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America’s 'Dangerous Slide': On the Wrong Side in the Middle East

The editorial continued:

Whatever Egypt’s new military strongman, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, thought he was doing by summoning people to Tahrir Square last Friday to demand a "mandate" to fight terrorism, the result was to undermine Egypt’s prospects for stability even further. Whatever self-described pro-democracy groups thought they were doing by endorsing his call, the result was to strengthen the military and inflame raw divisions between civilian parties.

He knew exactly what he was doing -- he wanted to build and mobilize a civilian support base. And the civilian parties weren't "inflamed." They hate each other, and know they are engaged in a life-and-death struggle.

And whatever the Muslim Brotherhood leaders thought they were doing by urging followers to challenge security forces, the result was to add to the bloodshed and give the military new excuses for repression.

Same patronizing tone. The Brotherhood knows what it is doing, too: it doesn’t want conciliation, it wants revolution.

And things are likely to get worse until the military can be persuaded to hand over power and return to the barracks.

Wrong again. They will get worse if the military does hand over power. For every day -- except a few disastrous weeks under Mursi -- during the last 61 years the army basically held power, even if it was in the barracks.

Other Arab states, particularly Saudi Arabia and its allied Persian Gulf emirates, are unlikely to help. They are more concerned with stamping out any potential political threat to their own autocratic rule at home than in encouraging democracy in Egypt.

Of course, because other Arab states understand Arab politics!

And are they wrong? Listen to them. A Brotherhood takeover of Egypt would increase the political threat to them. Now you want to overthrow Saudi Arabia and any other remaining American friends in the Arab world?

Israel has its own legitimate security concerns, mostly centered on preventing threats from Egypt’s restive Sinai Peninsula and Hamas-ruled Gaza.

And in parallel, you want to further undermine Israel’s security?

That leaves the United States and the European Union.

Right. If Egypt, the Arab states, and Israel don’t undermine their own security, the United States and the EU will.

People, think what you are saying here. Consider what insanity you are advocating. In other words, the pro-Islamist forces are the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists (and in a sense the Taliban and al-Qaeda), which are backed by the EU and United States (plus Turkey and Qatar along with Iran, Syria, and Hizballah); while the anti-Islamist forces are ... the Arab countries and Israel.

Does that seem strange?

But Washington has been doing less than its share. Excessive concerns with maintaining good relations with Egypt’s generals and fears that a loosened military grip on Sinai and the Gaza border might throw off nascent Israeli-Palestinian peace talks have wrongly muffled America’s public voice.

So: let’s get tough with the generals, not the Islamists? The best way to help peace talks is to return to an Islamist regime in Egypt? That will surely quiet Hamas and the jihadists in Sinai, and make Israel feel reeeeeal secure. Oh by the way, the main threat to the Palestinian Authority (PA) is ... Hamas. No doubt the PA will thank you, too.

Most of all, President Obama needs to clarify what America stands for as Egypt struggles over its future.

He sure does. By turning away from the Islamists and toward others, including Israel.