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East of Suez

August 19th, 2013 - 3:58 am

Terry Atlas, writing in Bloomberg says that Egypt highlights the disintegration of the US coalition in the Middle East and the collapse of its influence in the region. US allies Turkey and Qatar are at odds with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates over the who should control Cairo. These very same were being counted on to lead US efforts in Syria. But now they are at daggers drawn. It would be as if France and Britain decided to go to war on June 5, 1944.

“What Qatar and Turkey say is almost a 180-degree opposite of what the Emirates and the Saudis are saying publicly,” Katulis said.

While trying to deal with those differences over Egypt, the U.S. is relying on the same countries for cooperation on other regional challenges, including support for rebels fighting to overthrow the Syrian regime and curtailing Iran’s nuclear activities.

Even Israel appears to be on the opposite side of the US in Egypt.  Although seemingly friendless, doubtless the Obama administration is being supported by vast swathes of popular opinion if only one could discover it. However that may be one thing seems clear: Washington is no longer in obvious command of the coalition. In fact it may have even precipitated the destruction of its own coalition. Created a collision in its own flotilla. In consequence the Obama administration is paralyzed, seemingly irrelevant. Bloomberg continues:

The interplay of interests may help explain the Obama administration’s caution in responding to the Egyptian crisis, Katulis said in a phone interview.

“We’ve almost overhedged our bets,” he said. “We’re tying to maintain good relations with all these actors that have often tense relations with each other. I think that explains, in part, the reticence Obama has.”

They gave the green light to everybody and whoopee. The pileup caused by Washington is predictably being sold as a feature. “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to harness polarization among U.S. allies to advance mediation.” Translation: the train wreck is intentional and we’re all just too stupid to understand how brilliant it is.

John McCain, who was treated like dirt in Cairo, has fewer illusions. He said the United States has “no credibility” in the Middle East, he says. “There is no policy and there is no strategy, and therefore we react and we react poorly,” McCain declared on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

McCain’s idea is to cut off the aid and show Cairo who’s boss.  The problem is that if it does not work then what does he do for an encore? Time Magazine, perhaps already knowing the answer,  is taking the line that whatever happens it’s no big deal. “Egypt No Longer Matters. It’s time for Washington to recognize that Cairo is not the center of the Arab world.”

While Egypt has weakened over the past four decades, several other regional players have grown stronger and more ambitious. Some of these — Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Turkey — are American allies (much of the time, anyway), which means Egypt’s utility to the U.S. as an interlocutor to the Arab world is greatly diminished.

This is called managing expectations. For as long as Kerry is talking then Obama is leading on to triumph. But Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy argues that the “polarization” which Kerry is counting on to masterfully turn the tide isn’t really the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s more like an oncoming train.

Lynch says Egypt, even more than Syria, is an arena where competing brands of Islamism duking it out. Cairo is nothing but a pressure gauge reflecting the rising pressure in the region. Events in Egypt are causing disparate camps to line up against each other within different countries in the region. Already the leaders of the Kingdom and the other Gulf countries are moving to suppress internal dissent as the divisions of Cairo mirror themselves at home. Of particularly worry is that the whole Jihadi fundraising and recruiting apparatus destined for Syria may be repurposed for Egypt.

The greater impact might be felt in Syria, however. These Islamist networks and personalities have been instrumental in building support and raising money for the various factions of the Syrian opposition. Now, they are prominently equating Egypt’s General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi with Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Suwaidan, for instance, proclaims that “the right is clearly with the revolutionaries in Syria and with those who adhere to legitimacy and reject the coup in Egypt. What will happen if the Islamist networks which have been working to support the Syrian opposition begin to turn their fundraising and mobilizational efforts to Egypt?

It would be poetic justice but a world class disaster if the Obama administration was hoist on its own petard, struck by the very apparatus it was readying to turn on Assad. Surely Russia and Damascus would attempt to achieve such an effect if they could. What happens if that turnabout occurs?

Why I predict that Time will shortly inform its readers that the Suez Canal no longer matters; that Syria no longer matters; that Israel no longer matters. And eventually the line will be that the whole Middle East was no big deal anyway. Such is the genius of the Obama foreign policy. Always outwitted but never fooled.

Michael Ledeen argues that the coalition, having escaped the American grasp, now a loose cannon.  And if America doesn’t harness the unleashed forces, somebody will.  The forces in the region are forming and reforming, sometimes fighting and sometimes cooperating, but at all events susceptible to being harnessed to one overarching principle: Death to America. Ledeen says: America is facing war though the administration won’t call it war — not a man made natural disaster, not a law enforcement problem but war — that ugliest of three letter words. He writes:

The war is easily described: there is a global alliance of radical leftists and radical Islamists, supported by a group of countries that includes Russia, at least some Chinese leaders, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The radicals include the Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist organizations and leftist groups, and they all work seamlessly with the narcotics mafias. Their objective is the destruction of the West, above all, of the United States….

here’s an alliance plotting against us, bound together by two radical views of the world that share a profound, fundamental hatred of us. If they win, it’s hell to pay, because then we will be attacked directly and often, and we will be faced with only two options, winning or losing.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’re divided, and slaughtering each other. And it’s not always possible for us to sort out what “each other” even means. … So we’ve got opportunities, lots of them. We’ve already passed up many: failing to support the Iranian people against the evil regime that is the central source of terror against us and our would-be friends, failing to support Mubarak against the Brothers, failing to quickly support the opposition to Assad at the outset, before the enterprise got buried under a heap of jihadi manure, and so forth. OK, we’re human, we’re led, if that’s the right verb, very badly, by ideologues who think we are the root cause of most of the world’s problems. Which is the same thing our enemies believe, as luck would have it. But this will pass, and even now we could transform the big global board by doing the strategically sound and morally correct thing, and support the Iranian people against the regime. Don’t bomb them, don’t invade them, just tell the regime we know who and what they are, and start talking to their most dangerous enemies, the overwhelming majority of the Iranian nation. We may not know exactly how to do it, but they do, and if we showed up, they would tell us.

Ledeen is making an appeal for American strategic clarity. He might as well ask for the moon. Asking for strategic clarity is like asking for sanity inside a madhouse. It is the one thing that the Obama administration does not have. Those very same radical leftists and Islamists — or at least their representatives — are already inside the Beltway with scads of money and legions of lawyers at their disposal, and they will play havoc with anything resembling strategic clarity.

What it possesses in superabundance is vanity and nearly as plentiful a quantity of wishful thinking plus  a nearly infinite capacity for greed overlaid by a laundry list of slogans and talking points none of which necessarily agree with each other.

If Washington were capable of the coherent strategy Ledeen pleads for he wouldn’t have to ask for it. It would already be there. Its conspicuous absence is proof of its absence. The situation is reminiscent of the answer I received when I tried to collect a small sum of money owed me from someone. He explained that if had any money to pay me back he wouldn’t have borrowed any money in the first place.

Perhaps if America looks to be victorious in the Middle East the primary battlefield must be Washington. Washington needs to sit down and think. Nothing can be achieved in the Middle East until Washington is fixed or fixes itself. Until then, in the refrain of Queen:

Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters -
nothing really matters to me


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Top Rated Comments   
Folks, let’s get something straight here.

The US had promoted the “everybody’s friend” approach in the ME from the gitgo.

We supported the idea of Israel but sent no forces to help. US equipment they used was obtained from WWII scrapyards and other European sources, not military aid. The IDF flew Messerschmitts and did not get Mustangs until the 50’s!

In the Suez crisis we were allies with GB and France but did not send military aid to fight the Arabs. Didn’t want to be too unfriendly.

Prior to the 6 Day War, the IDF was armed mainly with French equipment. In contrast, we supplied F-104’s to Jordan. After the 6 Day war, France abandoned Israel and we stepped in and supplied A-4’s and F-4’s – but also still supported Jordan and supplied Hawk missile batteries to Saudi Arabia as well as aircraft to Iran.

After the Yom Kipper War we stepped in after the Soviets pulled out of Egypt (funny story about that) and supplied them as well. Later Jimmy Carter tilted more toward the Arabs – but we still supported Israel and managed to help produce peace between the two worst adversaries in the region.

Reagan strongly supported Israel but also was even more friendly with the Arabs. The big freakin’ controversy in the early 80’s was our selling AWACs to SA! We even trained some helicopter pilots for Saddam!

Bush I followed Reagan’s policies – and does anyone recall how many Arabs we had on our side in Desert Storm – including Syria!

Bush II went out of his way not to anger the Arabs, if anything, too well, I think most would agree.

So every President has walked the “be friends with everybody” tightrope, all for the most part quite successfully.

Until now, and Kapitan Amerika comes in, and despite no USSR, no Saddam, a very long standing peace between Israel and Egypt, and victory in Iraq, he still can’t handle the standard US “be friends with everybody” approach.

This is like the inexperienced Damage Control Officer sinking the IJN Shanano BEFORE it met up with the USS Archerfish!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Unlike Mr. Ledeen, I don't think that the failure to support Mubarak against the MB and the failure to support the Iranian people against their oppressive regime was a mistake. It was deliberate. NOBODY can be that incompetent.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (47)
All Comments   (47)
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As to whom we should back, Simon says it best here:

pjmedia.com/rogerlsimon/2013/08/19/obamas-strange-love-affair/
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm currently watching a report on the end of the Viet Nam war

funnily, it was safer to raise a french banner, at least from the hotel, than a american flag
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"He explained that if had any money to pay me back he wouldn’t have borrowed any money in the first place."

You found the next Secretary of the Treasury?

Today I spoke with a diplomat from the UAE (Dhubai) in the normal course of business. I asked him how Qatar could act so brazenly against the interests of the local big dog, KSA. He said the Qataris were acting on behalf of the United States. In effect there was now a US Turkish Qatari MB alliance in opposition to the KSA UAE and Egyptian military. While I did not get into it the presumption is that the Iranians are the third leg or wheel on this contraption. The Russians have used the Shi'a to split the Sunni and may pick up the pieces. The Europeans unlike the Russians do not act with a long term aggressive plan. They contribute to the disaster almost en passant.

Where do the Israelis figure in all this? They should be backing the KSA position. The most good Israel could do from a conservative Sunni position would be to be invisible. The problem is that forbearance gives the conservative Sunnis, and liberals and secularists for what they are worth in the region, space to act against Israel's enemies but it also gives Iran time to work on Die Endlösung.

Soon Israel will have to act. Can the Israelis and the KSA convince the Russians to sell out the Iranians? Could we see the KSA crush the Qataris in defiance of the Americans? Where would that leave the Turks? All the pieces are moving in this game of four dimensional chess.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
My take is that the West underestimates the importance of Erdogan's Islamism in the brew - - for Putin.

Erdogan's been actively stirring the pot in the near abroad.

Russia has been fighting the Turk for better than ten centuries.

A big part of Erdogan's big push was to get natural gas trunk lines routed down and away from Moscow, with consequent impact on Putin's own hobby horse: Gazprom. (IIRC he's the largest private shareholder -- shares that he gave to himself -- his tax basis is zero.)

It's Turkey that causes Putin to back Syria -- come what may.

In sum: an international gas war has replaced the Cold War as the nexus of rivalry.

I suspect Qatar is reversing direction. The old emir was taking the national accounts into bankruptcy. America was not actually picking up the tab.

In sum: Barry was on board with the MB, the Salafists, and all things radical. He was against KSA, the Egyptian old guard and Israel. (Getting no end of concessions from Jerusalem, anyway.)

Jerusalem is, like most, now straddling their position with mega-deals signed with Gazprom.

Something like that is going to happen with Egypt. She'll straddle Moscow, DC, and Riyadh.

Barry will end up tossed from the bull instead of tossing the bull around. Ouch!

What can you expect from a Rodeo clown? That's how they roll.

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Qatar plicy changedwithinthe new head

besides of that they had many eggs in different baskets, so far thy want to earn money, and are leaving the losers
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
r said: I am advocating military intervention in Egypt to save the Copts.

Yeah me too LOL. And maybe return the 4th Army to Iraq to protect the last two Jews, if they haven't already moved to Miami.

Seriously, I would fully support a neo-colonization movement to teach the heathen how to be polite, I said as much about Pakistan. We might get a lot more support from the natives for something like that, than we do for what we're doing now, and the results would be 1000x better, and the cost about 1000x lower.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
meanwhile, who noticed that in Mali, normal elections occured?

oh yes, the French managed it, that's second zone achievment

the problem that you have, and that we don't worship, it's to hunt two rabbits at the same time, in hoping that you would win the jackpot,, but it's never so easy, you have to commit to really what the people wants, and in Africa it's always full of aleas. We stickedto what we always did, fight the designed ennemy, the jihadists in the occurence, funily we got the world suppor from the US to Russia and to China. Now the job isn't finished, we have to accompany this new elected government, and that costs money... hope that the clinging money would come from pragmatists, it's never a victory to leave people with their new freedom toy, the rules are the real deal, and today there's till many jokers that want that they fail

Glad that finally Saudi Arabia sees where its interests are, not from the muslims blue brothers, that they created before when they were a colony, but today, as they also are a "imerialist" power, hey they finally learnt the lesson of nations that exsted outside the tribes hegemony

anyways, good luck to America to sort out this big mess, if you need little friends advices, open your ears !

ahahah
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Marie - I did not understand this word, "aleas". Can you make it more clear?
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
the world dictionnary translates it into 'hazard risk", , though aleas isn't realy hazard, as it is inherently the componnents that would make you win of fail, just that you have to make the right calculs in a given context

48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
from the Latin noun for "die": "alea iacta est" In English we have the adjective "aleatory" which means "random"
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
ys, "random" is also a right definition

I was wrong to use "aleas" it should have been the given possibilities, as we knew what were the possible aftermaths there

The Africans are our children, imaginewhat teens could do, then you have them annoying us.

They are grown ups, in the meanwhile children, but not prepared to deal wih a global world, I still remember their wise lough at what would sadden us in term of priorities, anyways we are like people who look at another planet's people
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Merci!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment

A jihad against the Copts is well underway in Egypt. We should respond with a crusade to save them.

I am advocating military intervention in Egypt to save the Copts.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Turkey and Qatar = jihadist state. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates = ME 'strongman'. Not to quibble but Israel is on the opposite side of the Obama administration on Egypt.

“U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to harness polarization among U.S. allies to advance mediation.”
Reportedly, Eve was the first to learn of the cunning of a snake. Nothing has changed because while snakes can shed their skin, a snake by any other name is still a snake.

"Cairo is nothing but a pressure gauge reflecting the rising pressure in the region." And that 'rising pressure' the sound of region wide jihadist states emerging.

"The war is easily described: there is a global alliance of radical leftists and radical Islamists, supported by a group of countries that includes Russia, at least some Chinese leaders, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. The radicals include the Sunni and Shi’ite terrorist organizations and leftist groups, and they all work seamlessly with the narcotics mafias. Their objective is the destruction of the West, above all, of the United States….here’s an alliance plotting against us, bound together by two radical views of the world that share a profound, fundamental hatred of us."

Bingo! There's a money quote is ever I heard one.

"That’s the bad news. The good news is that they’re divided, and slaughtering each other."

I'm sorry, what leftists are being slaughtered? Surely Ledeen doesn't mean the minuscule amount of leftists living in the ME?

"Perhaps if America looks to be victorious in the Middle East the primary battlefield must be Washington. Washington needs to sit down and think. Nothing can be achieved in the Middle East until Washington is fixed or fixes itself."

Talk about asking for the moon.





48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Q: Which side should I be rooting for in the current conflict?

A: Your choice is between the theocratic, fascist church-burners of the Muslim Brotherhood or the authoritarian, coup-plotting civilian-killers of the Egyptian military. These are the only two parties that matter in the conflict.

Q: So how do we get the generals to stop killing Muslim Brotherhood members, and convince them to marginalize Islamists in more nuanced ways?

A: Chuck Hagel, the U.S. secretary of defense, called General Abdelfatah al-Seesi, the leader of the Egyptian junta, 17 times in the days leading up to the army's violent suppression of Brotherhood demonstrators. These calls failed to persuade al-Seesi to moderate his stance. I'm convinced that an 18th call would have worked, however.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-19/all-of-your-egypt-questions-answered.html
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
Your choice is between the ... the Muslim Brotherhood or the... Egyptian military.

Q: Which of the two seeks to destroy the US? Was overjoyed on 9/11? Whichever one that is, is our enemy. Therefore the other is trying to destroy our enemy. QED.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Created a collision in its own flotilla."

Well, yeah! When the flagship makes illogical, radical course and speed changes without signalling any of the other ships.
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
"John McCain, who was treated like dirt in Cairo..."

Hmmmm, maybe I should give these Egyptians a second look!
48 weeks ago
48 weeks ago Link To Comment
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