Friday, May 20, 2011

Obama and His Muslim Outreach

by Mark Silverberg

President Barack Obama appears to be preparing a fresh outreach to the Muslim world in the coming days, one that will ask those in the Middle East and beyond to reject Islamic terrorism in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, and embrace what he believes will be a new era of positive relations for them with the U.S. A senior Obama administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity suggested: "We shouldn't be afraid of Islam in the politics of (Arab) countries," and Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser at the White House told the Wall Street Journal: "It's an interesting coincidence of timing - that (bin Laden) is killed at the same time that you have a model of change emerging in the region that is completely the opposite of bin Laden's model."

Problem is, this emerging model of change may not be the kind the U.S. Administration is anticipating.

Since taking office, President Obama seems to have been infatuated with the Muslim Brotherhood and has argued that political Islam and democratic politics are compatible with one another. This is more than a little surprising given that many polls are now suggesting that the Islamic bloc in Egypt will likely win the September elections and include Salafists who are even more extreme than the Muslim Brotherhood; but this does not seem to have dampened his enthusiasm for this policy..

The policy was outlined in his June 2009 speech at Cairo's Al-Azhar University, when he stated his intention to mend the rift between the United States and the Muslim world by speaking of "the common values of the two cultures," and called for a "new beginning" in the relationship. Now he seems about to begin another outreach initiative based on his belief that bin Ladin's death represents a unique opportunity for radical Islamist groups to embrace democracy and carry the torch of freedom to the Arab world. According to DEBKAFile's intelligence sources, he has already picked the "moderate" Muslim Brotherhood as his partner for promoting American interests in the Arab world in place of their ousted rulers. He will discover shortly, however, that although you can pet a scorpion, you cannot change its fundamental nature.

Obama's determination to pursue this policy comes as no surprise given the recent Wikileak, which stated that his Administration had worked covertly with the Muslim Brotherhood for some time to bring down the Mubarak government long before the so-called "Arab Spring" of 2011. Within days of demonstrations having erupted in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt, President Obama was calling for Mubarak's immediate removal from power -- the sort of statement he has effectively refrained from making about either Iran or Syria, where demonstrations have gone on longer, and have been considerably bloodier.

In the coming months, we can expect to hear him address the Muslim world with his utopian vision that bin Laden's death signals an end to" the old ways," and that the uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Syria and elsewhere in the Arab world are the harbingers of a new and better future of the Middle East. The problem with this approach is his fundamental misunderstanding of the tribal and religious nature of Arab societies, the extent to which Islamist dogma prohibits resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the dangers inherent in establishing alliances with radical Islamists who self-proclaimed reason for being is to establish Sharia Law throughout the Middle East ,and to destroy of American interests and influence in the region -- most notably those of its staunchest ally, Israel.

As Islamic forces begin to take hold in the Arab world, it is becoming increasingly clear that what the Arab world sought was the expanding importance that Osama bin Laden promoted of Islam in Arab societies . Polls, such as a recent Pew Research Center study, show that more than 70% of Egyptians will favor the Muslim Brotherhood in the upcoming election (just as the Palestinians favored "moderate" Hamas in Gaza in the 2006 elections), while more than half of those polled favor cancelling Egypt's 30-year peace treaty with Israel.

Obama's overtures nevertheless continue to be motivated by his seemingly unwaverable belief that he can establish close relations with organizations that are determined to destroy the Western influence in the Middle East, and that consider him to be a "useful idiot," much as Khomeini and the Politburo considered Carter to be a useful idiot when he discarded his ally, the Shah of Iran, during the 1979 "democratic" Iranian Revolution, in favor of 32 years of mullahs.

Efraim Karsh wrote, in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of International Security Affairs: "If, today, America is reviled in the Muslim world, it is not because of its specific policies but because, as the pre-eminent world power, it blocks the final realization of (the Islamists') age-old dream of a universal Islamic community or umma. It is the failure to recognize this state of affairs that accounts for the resounding lack of success of Obama's policies toward the Middle East and the Muslim World." In other words, as the Muslim Brotherhood's admitted goal is to establish and expand Shariah Law throughout the world, Obama's outreach policy to them looks not only naïve but dangerous. Islamist leaders could not care less whether the U.S. or its European allies speak respectfully to them; their goal is to replace Western influence in the Middle East by any means necessary -- preferably, but not necessarily, by the ballot.

It is the failure to recognize this state of affairs that accounts for the resounding lack of success of Obama's policies in the Middle East and the Muslim world. The fact that his outreach policies have failed spectacularly is evidenced by the fact that Iran, despite all our efforts to appease and accommodate it and, subsequently, to enforce sanctions against it, it is on the brink of achieving nuclear capability and continues to spread its revolutionary tentacles throughout the region and beyond, deeply into South America.

The Saudis have concluded that bin Laden was correct in defining America as a "paper tiger" and, as a result, have moved militarily into Bahrain and begun to supply arms to the Syrian opposition to prevent further Iranian penetration there; Turkey has turned away from the West and is becoming increasingly Islamic in orientation; the Palestinians have become even more intransigent and unwilling to compromise, negotiate, reduce incitement. They continue to flaunt their treaty obligations with Israel and refuse to recognize Israel's existence. Lebanon's government is now effectively controlled by Hezbollah and Iran, and Syria continues to facilitate the transit of weapons and terrorists into Iraq, and to develop stronger bilateral ties with the Iranians while utilizing Iranian militias to murder Syrian civilian protesters demonstrating against Assad's brutal dictatorship.

Perhaps the President believes, as does Zbigniew Brzezinski (architect of the U.S. covert war in Afghanistan) that political Islam is an unstoppable force that Washington can safely ride in order to capture and control the oil and natural gas reserves of Central Asia, but if that is his belief, he is wrong. His outreach policy cannot pacify Islamic expansionists any more than Chamberlain could appease Nazi expansionist ambitions. If and when American officials finally understand this, the failure of Obama's outreach to the Muslim world will have at least provided him with a dose of reality.

But that will be small consolation after we have lost the Middle East.


Mark Silverberg

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

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