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The article below is reprinted from The Globe and Mail.
By insisting that Mr. Mubarak immediately resign, Mr. Obama undermines the possibility of a peaceful transition that could empower democrats, rather than the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Allowing Mr. Mubarak to remain in office until September, as he has offered, would allow the secular opposition to begin organizing for the election. So far, the only organized opposition is the Brotherhood.
Israelis fear that the haste with which the Obama administration turned its back on its own closest ally in the Arab world has signalled other pro-U.S. leaders in the region that Washington can’t be trusted. A cartoon in the newspaper Maariv showed Mr. Mubarak as an astronaut drifting in space. “Houston, I’ve got a problem,” he says. “Houston … Houston …” The fear here is that Israel could become that astronaut. Both left and right commentators are warning that, even as the region turns increasingly Islamist, the Jewish state can’t depend on Mr. Obama.
Mr. Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world in atonement for America’s sins of arrogance has created a new American sin: abrogating the responsibility that comes with power. The accelerating radicalization of the region – from Turkey to Lebanon – is the price of the new American virtue.
In the fall of Mr. Mubarak, Israelis don’t see a harbinger of a better Middle East. That’s partly because of the very real possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover. That would lead to the collapse of the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, which the Brotherhood vehemently opposes.
However corrupt, Mr. Mubarak is hardly the root of the Arab world’s torment. The dictators now being forced out of power are vulnerable precisely because there’s a limit to their venality. They won’t use unlimited force against their own people. Meantime, the region’s most vicious dictatorships – in Iran and Syria – remain stable. Deposing Mr. Mubarak while Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stays in power doesn’t help heal the Middle East. It only makes the region more vulnerable to Islamist expansion.
Yet, Mr. Obama has abandoned the very dissidents trying to topple the region’s worst regimes. When pro-democracy protests in Tehran were brutally suppressed in 2009, Mr. Obama stayed aloof. Chanting demonstrators demanded that Mr. Obama choose between them and the regime. Mr. Obama, in effect, chose the regime.
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