Who Lost Egypt?
To defeat anti-Obama and U.S. feelings growing in Egypt, Obama must embrace the Egyptian army and a secular, military-ruled Egyptian government rather than supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. Otherwise the Russians will be welcome back to Egypt and the U.S. and Israel will lose an important ally.
Obama's cluelessness about Egypt means that the U.S. is in the process of losing its long-time Arab ally. President Obama's actions after President Mohamed Morsi's removal by the army again reminded the Egyptians that he is not a loyal and reliable ally. Amid renewed violence in Egypt escalated by the Muslim Brotherhood against army- backed government targets, Obama should spend some time trying to reverse growing anti-U.S. feeling in Egypt and rebuild bridges with the Egyptian army and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi before it is too late.
Otherwise, the Russians will be welcome back to Egypt, after being expelled in 1972 by Anwar Sadat. With the help of Obama and Kerry, Putin has reinforced his image as a loyal ally to Arab states by standing by his long-term murderous Syrian client and creating a delusional agreement to get rid of Assad's chemical weapons to assure his survival. Russia by example could be seen as an attractive alternative for a country that still feels betrayed by Obama. Could it be that Barack Obama has forgotten that the U.S. obtained its hegemony over the Middle East only after Egypt switched to the U.S. side in the Cold War following the 1973 war with Israel? Until then, the U.S. and Russia were on equal footing in their influence and consequently an intense arms race and many wars broke out between the Russians' clients and Israel. Only after the U.S.-Egyptian alliance did Israel get its peace agreements with Jordan and Egypt. Empowering Russia as a patron and a deal maker in the Middle East is not good for the U.S., Israel, or the Middle East.
Putin is trying to become the patron and sponsor of the anti-Western Shiite axis, including Iran, Syria's Assad regime, and Lebanon's Hizb'allah. By saving Assad through diplomatic means from an imminent U.S. military attack for using weapons of mass destructions, Putin is auditioning for a similar role and outcome with Iran, the head of axis. Putin needs the axis to challenge the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East, which consist of moderate Arab nations like the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt, all of which are terrified of a nuclear Iran. Bringing Egypt into its axis of evil will be Russia and Iran's greatest win and Israel and U.S.'s greatest loss.
Since being elected, Obama has made monumental strategic mistakes concerning Egypt. After abandoning President Hosni Mubarak and calling for him to leave and then encouraging a quick election which guaranteed the Islamic parties' win since they were by far the most organized, Obama has been perceived as favoring the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, Obama was silent when Morsi and the Brotherhood gradually expanded their power by imposing Islamic law on the population, suppressed the media, and allowed incitements against non-Sunni Muslims and Coptic Christians.
In the aftermath of President Morsi's removal by the army, the president ignored the Brotherhood's violence and only condemned the army's violent crackdown while suspending a planned joint military exercise and the delivery of F16 fighter jets. In addition, the debates in the U.S. about the possibility of halting aid to Egypt or reexamining the 35 years of close military and diplomatic alliance with Egypt only exacerbated the Egyptians' perception of American support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since then, there are escalating anti-U.S. -- and more specifically anti-Obama -- public attacks, including declarations by senior Egyptian government officials, articles in newspapers identified with the regime and the army, and political and popular campaigns in social media and the street. The Egyptian pro-army press notably published articles vilifying President Obama himself, insulting his mother and calling him mentally deficient. His administration was even called "the Adolf Obama Reich." Many articles argued that Egypt was better off without U.S. aid and contended that Obama supported terror by virtue of his support of the Brotherhood. Furthermore, many articles dealt with the decline of American influence in the Middle East and in Egypt in Russia's favor. They called for inviting President Vladimir Putin to Cairo, with a lavish reception held in his honor.
Obama, in his recent speech before the UN General Assembly, conditioned U.S. support on Egyptian progress in pursuing a democratic path. It seems that he still does not realize that his efforts to save the illusion of democracy in Egypt are going nowhere. Egypt will never be a true democracy. The army will never let the Muslim Brotherhood win an election again and will prevent it by any means possible. It is now in the final steps of the process of decapitating the Islamists' political power. The army has been fighting for a secular Egypt and to prevent it from being transformed into an Islamic state similar to Iran.
A stable, secular, military-ruled Egypt should be more important to the U.S. than a false, temporarily democratic Egypt controlled by Islamic extremists, who eventually would transform the country into an Islamic dictatorship. The U.S. must embrace the Egyptian army without setting any pre-conditions, because keeping Egypt in the pro-Western bloc is in the best national interests of both the U.S. and Israel.
Shoula Romano Horing is an attorney. Her blog is www.shoularomanohoring.com