The Obama Administration seems to have a hard time recognizing who are our friends and who are our enemies in the Mideast.
Not only has the President gone ahead with his campaign promises “to put some light” between the U.S. and Israel, the Administration has alternately ignored, supported the wrong side, slapped on a military assistance embargo, then lifted it, with little or no commensurate grappling, with the Egypt relationship.
Now, again, the regime of Pres.-Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is asking for more help. Egypt already gets approximately $1.5 billion annually including $1.3 billion in military financing.
But the recent success of anti-government forces in the Sinai – allied with Daesh [ISIL], and, curiously, with Iran through Hamas in Gaza, has indicated el-Sisi’s Egypt is in a life and death struggle with Islamic terrorism.
In late July terrorists assassinated the Egyptian equivalent of our attorney-general with a car bomb. Meanwhile, in the critical Sinai peninsular – lodged between Egypt, the Suez Canal and Israel – there were two successful attacks by terrorists affiliated, curiously, with both Daesh [The Islamic State] and through Hamas in Gaza, with Tehran’s mullahs.
Not only does Egypt’s 90 million represent a quarter of the Arab world, but it has been the traditional intellectual and religious leader of the broader worldwide Sunni majority Muslim community. Furthermore, el-Sisi – who first overthrew with considerable public support the elected government of the Muslim Brotherhood – has come out four-square for the often unstated program of the U.S. and the West against the Islamic terrorists. [Washington, of course, seems to continue the take the Brotherhood’s professions of democratic intent for real, with CIA Director John O. Brennan making naïve pronouncements about the nature of Islam and its history of violence.]
When the Libyan terrorists made a show of killing three dozen Egyptian Coptic Christian workers, el-Sisi instantly loosed an aerial bombardment against them. He has launched a full-scale campaign against his own domestic widespread Muslim terrorist insurgency.
But more important, perhaps, he has taken up the cudgels for the larger political issues which too many of his fellow Muslims refuse to face. He has paid highly publicized personal visits to leaders of Egypt’s often victimized 20% Christian Copt minority. He looked in the eye the traditional Muslim ulema [Muslim clergy] in the eye at traditions. He has reinforced Egypt’s peace agreement with Israel, cooperating with Jerusalem squeezing Hamas in Gaza, designated officially as terrorist by the U.S.
After slapping on a partial embargo on weapons assistance after his coup against the, granted, elected, Muslim Brotherhood government, Obama then lifted it a few weeks ago. Still hanging over the Egyptians are end of military credits it shares only with Israel.
Human rights activists within the Administration couldn’t have been more heavy-handed with what has been al Sisi’s crackdown on dissidents, including reporters for al Jazeera, the news agency which was Osama Ben Ladin’s mouthpiece. But they would have been far more effective had they openly supported the regime and used that support to modify al Sisi’s rough edges. Instead, the President has fallen back into the same aloof manner with el-Sisi that characterizes so many of his relationships, domestic as well as foreign.
Egypt and the Egyptian role in the whole Mideast mess is just too important to allow to drift.