Friday, August 24, 2012

In Egypt, US fails to learn from its mistakes

by Dan Margalit

Right before Israel's eyes, a play is being performed in the Sinai Peninsula that could change the face of the peace agreement with Egypt unilaterally, without any negotiations and without consent.

Aside from the grand statements ("No more war, no more bloodshed"), the peace agreement contained an ironclad component — that Sinai would remain demilitarized. This situation has been strictly maintained, with slight modifications, since 1979. It was based on the assurance that Israel would leave the infrastructure it had build in Sinai after the Six-Day War in 1967 in place for the Egyptians. There are airfields, military bases, and access roads that any army based in Sinai could use. These could all become an immediate risk.

Now the Egyptians have entered Sinai and Israel is in an awkward position. How can Israel tell Mohammed Morsi to stop, when it wants the Egyptian army to fight radical terrorism in Sinai? Will Egypt fight? Will it fulfill the mission if it encounters difficulties and will it assert itself over the local Bedouin population? Has it begun to take substantive steps, within the framework of Operation Eagle, to eradicate Salafi terrorism? This is what the Egyptian defense minister and chief of staff have declared. But what will actually happen? That will only be known after several weeks and months.

In the meantime, tanks have entered prohibited areas under the peace agreement, and not a word has been heard from the Egyptians promising that these tanks will be withdrawn at the end of the operation. Who can really say that the operation will end? There will always be another terrorist cell, and Morsi, who has already announced that he wants to make changes to the peace agreement with Israel, could seize upon this pretext to continue establishing new facts on the ground, without any say from Israel.

The Egyptians are not the only ones who have not declared their commitment to the peace agreement as it was written, which stipulates that any changes be negotiated and agreed upon. The Americans have not reiterated this condition either. On the contrary, the irresponsible American journey from the ousting of Hosni Mubarak to the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power and the waning influence of the Egyptian military, continues in an orderly fashion. The United States promises to give Egypt more military and intelligence aid. The U.S. has good intentions — and is doing this out of the hope that Egypt will use these means to fight radical Islamist terror. But the results have so far provided the opposite. It is as though the American government refuses to learn from its biggest mistakes to date.

This is not totally disconnected from what is happening in Syria, where Bashar Assad is slaughtering his own people on a scale not seen in the Arab world in decades (Assad is acting like his father). Where is the United States? It does not want to independently lead a move against Assad and is waiting for Europe, which is bogged down with its economic woes. But the battle for Syria is a battle against the largest and most important foreign outpost of Iran. It is not that the Americans do not understand this. In fact, they do, and it is possible that they are deterred because of this. And how will the world look, with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt ridiculing the peace agreement with Israel, which was signed under U.S. auspices, if the rebels run out of ammunition against the pro-Iranian Assad?

Dan Margalit

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

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