October 23, 2014

Middle East Media Sampler for February 27, 2012


1) Brotherhood aids SCAF

This is something I've written about before. It's nice to see someone else mention it explicitly. An analysis in MEMRI is titled, Crisis between Egypt, U.S. Deepens over American Funding to Civil Society Organizations – Part II: The Islamists Join the Government/SCAF Campaign against the U.S.:

In February 2012, the anti-U.S. campaign was joined by Egypt's Islamists. Though they had previously made it a point to avoid any direct dispute with the U.S., as Egypt's conflict with the latter intensified they could no longer remain on the fence. Senior officials in the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) Freedom and Justice party, for example, warned that any cuts in U.S. aid would be met with a review of Egypt's peace agreement with Israel, as U.S. aid was a condition of the agreement. Dr. Rashad Bayoumi, deputy to MB General Guide Muhammad Badi', claimed that U.S. Ambassador to Cairo Anne Patterson was striving to incite fitna (civil strife) in Egypt, just as she had committed crimes in Pakistan. He added that Egypt had no need for U.S. aid, which he described as tainted and as an impediment to a free Egypt.

Likewise, Egypt's Salafi circles could no longer remain neutral on the issue. Salafi Sheikh Muhammad Hassan, formerly close to Mubarak and currently to the SCAF, launched an initiative to raise donations for the purpose of helping support Egypt's economy so that it would not have to rely on U.S. aid. The initiative won avid support among the Egyptian public; Egyptian businesses, both large and small; Egyptian businessmen and workers, who contributed portions of their salary; Egyptian banks, which paid their taxes early; and even prisoners.[8] The initiative was even taken up by the sheikh of Al-Azhar.[9]

Barry Rubin, for a while, has been writing that the Islamists, despite Western claims otherwise, has been working with the military to stifle dissent. The Muslim Brotherhood's support of the military crackdown on NGO's is the latest (and perhaps most blatant) example of this alliance.

2) Iran isolated

Last year it wasn't unusual to read news (or opinion) articles that stated that Israel's problems with Turkey and its diplomatic troubles in the UN were due to Netanyahu's "hard line" and that Israel was "isolated" because of it.

Israel has now agreed to an arms deal with Azerbaijan.

Israeli defense officials on Sunday confirmed $1.6 billion in deals to sell drones as well as anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to Azerbaijan, bringing sophisticated Israeli technology to the doorstep of archenemy Iran.

The sales by state-run Israel Aerospace Industries come at a delicate time. Israel has been laboring hard to form diplomatic alliances in a region that seems to be growing increasingly hostile to the Jewish state.

Recently Soner Cagaptay observed that Turkey (despite its Islamist leanings) and Iran have become increasingly alienated. In Next up: Turkey vs. Iran, he writes:

Then came the Arab Spring. The uprising in Syria put Ankara and Tehran at polar opposite ends of the regional and political spectrum. Given its democratic traditions, Turkey supported the revolution and sided with the protesters; authoritarian Iran continued its support for the Assad regime and backed his brutal crackdown on civilians.

The Syrian uprising has become a zero-sum game: Either Bashar al-Assad will win, or the demonstrators will triumph. Likewise, it has become a proxy war between Tehran and Ankara, in which there will be only one winner.

Hence, all is fair game now between Ankara and Tehran. Encouraged by Iran, Assad ignored Turkish advice to reform. Turkey is now supporting, hosting, and reportedly arming the Syrian opposition. Iran's response has been to strike at Turkey by once again supporting the P.K.K., which has launched dozens of deadly attacks, killing more than 150 Turks since the summer of 2011.

Hamas, too, has officially left its headquarters in Syria:

In recent months, Hamas has increasingly drifted away from longtime patrons Iran and Syria, in part because of Syrian President Bashar Assad's bloody campaign against regime opponents. At the same time, Hamas has moved closer to its parent movement, the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood, which scored political gains from the uprisings of the Arab Spring and has tried to position itself as open-minded to widen its voter appeal.

So will we start reading articles explaining that Iran's extremism has led to unprecedented diplomatic isolation?

3) Well what then were the Libyan rebels?

In an analysis, Syria, Iran and the Obama Doctrine, David E. Sanger of the New York Times writes:

In Syria, where the death toll is already above 6,000 by most estimates, there is no equivalent NATO operation; so far, a limited intervention to spur a coup or create a “safe zone” for Syrian civilians near the Turkish border is all still talk. So at first glance, providing arms looks like the next-best option. But the worry is that what started as a protest movement has morphed into what Steven Heydemann, a Syria expert at the United States Institute of Peace, described as “a dangerous and uncoordinated array of armed opposition fighters.” While there is an entity called the Free Syrian Army — not to be confused with the civilian Syrian National Council — it is less an army than bands of free-form militias. Some are tribal; some are linked by regional or ethnic bonds; there is no real command structure.

But wasn't that also the case with the Libyan rebels? Was there a real command structure there? As Sanger had observed earlier, the United States only got involved Libya, when NATO did. This sounds like an excuse for inaction, despite the calls by various experts for the creation of no fly zones and/or safe havens.

At the end of the article Sanger writes:

“This is all about guiding the Israelis to a choice that is most likely to delay the Iranian project without prompting the blowback of an airstrike,” one senior member of Mr. Obama’s team said after a delegation led by Thomas E. Donilon, the national security adviser, returned from Israel last weekend. The administration argues, publicly and privately, that a mix of sanctions and covert action will be more effective. Which takes us to the Obama doctrine. When it comes to the use of force, it seems to boil down to this: Mr. Obama is willing to use unilateral force when America’s direct national interests are threatened — the bin Laden raid is the most vivid example. But when the threat is more diffuse, more a matter of preserving global order, his record shows that he insists on United Nations resolutions and the participation of many allies.

This explains why the Israelis are straining so hard to make the case that in a few years Iran could have a missile capability that could reach the United States — they want to fit Iran into that first category. And it explains Mr. Obama’s hesitance to enter a civil war in Syria, where the daily scenes are horrific but American interests are indirect, at best.

Note how Sanger portrays the Israeli case that Iran may soon threaten the United States directly as "straining."

Here's Reuters (h/t Daily Alert)

Israel believes that within 2-3 years Iran will have intercontinental missiles able to hit the United States. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz’s assessment, in an interview with CNBC, was in line with an unclassified U.S. Defense Department report in 2010 that estimated Iran may be able to build a U.S.-range missile by 2015.

The Israeli argument is consistent with an "unclassified U.S. Defense Department report." Hardly sounds like the Israelis are straining, but in agreement with an American assessment.

In both these cases it seems like the New York Times reporter is dignifying the administration's inaction by calling it a doctrine.

About Daniel Goldstein

Daniel Goldstein is a media critic and recovering blogger. He has been critiquing media bias against Israel since his first letter to the editor in 1987.