US Security Interests in Egypt
This week, without a murmur of dissent, the Egyptian Government restored the right to declare war to the President with the concurrence of Parliament. Morsi is continuing an evolution that promises to hasten the decline of American influence.
How much recent events have eroded U.S. security interests in Egypt depends on how deeply rooted those interests were in the first place. Although the Mubarak government did some things we wanted it to do, it did other things that were anathema. Mubarak, with U.S. complicity and Israeli acquiescence, fed the growth of a military that could be used for good or ill while he fed the Egyptian people lies about Israel, about war, about Jews and about peace. In the bigger picture, Egypt always saw itself with Arab and Sunni and larger Muslim responsibilities as well as responsibilities to its non-Muslim patron, whether the U.S. or Russia before it.
The smart bet was never on Egypt as an actual ally – which presumes a certain fundamental alignment – but on the understanding that things would be worse if Mubarak weren't there. The now-complete demise of military structure embodied in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) – America's erstwhile ally – was utterly predictable.
In March, Secretary Clinton handed over $1.25 billion to the SCAF in defiance of Democratic Sen. Leahy's "hold" on the money pending "democratic reforms." Thus emboldened, the SCAF amended the 1971 constitution to deprive the incoming president of, among other things, the right to declare war. While the State Department publicly demanded complete civilian rule, it was privately relieved to think that the military body in which the U.S. had invested so much money, training and technology would still hold the power of the peace treaty with Israel.
Relief was short-lived. After the terrorist attack in Sinai that killed 16 Egyptians before moving on to Israel, President Morsi channeled Rahm Emanuel and effectively fired the entire leadership of the SCAF. This week, without a murmur of dissent, the Egyptian government restored the right to declare war to the president with the concurrence of Parliament.
The dregs of the SCAF may or may not be asked for an opinion. The President may or may not consult with the revived National Defense Council, which consists of government officials including parliamentarians, ministers and representatives of branches of the military, and meets at the request of the President. In any event, the "representatives of branches of the military" are younger, more Islamist-leaning officers who were not part of the SCAF. They know the lucrative, U.S.-funded military/industrial complex that enriched Sadat, Mubarak, Suleiman and Tantawi won't be there for them.
The case looks cut and dried – our friends are out; others are in; we lose. Sure enough, President Morsi went to Iran and earlier this week, Egypt declined a U.S. request that an Iranian ship passing through the Suez Canal be inspected for illegal arms. But neither is a new position – they are the evolution of Egyptian, not Muslim Brotherhood, positions.
In April 2011, two Iranian military vessels passed through the Canal under the eyes of the provisional government, which claimed it could not stop a ship from a country with which it was not at war. As I wrote at the time: "[There is] the possibility of Egyptian complicity… this was the first Iranian military passage through the Suez Canal since the Islamic Revolution of 1979 because Egypt has considered Iran to be hostile. Egypt is, in any event, bound by the Security Council to ensure that passing ships comply with the terms of the embargo. According to some reports, the two Iranian naval ships were 'routinely' inspected by Egyptian authorities; according to others, Iranian diplomats simply 'assured' the Egyptians the ships were not carrying weapons. If the Egyptians did not actually inspect the ship's cargo, they were snookered. If inspectors checked, found the weapons but still authorized the passage, then an entirely new challenge to sanctions enforcement may be emerging. It is not reasonable to think the inspectors checked and didn't see the weapons."
The two ships were later stopped and boarded by the Israeli Navy, and 50 tons of weapons – including Chinese C-704 anti-ship missiles and radars – were impounded. If the administration was surprised, it shouldn't have been. A decade ago I wrote for JINSA:
"The U.S. cannot continue to support dictatorial regimes with no internal legitimacy and whose populations revile us in part because we support the dictatorship. At some point those dictatorships will fall – because, as the President so rightly said, the U.S. will work to establish freedom, liberty and tolerance around the world, and the Arab and Islamic world isn't exempt. When they fall, we want to be on the side of the people.
"While we are propping up dictatorships of limited utility and limited viability, the United States should be VERY CAREFUL not to do anything with long-term dangerous ramifications for itself or its allies, specifically in this case Israel. Selling Egypt high-tech military equipment and overlooking Egypt's relationship with A-E (Axis of Evil) member North Korea could result in that equipment falling into the hands of a future Egyptian government even less friendly to the U.S. and Israel than the current one. Harpoon Block II missiles could threaten U.S. carriers in the Med or Red Sea, MLRS could be used against Israel if Egypt crosses the Suez Canal (particularly if the U.S. withdraws the multinational forces in the Sinai), and the artillery rockets won't be used against Saddam, but more likely against Israel."
So in 2012, Egypt has indeed crossed forces into the Sinai, ostensibly to root out "jihadis" who threaten both Egypt and Israel. The immediate U.S. response was to offer the Egyptian military additional support in that role, suggesting that the MFO could slip out of its traditional posture as "observer" of the terms of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty into alliance with Egypt against the new threat. Egypt overstepped Israeli goodwill, however, by sending tanks and anti-aircraft guns – neither very useful in jihadi-hunting – and with the Israeli protest, Egypt changed course. Ha'aretz reports the Egyptian government is using Salafists and "former jihadists" to "negotiate" a new level of quiet in the Sinai with the current jihadists that will protect Egyptian interests, meaning local Sinai tribesmen will not attack the Egyptian military. Protecting Israeli interests? Not so important.
President Morsi's visit to Iran (and then to China) highlights his desire not to appear aligned with the U.S. or U.S. interests. He's not necessarily aligning with Iranian, Shi'ite, apocalyptic interests either, but he is continuing the evolution toward an Egyptian definition of Egyptian interests that began with the decline of Hosni Mubarak and that promises to hasten the decline of American influence.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center. She was formerly Senior Director for Security Policy at JINSA and author of JINSA Reports from 1995-2011.
Comment on this item
by Soeren Kern
The Vatican failed in an attempt to cover up the contents of a prayer by a Muslim cleric at an interfaith "Prayer for Peace" service held in the Vatican garden on June 8. Departing from a pre-approved script, the imam recited verses 284-286 of Sura 2 from the Koran, the latter part of which calls on Allah to grant Muslims victory over non-Muslims.
Danish police raided a mosque in the Vibevej district of Copenhagen after a passerby allegedly saw weapons being carried into the complex.
"We now have hundreds of jihadists and thousands of sympathizers. This naïve Cabinet's inaction is inviting an attack in the Netherlands." — Geert Wilders, Dutch Freedom Party.
Conference attendees called on the Spanish government to sponsor an official study aimed at finding ways to bring European food standards into compliance with Islamic Sharia law.
by Douglas Murray
They carried banners saying, "Stop Israeli State Terror," but some went off-message, deciding, apparently, that it did not matter if their targets were Israelis or not.
In the Netherlands, fresh from a pro-ISIS rally in Amsterdam, the home of the Chief Rabbi -- not Israeli, just Jewish -- was attacked twice in one week.
We live in a rightful disgust for racism of any kind. And yet here we see -- and nowhere more clearly than in Germany -- the new racist nightmare for Europe.
by Samuel Westrop
"These boys were groomed [at the Al Manar Centre] ... so that they are satisfied that what they go to do is right ... once they're groomed, all it takes is someone to say come and I'll take you." — Source close to the Yemeni Community, Cardiff, U.K., as reported in The Telegraph.
All these preachers share one thing in common: they are favorites of the two leading government-subsidized Salafi charities in Britain.
by Bassam Tawil
"We know that Hamas uses human shields. But why would you report this when you are sitting in the middle of the Gaza Strip, surrounded by Hamas gunmen?" — Reporter covering the war, who asked not to be identified.
Besides the human shields story there is another item that the international media choose to ignore: the extrajudicial execution of Palestinian "collaborators" during the last two weeks. The executions were reportedly carried out in the most brutal manner. Hamas has also been shooting suspected "collaborators" in the legs to prevent them from moving around.
It is the media that is helping Hamas get away with war crimes.
by Guy Millière
This was the first time since World War II that an anti-Semitic pogrom took place in France.
Almost all French politicians adopt an attitude of appeasement toward the enemies of Israel and Jews. They act as if they did not see that the hate speech that France finances in the Middle East is now spreading throughout France itself.
No major French television report speaks of Hamas's genocidal Jew-hatred or of the use of Arab women and children as human shields. Criticizing radical Islam on public television is now almost impossible. Members of the Israeli government are never interviewed on French television.
French politicians know that 70% of all the inmates in French prisons are Muslims, and that these prisons have been transformed into recruiting centers for jihadists.