Why the claim that the Obama administration has "no choice" but to deal with the Egyptian Islamist party is overrated.
This weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made her first visit to Egypt since Mohammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was elected president of Egypt. Despite the fact that her motorcade was pelted with tomatoes and stones and protesters chanted "Monica, Monica," the Secretary seemed to be willfully blinding herself as to what "Islamism" and the Muslim Brotherhood actually represent.
A clue as to their real intentions, not just for Israel, but for the United States, was that at his very first public appearance addressing throngs of admiring Egyptians, Mohammad Morsi vowed to get the "blind sheik," Omar Abdul -Rahman, released from prison in the United States.
Remember who this individual is: He is the person who had planned and executed the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and, with his followers, was planning to blow up several significant landmarks in the New York City area, including the George Washington bridge, the Holland Tunnel, the Lincoln tunnel, a government building that houses the FBI and the United Nations, all within five minutes.
During the visit with Mohammad Morsi, the Secretary of State announced, "I have come to Cairo to reaffirm the strong support of the United States for the Egyptian people and for your democratic transition." Also in the speech were vows of a billion dollars in aid for "Egyptian debit relief" (one wonders is that separate from the 1.3 billion dollars we give them in military aid each year?), as well as several additional economic packages. She praised President Morsi for his statement that he would "work with all Egyptains," and in soft, muted tones, mentioned that he should work with the SCAF, or the Egyptian Generals.
To her benefit, the Secretary of State did mention the continuing value of maintaining the Camp David Peace Treaty with Israel, but, unfortunately, added these very ominously ambiguous words: "And on this foundation, we will work together to build a just, comprehensive, regional peace in the Middle East based on two states for two people with peace, security, and dignity for all."
This leaves open the possibility of the Camp David Accords being misinterpreted as being contingent on a final deal between Israel Palestinian Authority. Is it any surprise, then, that Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr, at the same press conference, added the following:
I would like to add something about the peace treaty. Mr. President has repeatedly reaffirmed, and on all occasions, that Egypt continues to respect all treaties signed as long as the other party to the treaty respects the treaty itself. And today, he once again reiterated this issue and also reiterated that Egypt’s understanding of peace is that it should be comprehensive, exactly as stipulated in the treaty itself. And this also includes the Palestinians, of course, and its right to – their right have their own state on the land that was – the pre June 4th, 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.
Of course, the Secretary of State just sat there and let him say this. This is a very ominous signal and flies in the face of history in terms of how the United States has treated the territories that had been captured in Israel's defensive war of 1967.
1.) It ignores the entire meaning of United Nations Resolutions 242 which clearly establishes Israel's rights for "secure and recognized boundaries." Hitherto, Israel has always been intentionally given tremendous flexibility by the United States as to how much territory it is obligated to withdraw from in order to establish these "secure and recognized boundaries," or what President Ronald Reagan had called "defensible borders."
In fact, in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 war, President Johnson had said that “an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4 before the outbreak of hostilities" was not "a prescription for peace, but for renewed hostilities." He stated that the "old truce lines" had been "fragile and violated." What, in Johnson's view was required were "recognized boundaries" that would provide security against, terror, destruction and war."
This, up until now, had been the view of every successive American administration and characterizes a radical departure.
2.) The fact is that we have always assumed that international peace treaties, such as the one brokered between Egypt and Israel, do not involve outside parties, such as the Palestinian Authority. As the Obama administration always stresses, "that should be left up to the parties themselves."
Having a continuation of the 33-year-old treaty becoming contingent upon a resolution of the Palestinian conflict (with a return to the pre-1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital), both sets up the Palestinians for failure and threatens to undermine the 33-year-old peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
For one, the Palestinians have refused to sit down and negotiate with Israel. And even if they were to, one can well understand how, with over ten thousand rockets flying into southern Israel as a result of the Gaza withdrawal, the Israelis remain quite reluctant to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, or the "West Bank," if you will. Such a withdrawal would bring virtually every Israeli city within target range of Kassam missile attack. It would also put Ben Gurion Airport within easy striking distance from the Palestinian city of Qalkiya. Can you imagine what just one Kassam missile would do to the nation of Israel if it shot at a plane about to descend upon the Israeli airport. All air traffic would be shot down, and the nation of Israel would remain cut off from the rest of the world.
If every treaty were contingent upon regional peace and stability, would the Obama administration pre-condition peace with the Palestinians upon peace with Syria?
In her haste to please the new "democratically elected" leader of Egypt (as we at EMET have so often argued: "one election, does not a democracy make"), the Secretary of State remained uncharacteristically mute.
Underlying all of this is a total lack of understanding by the Obama administration of what the Muslim Brotherhood actually believes, or worse, a case of "willful blindness."
Another example of this was an invitation issued from the Oval Office by President Obama to meet with Mohammad Morsi. The rapidity with which the invitation was extended, just after the Egyptian elections, even as the elected Muslim Brotherhood President and the Egyptian military continue to maneuver to determine the extent of presidential power, is representative of the support the Obama administration is willing to give the Muslim Brotherhood. It shows the extent to which they clearly regard the Muslim Brotherhood as a respectable, legitimate institution, and the democratically elected leaders of Egypt.
We are certain that the Obama administration is fully aware that their views of the Brotherhood are most emphatically not shared by most Americans. In an example of “mother knows best,” a survey of American mothers conducted by the Tarrance Group in 2011 showed that just 16% of American moms believed that the U.S. should negotiate with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Those who would attempt to argue that while “they may not like the Brotherhood” the Obama administration has “no choice” but to deal with them, are missing two fundamental points:
1.) Far from “not liking” the Brotherhood, the Obama administration has gone out of its way to ensure a Brotherhood victory. It was the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, after all, that was invited to Washington and met with key White House staff. No such invitation was extended to any of the smaller struggling liberal parties who might have benefited from Washington’s embrace. And according to sources with contacts in Egypt, it is widely believed within the Egyptian security services that SCAF was warned by the U.S. against announcing victory for their preferred candidate Ahmed Shafiq. Shafiq has since fled the country.
2.) The Muslim Brotherhood simply cannot be regarded as one of any number of legitimate political parties who have successfully been elected, and thus must be met with, regardless of minor differences in political interests. Formed in 1928, only four years after Hitler took over command of the Nazi party, the Muslim Brotherhood is by its very nature a conspiratorial and totalitarian party, entirely dedicated to seizing power and implementing their ideology of political Islam and rule by Sharia law. Those who have read its chief ideologue Sayyid Qutb’s key work, Milestones, will tell you that it reads more like an organizational memo of the COMINTERN then it does a religious document. It is first and foremost a work describing the formation and training of revolutionary cadres for the eventually seizing of political power, although this intent is expressed in religious language. The mere fact that the Muslim Brotherhood has participated, and won, fairly or unfairly, the Egyptian election is irrelevant. As Qutb writes,
Islam possesses sufficient flexibility to enter into any system and mold that system according to its purposes; but this flexibility in the outward forms of Islamic civilization does not mean any flexibility in the Islamic belief, which is the fountainhead of this civilization, nor is it to be considered as borrowed from outside, for it is the character of this religion. However, flexibility is not to be confused with fluidity. There is a great difference between these two.
Nor has there been any deviation from these principles in the 84 years in which the Muslim Brotherhood has been in existence. It can be instituted in stages, or phases, but the basic principles of the Brotherhood do not change. Deputy Guide to the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat al-Shater, expressed in clear terms that the Brotherhood has not altered itself one iota from the original principles established in 1928. In March of 2011, al-Shater was recorded giving a key address regarding the Brotherhood’s efforts to date:
Naturally, Constants are not subject to developing, hanging, addition or omission; only Variables are. You all know that our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God’s Religion on Earth, to organize our life and the lives of people on the basis of Islam, to establish the Nahda [Renaissance] of the Ummah and its civilization on the basis of Islam, and to subjugation of people to God on Earth.
There is absolutely no obligation in American policy or principles to honor, with high profile public meetings, organizations which fully express their intention to “subjugate.” This is especially true when they are openly understood to use any talks on your part in order to enter into and mold your system according to their purposes. Sadly, it is now widely understood by terrorists and totalitarians of all stripes that with the thinnest veneer of democratic pretensions the United States will treat you with the same recognition and respect which it grants Britain or France. This isn’t to suggest that the Muslim Brotherhood can be ignored. It is now, thanks in large part to the Arab Spring and Obama administration policies, a major player in the region, and it must be recognized as such. But it should be greeted with distrust and distaste, as previous totalitarian parties have been. It would be a worthwhile maxim for this administration, and indeed all future administrations, that if you are embarrassed enough by the party you are embracing that you’d prefer to dissemble to the American people about it, then perhaps you shouldn’t be embracing them to begin with.
Unfortunately, the current administration is willfully blinding themselves to the facts of what Islamism really means.
As Sir Winston Churchill once said, "He who appeases the crocodile is only eaten last."
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