Friday, February 11, 2011

Obama & Egypt: what's our President doing?

President Obama has said that Mubarak (who is actually quite a good President for Egypt) must step down immediately in order to pave the way for “free” elections. It is not immediately clear, however, why Obama has sided with the protesters since this approach differs considerably from the one he has taken towards protests in Iran, which he simply ignored even though the plight of Iranians is far, far worse than anything Egyptians have had to experience under Mubarak. 
What Obama’s approach overlooks is that the “free elections” in Middle Eastern countries can often be a summons for the advancement of Islamic radicalism and fundamentalist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. As Michael Savage has recently pointed out, “The invitation to hold ‘free elections’ in Middle Eastern countries with no history of democracy and no democratic infrastructure or culture in place is nothing less than a naive invitation to Islamist radicals to step in and take control. Such a transition, if it can be made at all, must be very gradual. People with no history of establishing and maintaining democratic institutions must be led into their formation.
The approach of the Obama administration is a marked departure from the United States’ earlier diplomacy, which was overtly supportive of Mubarak’s regime and the stability he brings to the region. Yet now Obama appears to be siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and has even met with the Brotherhood to hold non-publicized talks.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Documents exposed through the WikiLeaks show that as early as December 2008 the United States knew that anti-Mubarak opposition groups were developing a strategy for dismantling the Egyptian government. Moreover, U.S. Embassy officials were holding secret communications with anti-Mubarak opposition group throughout 2008 and 2009 even while publicly supporting Mubarak’s regime.
As if that is not enough, the American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident go to New York to attend a summit for activists organized by the US State Department. At the same time, America worked to keep his identity secret from the Egyptian police.
The leaked documents suggest that America did this with the knowledge that opposition groups were drawing up plans for a ‘regime change’ in advance of the September elections. The document said that activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”.
Of course, America’s opposition to Mubarak is no longer secret anymore. The New York Times reported on the 3rd that that Obama was discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government. Crucially, they note, “the transitional government will include members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
What is Obama’s agenda? We don’t know. But we do know (to quote from a recent article from The Daily Bell) that, “The Anglosphere is notoriously unsentimental when it comes to overthrowing allies in pursuit of its large one-world objectives. Those who have ruled with America’s backing for decades may suddenly [find] they are unsupported in their further prospects.” The same article went on to point out that “Having built up the Middle East through enormous cash infusions, the Anglosphere is continually expanding the role of fundamental Islam and may even be prepared to overthrow old and trusted allies to do so.
It may be that Obama needs trouble in Egypt in order to justify his continued expansion of the United States’ military apparatus which has been a hallmark of his administration. (See my article Obama at War) Or this may simply be the latest phase in America’s 20-year old habit of funding the radical elements of Islam.
One thing is certain: if Obama is successful in his opposition to Mubarak and if the Muslim Brotherhood do manage to gain power, it will not be the first time that America has interfered in the politics of a Middle Eastern nation with disastrous results. For example, America’s involvement in Iran directly helped establish the regime of Khomeini.
In 1925, a soldier named Reza Khan overthrew the ancient Persian dynasty. Khan established himself as Shah (the Persian title for king) and oversaw the industrialization and modernizing of the nation. Khan’ son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, served as Shah of Iran, from 1941 to 1979. In 1951, and with the Shah’s approval, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected to the post of prime minister. An enormously popular prime minister, Mossadegh helped to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which had formerly been controlled by the British. In an attempt for the West to regain control of Iran’s oil, however, Britain urged the United States to intervene in Iranian politics, but President Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, refused, urging that the British were “destructive and determined on a rule or ruin policy in Iran.” It was not until General Dwight Eisenhower was elected President in 1953 that Britain had another chance to regain control of Iran’s petroleum reserves. Churchill put an embargo on Iran’s oil industry while the CIA began spreading anti-Mossadegh propaganda, hoping to convince the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh from the post of prime minister. At first the Shah refused to go along with the American plan to overthrow his democratically elected government (a plan known to the CIA as ‘Operation Ajax’). However, after continued pressure from America the Shah relented. The prime minister was then arrested and kept under house arrest until his death in 1967.
With Iran’s democratic government out of the way, the Shah’s rule became increasingly autocratic. While he made friends of America (granting US companies the majority of the country’s oil contracts, which had been the intended outcome of Operation Ajax), he steadily alienated his own people by crushing all political dissent. This set the stage for Iran’s Revolution in 1978 when the religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini helped to mobilize opposition to the Shah and his pro-American policies. The following year 98% of the country voted to replace the monarchy with an Islamic Republic, unaware that Khomeini was planning to use the new government as a front to rule as a dictator. Since then Iran has suffered under a theocratic Shiite government and remains a focal point for militant Islam and is one of the worst countries for the persecution of Christians. How much better it would have been had America never got involved in undermining Iran’s government.
What we are seeing in Egypt could prove to be an uncanny repeat of Iran.

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