Putin Is the Victor in Egypt as Obama Stumbles
The Russian strongman skips into the great power vacuum that Obama left for him.
August 23, 2013 - 12:30 am
We can legitimately debate whether there ever was such a thing as American exceptionalism, but today, it would be difficult to argue that there is not such a thing as American irrelevance. Favoring the Muslim Brotherhood and speaking in patently naïve and platitudinous rhetoric calling for reconciliation between the Egyptian military and the Brotherhood, the Obama administration suspended aid to the military regime in Egypt. Within hours, the Saudis stepped in to replace the suspended aid and showed that the administration’s threats were as meaningless as they were stupid.
In the meantime, Russian President Vladimir Putin has slid into the great-power vacuum to call an extraordinary meeting of the Kremlin and announce that Russia is putting all her military facilities at Egypt’s disposal. Putin also announced Russia’s willingness to replace America in the joint military exercises the Obama administration cancelled as part of its escalating sanctions against the Egyptian military. Igor Morozov, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, chastised the American administration for not understanding the threat the Muslim Brotherhood was to the entire region.
The Russians have exploited the amateurish foreign policy of the American administration and shifted the dynamics of power in the Middle East. The Egyptian crisis has created strange bedfellows. In Egypt, the Russians are now aligned with the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, who are aligned with Israel. Not that these countries are coordinating directly with each other, but they all share a common goal: preventing the spread of the Brotherhood’s version of militant Islam.
For its part, the Obama administration has once again failed to comprehend the threat of the Brotherhood. After all, James Clapper, Obama’s director of national intelligence, gave one of the most ludicrous perspectives imaginable on the Brotherhood when he testified before Congress: “The term Muslim Brotherhood is an umbrella term for a variety of movements. In the case of Egypt, [the Brotherhood is] a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaeda as a perversion of Islam.”
One wonders what Clapper has to say about the church burnings, murders, and rapes this largely “secular” movement has orchestrated in the name of Islam or whether its penchant for violence is also a perversion of Islam.
Calling for reconciliation with the Brotherhood is akin to calling on the liberal factions in the Weimar Republic to find a means to reconcile with the Nazis after they burned the Reichstag. Yet the Clapper mentality still pervades the Obama administration, as Secretary of State John Kerry continues to call for reconciliation, thus further alienating not only the interim military government but also the mainstream of Egyptian popular opinion.
Obama’s personal infatuation with the Brotherhood goes back, publicly at least, to his now famous speech at Cairo University in 2009. There he insulted the Egyptian government by inviting members of the Muslim Brotherhood and seating them prominently in the front of the auditorium. Then he launched an incomprehensible speech that showcased a distorted and uncritical view of Islam and put Islam and America on the same footing. It was obsequious, pandering, and certainly inappropriate for any leader of a great nation. Vladimir Putin would never have made it.
To give this outrageous speech, Obama had to close his eyes to the misogyny, bigotry, and backwardness that have condemned the Islamic world to remain stranded in the Middle Ages. The sycophantic American media, still swooning over the election of the first black president, heralded it as great. It was anything but great. It was a recipe for disaster that foretold Obama’s abandoning of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and the opening of Egypt to the tyranny of the Muslim Brotherhood. It showed that Obama was clueless about Egypt’s vital role in preserving both the balance of power and stability in the region.
Oblivious to the changing dynamic created by the new alignment in Egypt and what it took for the Saudis to openly challenge America’s Egyptian policy, the Obama administration still plays the only note it knows how to play, leaving Putin with one foot in the Iranian camp and one foot in the Egyptian. Putin has not only managed to outmaneuver the dim-witted Obama, but he is also straddling both sides of the Shia/Sunni divide.
Obama is once again leading from behind. In this case, he is following the man he admires most in the Middle East, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan. America has become hostage to Turkey’s hegemonic interests. Turkey supports the opposition in Syria because with Bashar Assad out of the picture, Iran’s hegemonic dream of a Shi’ite crescent from Tehran to the Mediterranean is no longer possible. Sunni Turkey no longer has to be concerned about sharing power in the region with Shi’ite Iran. If the Brotherhood in Egypt is restored to power, Egypt will be significantly weakened and Turkey will not have to worry about a powerful Egypt as a major regional competitor.
Where Turkey has gone in Syria and Egypt, Obama has followed. From Russia’s perspective, however, Iran is substantially less of a threat to its interests than is NATO-allied Turkey. Consequently, Russia supports both Shi’ite-backed Assad and the Sunni-backed Egyptian military because they are both foils to Turkish interests and give Russia a presence as a power broker on both sides of the ongoing Shi’ite/Sunni conflict.
Obama is not considering America’s interests in the region. He is still the neurotic narcissist standing in the adulation of the crowd at Cairo University as the young and naïve students resonate to his banalities and as the Muslim Brotherhood leaders look on with bemusement from their front-row seats. And Vladimir Putin, this morning, must wonder if there is a God, for in Barack Obama, Russia has truly been blessed.