"Moderate Islamist?" Team Obama's delusion....
Like Gaza, the Sinai is actually more a curse than a blessing. The politics are certainly unconventional. In fact, the Bedouin insurgency is utterly apolitical, even anti-political. It is ethnocentric kleptocracy. Still, the peninsula of rocky sand has political value to some. To Israel, as a buffer against the Egyptian army and its American-supplied might. And now Israel and Egypt itself face in this desert the deft maneuvering of the Muslim extreme, the Brotherhood, Hamas, and other groups disciplined only to their chastening version of the Book, in this case, the Koran.
Once again, female reporters have been sexually assaulted in Cairo, both by demonstrators & by security forces. And the chief counter-weight to Islamists, Egypt's military, is losing public support, making the triumph of Islamists even more likely. Historian Walter Russell Mead sees parallels between Egypt's Cairo/rural split & that in revolutionary 18th & 19th century France, and sees the ultimate outcome uncertain. Saboteurs raised from 6 to 9 the number of times they blew up sections of the Sinai oil/gas pipeline supplying Israel & Jordan--3 times in the past two weeks.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy examined in more detail the rise of Islamism among the Bedouin of the Sinai. It gets better: a Muslim rally at Cairo's al-Azhar Mosque, Sunni Islam's most prestigious center of learning, al-Azhar University, turned into a "Kill the Jews!" hate-fest. "Learning" indeed.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a coalition of "moderate" parties has united against the military. The article notes that Muhammad el-Baradei, who is characterized as moderate, leads the new group, while the Muslim Brotherhood is outside. But this ignores: (a) that el-Baradei has long ties to the MB; and (b) that el-Baradei, as the top UN WMD inspector, actually fronted for the Iranian regime, thus hampering adoption of strong measures against Iran. El-Baradei is deeply anti-US, too.
One Muslim country bright spot: peaceful, apparently fair elections were held in Morocco.
Barry Rubin offers a 13-question "exam" the answers to which explain why Team Obama & reporters can manage to call the Muslim Brotherhood moderates--despite their open expression of homicidal sentiments towards the Jews.
Rubin summarizes succinctly why moderates will lose to Islamist totalitarians in the Arab Spring:
Naïve Western officials, journalists, and “experts” think that an electoral victory for the Islamists is just fine and dandy. They will obey the rules; be worn down by the necessary compromises of democratic politics; have to focus their efforts on collecting garbage, running schools, and fixing roads; and then another election will come along and things will always be all right.
They come close to saying: Ha, ha, ha! They’re in power? So what can they possibly do with control over the state and all of its resources to change anything significantly? There are democratic rules after all!
That’s not how it works.
Is this anything new? Consider these quotations from a Middle East leader:
Before taking power: “The foundation of our Islamic government is based on freedom of dialogue and we will fight against any kind of censorship.”
Before taking power: “Personal desire, age and my health do not allow me to personally have a role in running the country after the fall of the current system.”
After taking power: “Those who are trying to bring corruption and destruction to our country in the name of democracy will be oppressed. They are worse than Jews, and they must be hanged.”
Who said these things? Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Back to 2011. The media-expert-journalist complex has messed every element of this year’s big Middle East story until it was painfully obvious and too late to do anything about it:
–Islamists are strong not weak.
–Moderate “Facebook kid” democrats can’t compete with them.
—Islamists are radical not moderate
Now we are on to the fourth point. When totalitarians take power, by election or other means, they proceed to consolidate power. There are ways to do this other than lining up all of your opponents and shooting them or chopping off their heads. The strategy is to take control of national institutions, transform the national debate, use the amount of repression that’s necessary, and pursue populist policies (both economic and demagogic) to win mass support.
This is what the Turkish model is all about. After several years you get reelected; or, in Iran’s case, steal the election; or, in the Palestinian Authority’s and Hamas’s case, stop holding elections altogether.
Read the rest of his superb post for rich yet concise detail.
In another recent post, BR notes that since January predictions that moderates would win elections held during the Arab Spring seem Pollyannish today. He analyzes a recent Hillary Clinton speech, and concludes that Team Obama believes that Islamists are positive forces for good, and thus Islamist democracies should be encouraged. Here is one part of his acerbic, brilliant analysis, beginning with a Hillary quote from her Nov. 7 Arab Spring speech:
“Not all Islamists are alike. Turkey and Iran are both governed by parties with religious roots, but their models and behavior are radically different. There are plenty of political parties with religious affiliations—Hindu, Christian, Jewish, Muslim—that respect the rules of democratic politics. The suggestion that faithful Muslims cannot thrive in a democracy is insulting, dangerous, and wrong. They do it in this country every day.”
–True, Not all Muslims are alike but all Islamists are alike.
–By the same token, not all Russians are alike but all Communists under Lenin and Stalin were alike.
-And, not all Germans were alike but all Nazis were alike.
–Not all organizations composed of Caucasians are alike but all members of the Ku Klux Klan are alike.
–The fact that European Christian Democratic and Israeli religious parties respect the rules of democratic politics has no connection with whether the Muslim Brotherhood will do so.
Is that clear?
What’s striking about the administration’s position is the lack of the most basic logic. True, a political party with religious affiliations might “respect the rules of democratic politics.” But that doesn’t mean parties favoring a Sharia state in which, say, Muslims who convert to another religion are sentenced to death, fall into that category. There is no proof that Islamist parties “respect the rules of democratic politics” except their willingness to run in elections. The Nazis and Communists also ran in elections. So what?
And what is a moderate Muslim? He might be a conservative traditionalist; liberal reformer; Kurdish or Berber nationalist; tribal loyalist; etc. But that doesn’t apply to an Islamist, someone who wants to fundamentally transform the existing society into one governed by Sharia law under a hardline interpretation, wiping of Israel off the map, subordinating Christians and women; and driving Western influence out of the region.
Winning an election and forming a government is only the first step. What does that government do? It passes laws that enforce an Islamist conception of society; puts its people into the bureaucracy, rewards imams who are radical and fires those who are moderate; rewrites textbooks and what appears on the media, chooses judges and the commanders of the armed forces; and sponsors terrorism against other states.
It would be something else completely for the U.S. government to say: We will accept the Muslim Brotherhood in government if it takes power in an election, but we will do everything possible to stop that from happening. That would be a proper U.S. interests’ policy.
BR notes that Clinton, in her speech, presumes Islamist moderation. The history of such parties should lead to the opposite view, that of presuming Islamist tyranny if put into power, even by vote. In post-Gaddafi Libya, crude anti-Semitism is rife, though sentiments expressed in Arabic are not repeated to Western reporters.
Notably, Clinton cites Muslims thriving in American democracy every day in support of her optimistic outlook re the Arab Spring. While this is a poor precedent for their thriving in other, less hospitable societies, she thus contradicts the false narrative liberals (like Hillary herself) frequently apply to Muslims in the US as being subjected to hate crimes, prejudice, etc. The latest FBI hate crime figures show, as usual, that hate crimes committed against Jews outnumber those committed against Muslims; for 2009 the Jewish to Muslim hate-crime ratio was, as has been typical, 8 Jewish victims per 1 Muslim victim.
Among Gulf States, QATAR IS STEPPING UP ITS REGIONAL ACTIVITY, AS THE US IS SEEN INCREASINGLY AS BEING IN RETREAT FROM THE MIDEAST:
But for all the contradictions in its policies — and there are many — Qatar is advancing a decisive shift in Arab politics that many in the West have yet to embrace: a Middle East dominated by mainstream Islamist parties brought to power in a region that is more democratic, more conservative and more tumultuous.
“Qatar is a country without ideology,” said Talal Atrissi, a Lebanese political analyst and commentator. “They know that the Islamists are the new power in the Arab world. This alliance will lay the foundation for a base of influence across the region.” ....
Ambition dominates Doha, whose frenzied skyline suggests medieval Baghdad crossed with “Blade Runner.” Qatar’s economy offers indicators in superlatives: the world’s highest growth rate and highest per capita income. Its emir, a towering man whose girth was ridiculed by Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, has sought to reconcile what could be considered irreconcilable.
Qatar straddles opposing sides:
Maintaining channels with an array of forces has proven a cornerstone of Qatar’s policy. It hosts two American bases, with more than 13,000 personnel; in Lebanon, the emir was welcomed as a hero by Hezbollah’s supporters last year for helping rebuild towns Israel destroyed in 2006.
Unlike Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar enjoys close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood, in its various incarnations in Libya, Syria and Egypt, as well as with figures like Rachid al-Ghannouchi, the Tunisian Islamist, all of whom are almost certain to play a crucial role in the next generation of Arab politics.
But it also has what might be described as the Qatari equivalent of soft power: the influence of Al Jazeera, which the emir founded and finances, and which more and more reflects Qatari foreign policy; ties with Mr. Qaradawi, who has his own network of prominent Islamists in the region; and the emir’s own knack for involving Qatar in conflicts as far-flung as Afghanistan and the Darfur region of Sudan.
Legitimating Islamist participation in Arab Spring upheavals may simply be a lame way to try to curry favor with such groups, in the hope that doing so encourages moderation. Co-optation of Muslim radicals is a strategy that, to my knowledge, has never succeeded. Moreover, as ex-diplomat John Bolton writes, President Obama lacks the will & competence necessary to run an operation to help topple the Syrian regime, which is strongly backed by Iran:
So, while toppling the Islamic Revolution of 1979, as well as overthrowing Assad, should have consistently been our declared objective, are we now ready to move in that direction?
No, not under Obama. He shows few signs he wants to shift course, possesses the political will to oust the ayatollahs, or is up to the sustained effort necessary. Libya and Muammar Gaddafi’s demise provide no rebuttal to this gloomy forecast. Obama’s Libya policy backed into success, only narrowly averting catastrophe. Instead, the unlikely political determination of Britain and France, NATO strikes that barely prevailed before running out of ammunition, and rebel forces ultimately more bloodthirsty than Gaddafi’s loyalists brought his demise. Such Rube-Goldberg-like coincidences will not prevail against the Syria-Iran axis. There, leading from behind will almost inevitably fail, as nearly happened in Libya, with potentially significant human and financial costs.
We cannot truly solve the Syrian problem without being prepared, as former Secretary of State Alexander Haig observed, to “go to the source”—and the source in this case is Tehran.
Especially since Obama has proven utterly unable to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program , overturning the ayatollahs is a struggle Washington should undertake—but not now, under his inadequate leadership.
Waiting fifteen months for the end of Obama’s presidency may well be costly for Syria’s and Iran’s opposition. But acting while he still holds office will only bring America, the opposition forces, and the entire Middle East even more grief.
While Obama sleeps, the Arab League imposed economic sanctions against Syria, an unprecedented step for the League to take against a member state. Most Arab trade with & investment in Syria will be cut off immediately:
The sanctions include a travel ban against scores of senior officials, a freeze on Syrian government assets in Arab countries, a ban on transactions with Syria’s central bank and an end to all commercial exchanges with the Syrian government.
They carve out an exception for important consumer goods, to try to lessen the impact on ordinary Syrians, although those exceptions were not yet spelled out. A ban on all flights from Arab nations will not be enforced yet because of objections from Algeria, diplomats said. The league said it would reconsider that measure in a week.
Though 19 Arab League members voted in favor, Iraq voted against & Lebanon "dissociated" itself from the vote; a non-member, Turkey, will join the ban. Their stated aim is to induce the regime to comply with demands to stop the regime's violence against protesters, not effect regime change. An estimated 50 percent of Syria's exports & 25 percent of its imports are derived from intra-Arab League trade. Elliott Abrams sees the League's action as "huge"; a major factor, he writes, is the League's desire to move Syria away from Iran (which may explain the dissenting votes of Iraq, next door to Iran, & Hezbollah-dominated Lebanon).
Bottom Line. Team Obama, due to its delusional belief that Islamist parties can be truly moderate, is unwittingly undermining non-Islamist democratic groups, many of whom are genuinely moderate, They are badly handicapped for want of comparable organizational skills possessed by Islamists, for whom the mosque on Friday is a natural focal point. It is a grim augury for the Arab Spring and, more importantly, for US interests in the region.
Letter from the Capitol, LFTC, Foreign Policy, Conservative Politics