Sunday, June 16, 2013
By Barry Rubin
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His next book, Nazis, Islamists and the Making of the Modern Middle East, written with Wolfgang G. Schwanitz, will be published by Yale University Press in January 2014. His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, also published by Yale. Thirteen of his books can be read and downloaded for free at the website of the GLORIA Center including The Arab States and the Palestine Conflict, The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East and The Truth About Syria. His blog is Rubin Reports. His original articles are published at PJMedia.
Here is what I wrote in October 2010. The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad al-Badi, had just given a sermon calling for the overthrow of Egypt’s government, which happened four months later, and a jihad against the United States, a country he considered weak, foolish, and retreating from the Middle East. I declared that this was:
“One of those obscure Middle East events of the utmost significance that is ignored by the Western mass media, especially because they happen in Arabic, not English; by Western governments, because they don’t fit their policies; and by experts, because they don’t mesh with their preconceptions."
Two and a half years ago, who would ever have thought that the United States would enter an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood? There were hints in President Barack Obama's Cairo speech, yet now it is clear that this is the new basis for regional security sought by the Obama Administration.
For all practical purposes the closest allies to the United States are no longer Israel, Saudi Arabia, and a moderate Egypt but an Islamist Egypt, an Islamist regime in Turkey, and the Syrian rebels led by the Brotherhood.
And literally every mainstream media outlet, every expert who speaks in public, every Democrat and the majority of Republican politicians still don't realize that this is true.
There have been in American history the Truman Doctrine (help countries fight Communist takeover), the Nixon Doctrine (get local middle-sized powers to take part of the burden of the Cold War from the United States), the Carter Doctrine (defend Gulf Arab states from Iranian aggression), and the Reagan Doctrine (go on the offensive against Soviet expansionism). Now we have the Obama Doctrine:
An alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood to transform the Middle East.
Is this really an improvement on a situation based on alliances with pro-Western dictators? Now they are still dictators but are also anti-American and even more oppressive than their predecessors. After all, the old dictators, as horrible as they were, were content with the status quo (except for Iraq where the overthrow came without a new extremist regime taking power) . The Islamist ones want the fundamental transformation of their societies. By our times, the old dictators were resigned to the regional situation. The Islamist ones want a wave of new revolutions, terrorism, wars against Israel. And sooner or later they will strike out against America, just as they give their Salafist allies a free rein to do so.
The occasion for declaring that an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood and similar groups is the new Obama Doctrine is, of course, the decision to supply arms to the Syrian rebels. As recently as April 28—a mere six weeks ago!—the New York Times was talking of an imminent rebel victory! Now, however, panic has set in about a total rebel collapse. This has prompted a rush to give weapons to the rebels even as they seem to have stopped the government advance. In some parts of the country the rebels are the ones advancing.
The weapons will be given to the Supreme Military Council which runs the Free Syrian Army (FSA). But while the FSA is nominally led by defected military officers, in fact most of its soldiers hold views close to the Muslim Brotherhood. Thus, the fig leaf will be that these guns are being given to “moderates”—like the people Senator John McCain met with—while actually they will be given to people whose politics encompass hatred for Jews, Christians, the West generally, and ready to engage in what in American politics has come to be known as Homophobia and a War on Women.
If the rebels were to win, this would mean imposing a Muslim Brotherhood government on Syria. Let’s remember that the political opposition organization the United States recognizes and has financially supported is overwhelmingly run by the Brotherhood and it refuses to admit real moderates and Kurds on a serious level.
Note that this is the second Muslim Brotherhood entity the U.S. government has provided with weapons. The first was the Egyptian government, to which despite its questionable human rights record the Obama Administration has no objection to helping. The shipment of weapons is not even postponed as a gesture.
Thus, Egypt is an anti-American client state of America. And so is Tunisia. So, too, is Turkey, which is sort of a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Turkish style. The Turkish regime, it should be remembered, is the chief adviser to the Obama Administration on Syrian affairs and its favorite government in the region.
Why did Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Egypt endorse an American no-fly zone in Syria? In Islamic terms to invite in an infidel power to "invade" an Arab land cannot be justified by any Islamist in contrast to a non-Islamist Muslim-majority state. The Muslim Brotherhood can justify this support because the goal of this action will be to install a Muslim Brotherhood government, that's why.
There are four places where U.S. policy is not (not yet?) backing the Brotherhood.
First, because of pro-Israel sentiment in the United States, the Obama Administration is still anti-Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood group which rules the Gaza Strip. Hamas has also committed too many terrorist attacks and is in revolt against the U.S.-backed nationalist Palestinian Authority.
In an unguarded moment, Obama’s then counterterrorism advisor let slip that he would engage Hamas if he thought he could get away with it. But this would be too big a step for even pro-Obama Democrats to accept. And besides right now Hamas is in a conflict with Egypt so that doesn’t have to be faced right now.
The second problem is with Jordan, where the Obama Administration still supports the monarchy though it often seems only absent-mindedly to do so. The Brotherhood, which is the chief opposition group, wants to overthrow the king but is afraid—precisely because the regime is so tough--to try violence. Who knows what will happen, though, if Syria is ever taken over by the rebels?
The third case is in Lebanon. The leadership of the Sunni Muslims there is pro-Western and moderate. Radical Islamists are in a small minority. Both Sunni groups hate Hizballah, which is of course the ally and now co-belligerent of Iran and the Syrian regime. Still, there is no sign that the United States is going to do anything on Hizballah’s home court. It is somewhat ironic that the one place where the Sunni Muslim leadership is most moderate is where Obama isn’t acting even though Hizballah (another force Brennan declared moderate not long ago) is now a proven enemy beyond denial.
And fourth, the Obama Administration has not yet supported the Muslim Brotherhood against Israel. The strategy on this point is to get a two-state peace agreement and thus defuse the issue. Of course, the Islamists will not be satisfied with that result even if it happens, which it won't.
Why is the United States backing the Brotherhood in Syria? Most immediately it is being done in order to prevent an Iranian bloc victory in Syria, even though the Brotherhood and al-Qaida are on the same side there. Except in Iraq, U.S. policy is backing the Sunnis over the Shia.
Beyond that, however, the Obama Administration has argued that the Brotherhood is the best way to defeat al-Qaida, which wants to attack America directly. It has also claimed that the Brotherhood will inevitably moderate, the same argument that was once heard about Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Yasir Arafat, Ruhollah Khomeini, and Saddam Hussein.
Are the Sunnis the lesser of two evils compared to Iran? Arguably, yes. But that doesn’t mean that the Sunni Islamists are better than the non-Islamists who range from nationalist army officers to traditionalist conservatives, and pro-democratic liberals.
At any rate, the new policy is in place. America has had many unlikely allies in its history—including Stalin and a number of Third World dictators. But have any been such strange partners as those who would like to kill all the Jews, wipe out Christianity, reduce women to permanent second-class citizens, and murder gays? Indeed, these are not only strange but unnecessary and mistaken allies.
An interesting MEMRI piece gives an example of Sunni closing of ranks. Muslim Brotherhood and chief Sunni Islamist guide Yusuf al-Qaradawi attacks Hizballah (Islamist but on the Shia side) and extols his friendship with King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia (anti-Islamist but on the Sunni side).
And here's another Sunni Islamist, a Kuwaiti, wishing in a MEMRI video that he could personally slit the throats of Hizballah soldiers. Why is this significant? Because Kuwait has a lot of Shia with whom the Sunni Islamists have worked pretty well. The new Sunni-Shia conflict may also bitterly divide Kuwait. What this all means is that the Sunni Islamist war against the Shia supersedes the Islamist war against the non-Islamists.
And on demonstrations in Turkey see this source: On Turkish demonstrations for English-speakers.
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Posted by Barry Rubin at 7:25 PM