant from Lebanon to Iraq, operating in the Sahel and Libya, with allies in Nigeria, and having established a solid base in northern Mali. Osama is dead, but al Qaeda is alive and flourishing.
With the growth of jihadism and radical Islamism, the secular forces of the Arab Spring are being pushed back. More dramatically Christian and other ethnic minorities across the region, in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and in Sudan, are under attack. Everywhere in the region reformers, women and minorities are suppressed and pushed back, while the Islamists and jihadists up and running and expanding their reach. Iran is arming and genocide is looming from Syria to Sudan.
The Obama policies in the Middle East led to the rise of radicals and weakening of civil societies. A Romney alternative for the region is a must, not only on the basis of human rights and democracy, but also regarding US national security and the security of its allies.
Dr Walid Phares is senior advisor on Foreign Policy and National Security to Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and a co-chair of the Romney Working Group on the Middle East and North Africa MENA. He is the author of the Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East the only book that predicted the Arab Spring before it begins
The foreign policy and national security strategy of only one of the four remaining Republican candidates is adequate against this tenuous scenario. Ron Paul’s agenda for the Middle East will guarantee a nuclear Iran, turn North Africa over to the Islamists, and ignore the next wave of jihadists who have trained their sites on the US Homeland. Congressman Paul may be a staunch advocate for citizens’ Constitutional rights, but in my modest view, his vision for US Foreign Policy may force Americans into a national security predicament as bad as or worse than that of a second Obama administration.
When the young Tunisian burned himself in protest against authoritarian oppression and lack of economic justice, triggering massive demonstrations in this small North African country, commentators hesitated to coin the movement as an Arab Spring. It took months, and events exploding in Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria before the West coined the upheavals ”Arab Spring.” And as the movement was developing throughout the region the West was also unsure as to which direction these revolutions are going to go.
First, Tehran formed an alliance with the Assad regime in Syria. Next, Hezbollah was established in Lebanon and later, in 2003, penetrated Iraq’s Shia communities. Now, Tehran is about to achieve its most important goal since the inception of the Islamist regime— a strategic intercontinental ballistic missile arsenal capable of delivering nuclear and other lethal warheads. Military historians will undoubtedly debate the ins and outs of the Iran’s long trek to join the nuclear club. What they will find is a Western world that was fooled for decades. It remains to be seen whether the West’s current leaders will be able to stop this final phase in Iran’s jihadist strategy.
Imam Anwar al Awlaki held two important positions in the cobweb of international Jihadi terror. First, he was one of the emerging younger leaders of al Qaeda after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Out of Yemen, from which his family originates, he had built a network of recruits capable of performing missions in the Arabian Peninsula, but also communicating with the Shabab of Somalia and many cells inside the West. His reach in recruitment was as far as Jihadists have been indoctrinated. The Nigerian Abdelmutalib, known as the Christmas day bomber in the US, was also connected to the Yemeni-based cleric. In a sense, al Awlaki was one of the most effective al Qaeda international officers. His loss will undoubtedly be felt –at least for a while - within the ranks of the network.
In the ongoing, debate, we see two camps. One stating that we were defeating the enemy until Washington changed direction three years ago, and another boasting that America was losing the war until three years ago when a change of direction brought victory in sight.
The most pressing question within the international community and in Washington is about the immediate to medium-term future of the country. Will the Transitional National Council swiftly install its bureaucracies in Tripoli and across the country? Will Qaddafi’s supporters accept the new rule or will they become the new rebels? And most importantly, are the current rebels united in their vision for a new Libya?
In my most recent book, The Coming Revolution: Struggle for Freedom in the Middle East (completedJuly 4, 2010), I argued that civil societies in the Greater Middle East (GME) and Arab World had reached a “critical stage” in their repudiation of all authoritarian forms of government: regime, theocracy, military and ultra-nationalist. The projections therein were based on a thorough study of antecedent Cedars and Green Revolutions in Lebanon (2005) and Iran (2009) respectively, both with limpid narratives, particularly online, and both auguring a continuation of bottom-up, regime-crumbling uprisings in the region.
If the billions in foreign debt-to-be-forgiven or granted in cash to be invested will be used by democratic governments in the region to move their societies away from fundamentalism, radicalism and inequality toward secular, liberal democracy, then the financial support is commensurate with American ideals, the will of the American people and their elected leaders.
Osama bin Laden was No. 1 on the world’s “most wanted” list, a serial mass murderer of Americans that the United States wanted dead or alive, a fugitive from U.N. justice pursued by the nations of the world, and evil incarnate to millions of people around the world.
The message came directly from Hassan Nasrallah, the head of the Iran-backed militia, to Hariri, son of slain prime minister Rafiq Hariri: We won’t allow you to request international support for the United Nations tribunal investigating your father’s assassination.