By Mark Silverberg
President Barack Obama appears to be preparing a fresh outreach to the Muslim world in coming days, one that will ask those in the Middle East and beyond to reject Islamic terrorism in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and embrace what he believes will be a new era of positive relations with the U.S. A senior Obama administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity suggested: “We shouldn’t be afraid of Islam in the politics of (Arab) countries”, and Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser at the White House told the Wall Street Journal: “It’s an interesting coincidence of timing – that (bin Laden) is killed at the same time that you have a model of change emerging in the region that is completely the opposite of bin Laden’s model.”
Problem is, this emerging model of change won’t be the kind the U.S. Administration is anticipating. Obama believes that what is happening in the Arab world is a re-run of the 1989 democratic revolutions that swept through Eastern Europe. As Yoram Ettinger writes in Ynet News: “Obama’s virtual reality leads him to compare the violent Arab Street to the defiance of those patriots in Boston who refused to pay taxes to a king, or the dignity of Rosa Parks as she sat courageously in her seat. Are the two million Egyptians who assembled at Cairo’s Tahrir Square cheering Sheikh Qaradawi, a top Muslim Brotherhood leader, following in the footsteps of Patrick Henry and Martin Luther King?”
His delusion is all the more surprising given that numerous polls are now suggesting that the Islamic bloc in Egypt will likely win the September elections and include Salafists who are even more extreme in their views of Islam than the Muslim Brotherhood, but this has not dampened his enthusiasm for this policy paradigm. He is a true believer, and fails to understand the nature of the gathering threats.
His outreach policy was defined in his June 2009 speech at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University when he stated his intention to mend the rift between the United States and the Muslim world by speaking of “the common values of the two cultures”, and calling for a “new beginning” in the relationship. Now, he is about to begin another outreach initiative based on his belief that bin Ladin’s death represents a unique opportunity for radical Islamist groups to cast their swords into ploughshares, embrace democracy, and carry the torch of freedom to the Arab world. And according to DEBKAFile intelligence sources, he has already selected the “moderate” Muslim Brotherhood as his partner for promoting American interests in the Arab world in place of their ousted rulers. He will discover shortly that you can pet a scorpion however long you wish, but you cannot change its nature.
His determination to pursue this folly comes as no surprise given the recent Wikileak stating that his Administration had worked covertly with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood for some time to bring down the Mubarak government long before the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2011. Within days of demonstrations erupting in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt, President Obama was calling for his Egyptian counterpart’s immediate removal from power – the sort of statement he has effectively refrained from making either in Iran or Syria, where demonstrations have gone on longer, and have been considerably bloodier.
In the coming months, we can expect to hear him addressing the Muslim world with his utopian vision that bin Laden’s death signals an end to” the old ways” and that the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world are the harbingers of a new and better future of the Middle East. The problem with this approach is his fundamental misunderstanding of the tribal and religious nature of Arab societies, the extent to which political Islam prohibits resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the dangers inherent in establishing alliances with radical Islamists whose sole raison d’etre is the establishment of Sharia throughout the Middle East and the destruction of American interests and influence in the region – most notably Israel.
As Islamic forces begin to take hold in the Arab world, it is becoming clearer that it was not the death of bin Laden that the Arab Street sought, but the increasing influence of Islam in their lives that he promoted. Poll after poll continues to show this. A recent Pew Research Center study shows that more than 70% of Egyptians will favor the Muslim Brotherhood in the upcoming election (just as the Palestinians favored “moderate” Hamas in Gaza in the 2006 elections) while more than half of those polled favor cancellation of Egypt’s 30-year peace treaty with Israel. This will have a profound effect upon the future stability of the region. The “moderate” Islamists he is eagerly promoting as “agents of change” have plans of their own that will engender more not less radicalism and instability in the region.
These overtures continue to be motivated by his unwavering belief that he can establish closer relations with an organization that is determined to destroy Western influence in the Middle East and that considers him to be a useful idiot much as Khomeini and the Politburo considered Carter to be a useful idiot when the latter discarded his ally the Shah of Iran during the 1979 “democratic” Iranian Revolution that brought the Islamists to power.
Efraim Karsh wrote in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of International Security Affairs: “If, today, America is reviled in the Muslim world, it is not because of its specific policies but because, as the pre-eminent world power, it blocks the final realization of (the Islamists’) age-old dream of a universal Islamic community or umma. It is the failure to recognize this state of affairs that accounts for the resounding lack of success of Obama’s policies toward the Middle East and the Muslim World.” In effect, since the Brotherhood’s admitted raison d’être is to establish and expand Shariah law throughout the world, Obama’s outreach policy to them is not only naïve but dangerous. Islamist leaders seek to replace Western influence in the Middle East by any means necessary, preferably, but not necessarily by the ballot.
It is the inability to recognize this state of affairs that accounts for the resounding lack of success of Obama’s policies in the Middle East and the Muslim world. His outreach policies have failed spectacularly as evidenced by the fact that Iran, despite all our efforts to appease and accommodate the mullahs and (subsequently) to enforce sanctions against the country, continues to work diligently to turn the recent Middle East disturbances to their favor, backs Shiite and other dissident groups in Bahrain, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, and is on the brink of achieving nuclear capability. The Saudis have concluded that America is a “paper tiger” and, as a result, have moved into Bahrain militarily and begun to supply arms to the Syrian opposition in order to prevent further Iranian destabilization of those countries. Turkey has turned away from the West and is becoming increasingly Islamic in orientation. The Palestinians have become even more intransigent and unwilling to compromise, negotiate, reduce incitement, continue to flaunt their treaty obligations with Israel and refuse to recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state. Lebanon’s government is now effectively controlled by Hezbollah and Iran, and Syria continues to facilitate the transit of weapons and terrorists into Iraq and develop stronger bilateral ties with the Iranians while utilizing Iranian-supplied tear gas, anti-riot gear and militias to murder Syrian civilian protesters demonstrating against Assad’s brutal dictatorship.
Perhaps the President believes, as does Zbigniew Brzezinski (architect of the U.S. covert war in Afghanistan) that political Islam is an unstoppable force that Washington can safely ride in order to secure the oil and natural gas reserves of Central Asia, but if that is his belief, he’s wrong. His outreach policy cannot pacify Islamic extremists any more than Chamberlain could appease Nazism. If and when American officials finally understand this reality, the failure of Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world will have at least provided him with a dose of reality.
But that will be small consolation after we’ve lost the Middle East.