By Barry Rubin
”Don’t scare anyone. But once you gain ground then move ahead. You must utilize as many people as possible who may be of use to us.”
- —Joseph Stalin to future Communist dictator of Hungary Mattyas Rakosi, December 5, 1944.
It really isn’t too hard to understand what is happening in the Middle East if you watch the facts.
1. Jordan’s King Abdallah, who President Barack Obama just visited, is clearly telling us what’s going wrong: that the Muslim Brotherhood is dangerous and so why is the United States supporting it? Presumably, this is what Abdallah told Obama.
2. U.S. policy is now escalating support for a Muslim Brotherhood regime in Syria and the Syrian rebels increasingly have open Brotherhood leadership.
3. Repression is gradually escalating in Egypt with arrests of moderates, Islamists being sent to the military academy, and many more measures.
Regarding Jordan, Jeffrey Goldberg’s has done an extremely valuable profile of Abdullah. The Jordanian monarch is telling Western visitors that their countries are making a big mistake by supporting the Islamists. He complains that the U.S. State Department is ignoring his complaints and that U.S. officials are telling him, “The only way you can have democracy is through the Muslim Brotherhood.”
He responds that the Brotherhood wants to impose anti-American reactionary governments and that his “major fight” is to stop them. No margin may be left for relative moderate and pro-American states between a Sunni Islamist alliance led by Egypt and including Turkey versus a Shia Islamist alliance led by Iran says Abdallah and he’s right. The only difference, Abdallah explains, between the Turkish and Egyptian regimes are their timetables for installing dictatorships. Egypt’s new president, says the king, is obsessed with a hostile view of Israel.
Here’s the delicious irony! Last August the Jordanian Prime Minister Fayez Tarawneh launched a ferocious personal attack on me. Why? Because I said that the Sunni-Shia battle was going to replace the Arab-Israeli conflict. Well, that’s what his king just said! LOL.
Meanwhile, while President Barack Obama was love-bombing Israel during his visit, U.S. policy was helping to install a Muslim Brotherhood supporter as the putative next leader of Syria. Obama’s strategy is, with appropriate adjustments to the national scene, the same as his disastrous policy in Egypt.
The new leader of the opposition coalition is Ghassan Hitto, an obscure figure who has been long-resident in the United States. His actual election contained two hints:
- —He only received 35 votes from 63 members of the Syrian National Coalition. That show of support matches the number of Muslim Brotherhood’s supporters there.
—Only 48 out of the 63 even cast a ballot at all, showing lack of enthusiasm and possible U.S. pressure on groups to abstain rather than oppose Hitto.
During the Cold War, American policy toward Third World countries frequently looked for a “third way” democratic alternative, leaders who were neither Communists nor right-wing authoritarians. Today, however, the Obama Administration doesn’t do the equivalent at all, despite pretenses to the contrary. Rather …read more