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Thứ Ba, 30 tháng 7, 2013

Robb: Egypt playing US for sap - Arizona Republic

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Egyptian Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi is sure making it hard for his U.S. apologists.


According to the apologists, the military was simply channeling the Rousseauian general will of the Egyptian people. They were tired of being governed by President Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, so the military ousted him.


The fact that Morsi had been elected to the position was a triviality. The military would turn civilian power over to a technocratic government, new elections would be held shortly. Nothing to see here. Keep the $1.3 billion in military aid flowing.


Then last week, Sisi gave a public speech exhorting the Egyptian people to flood the streets to give the military a mandate to crush the Brotherhood. So much for the facade of a technocratic civilian government.


Egypt is now run by a military junta. In reality, it has been since a coup by another general, Gamal Abdel Nasser, in 1952.


The Egyptian military is grossly oversized. There is no external threat to Egypt’s territorial sovereignty that requires a military of its size and lethality. Its primary mission is clearly internal control.


Nor is the military a neutral force. It controls a huge swath of Egypt’s private-sector economy. It has a privileged position it will act to protect.


The United States has heavily subsidized Egypt’s oversized military. According to U.S. law, the aid should be cut off if the military has conducted a coup against a democratically elected government.


Morsi was elected. The military ousted him and still holds him hostage. It was a coup.


Moreover, the repression in Egypt mounts. Trumped-up charges are being leveled against Morsi. The military has reasserted the Hosni Mubarak-era power to arrest civilians. Mubarak’s secret police are being unleashed against internal dissent, principally the Brotherhood.


Yet the Obama administration says that nothing in the law requires it to decide whether what has happened in Egypt amounts to a coup, so it isn’t going to. Which means that U.S. military aid will continue to flow to a repressive junta.


According to the foreign-policy “realists” in both political parties, the aid needs to continue so that the United States can retain “leverage” on the junta. Not sure how much leverage we’re buying, but to the extent we are, to what end?


The aid originated in the 1979 peace agreement between Egypt and Israel. Supposedly, it is necessary to keep Egypt honoring the agreement. But Egypt doesn’t pose a threat to Israel.


The last thing the Egyptian military wants to do is fight someone with the capability of actually fighting back. Nor does it have an incentive to aid Hamas’ or Hezbollah’s efforts against Israel. They are on the other side of the Arab divide.


So, what might we want to achieve with our leverage in terms of Egyptian domestic affairs?


The Obama administration wants the Muslim Brotherhood to be part of the new political process. But the Brotherhood has already won three national elections. Why should it play a game the military has made clear it will not be permitted to win? And the military is obviously committed to suppressing and enfeebling the Brotherhood, not giving it a role in the country’s future.


U.S. foreign policy should advance our interests, not necessarily our ideals. But there should be clear interests at stake when we trash our ideals.


The coup was supposedly in our national interest because the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t really interested in democratic governance but in imposing some sort of Islamist state. But in the worst nightmare of the realists, the Brotherhood wouldn’t impose as repressive a theocratic regime as exists in Saudi Arabia, which the realists regard as an ally.


The geopolitical crosscurrents in the Middle East are powerful, dangerous and blindingly complex and intricate. There is the Sunni-Shia conflict. There is the conflict between the royalists and those, such as the Brotherhood, whose governing philosophy is murky but doesn’t include hereditary succession. Where U.S. interests lie in this maelstrom is far from clear.


What is clear is that no important national interest is being served by continuing to give a repressive military junta $1.3 billion a year. The Egyptian military is playing Uncle Sam for Uncle Sap.


Reach Robb at robert.robb@arizonarepublic.com.







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