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Topic: Amr Moussa

Is Egypt Too Big to Fail?

Former Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa leads a field of 13 presidential candidates in Egypt, according to a survey by the Al-Ahram Political Studies Center. Moussa received 41.1 percent of the vote, compared to surging Islamist but ex-Muslim Brotherhood candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who took 27.3 percent of the vote. The poll does not reflect the impact of the Salafist Nour Party and Salafist Scholar Shura Council’s endorsement of Abul-Fotouh.

It would be a mistake to get lost in the horse race among the candidates at this point, though. It may be tempting for many to embrace Amr Moussa because he is not an Islamist, but when it comes to any issues about which Western liberals and proponents of Middle East peace and tolerance care, Amr Moussa is little better than his Salafist opponents.

Rather, it’s time the United States look ahead to Egypt’s future. Each candidate has promised their constituents the world. The Muslim Brotherhood and an-Nour rose to victory in parliamentary elections not only on the back of Saudi and Qatari petrodollars, but also because their representatives could condemn corruption and promise the poor and dispossessed almost anything: Guaranteed jobs, housing, and higher education; good salaries; and set prices in the markets.

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Former Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa leads a field of 13 presidential candidates in Egypt, according to a survey by the Al-Ahram Political Studies Center. Moussa received 41.1 percent of the vote, compared to surging Islamist but ex-Muslim Brotherhood candidate Abdel Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who took 27.3 percent of the vote. The poll does not reflect the impact of the Salafist Nour Party and Salafist Scholar Shura Council’s endorsement of Abul-Fotouh.

It would be a mistake to get lost in the horse race among the candidates at this point, though. It may be tempting for many to embrace Amr Moussa because he is not an Islamist, but when it comes to any issues about which Western liberals and proponents of Middle East peace and tolerance care, Amr Moussa is little better than his Salafist opponents.

Rather, it’s time the United States look ahead to Egypt’s future. Each candidate has promised their constituents the world. The Muslim Brotherhood and an-Nour rose to victory in parliamentary elections not only on the back of Saudi and Qatari petrodollars, but also because their representatives could condemn corruption and promise the poor and dispossessed almost anything: Guaranteed jobs, housing, and higher education; good salaries; and set prices in the markets.

Of course, once they are in power, they will not be able to deliver but, by then, it will be too late for ordinary Egyptians. Here, Iran’s Islamic Revolution provides a good analogy. A full ten percent of Iranians took part in the 1979 revolution. They were united in their opposition to the Shah, and read into Ayatollah Khomeini what they wanted. “We were promised an Islamic democracy,” one of my Iranian tutors explained to me when I lived in Isfahan, “but what we got was neither Islamic nor a democracy. By the time we figured this out, though, it was too late and we were already embroiled in war.”

There will be a day of reckoning for the Egyptian government as the country’s tourism sector flatlines and its foreign reserves evaporate. Bread is subsidized in Egypt, and the government will no longer be able to provide. The question for the West at that point will be whether Egypt deserves even more debt forgiveness and aid. The new Egyptian government might be noxious, its management irresponsible, and its positions extreme, but would the world face either a far more extreme Egypt or a failed state if the Egyptian economy collapses?

With one-in-three Middle Eastern Arabs living in Egypt’s narrow Nile River valley, there is a real case to be made that the chaos of state collapse must be averted at any cost. But, while failure would not be pretty, it is time the White House and Congress consider whether U.S. foreign assistance is an entitlement or a privilege. The foreign aid community would differ, but simply put, U.S. foreign aid should never be an entitlement. Egyptians should realize they are accountable for their governments’ actions. If their government leads them down the path to disaster, so be it.

Perhaps rather than subsidizing an Amr Moussa or Abul-Fotouh slow-motion train wreck and rewarding anti-American and anti-Israel incitement, American policymakers would be better off considering how to advance the principles upon which America was founded: freedom, liberty, tolerance, and individual rights.

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Brotherhood May Get Unlimited Power

The latest news out of Egypt constitutes, at least on the surface, a setback for the Muslim Brotherhood’s drive to obtain a monopoly on power in the world’s most populous Arab country. An Egyptian court suspended the proceedings of a committee that was drafting a new constitution. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the body working on the constitution, this represents a victory for the embattled secularists and religious minorities that view the group’s rise with alarm. But in doing so, the court flipped the timetable under which Egypt was supposed to move toward a new government. The president Egyptians elect next month will now come to office prior to the adoption of a new constitution.

That means that person will be vested with the same powers held by authoritarian dictator Hosni Mubarak, whose fall last year during the Arab Spring protests set in motion these events. Should the new president be the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater or that of one of the other Islamist parties, he won’t need to write a constitution to fit his whims, the new leader will be able to transform the country via executive fiat. In which case the Obama administration’s faltering attempts to portray the Brotherhood as moderates or to work with a military that is rapidly losing control of the situation will all have been in vain.

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The latest news out of Egypt constitutes, at least on the surface, a setback for the Muslim Brotherhood’s drive to obtain a monopoly on power in the world’s most populous Arab country. An Egyptian court suspended the proceedings of a committee that was drafting a new constitution. Considering that the Muslim Brotherhood dominated the body working on the constitution, this represents a victory for the embattled secularists and religious minorities that view the group’s rise with alarm. But in doing so, the court flipped the timetable under which Egypt was supposed to move toward a new government. The president Egyptians elect next month will now come to office prior to the adoption of a new constitution.

That means that person will be vested with the same powers held by authoritarian dictator Hosni Mubarak, whose fall last year during the Arab Spring protests set in motion these events. Should the new president be the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Khairat el-Shater or that of one of the other Islamist parties, he won’t need to write a constitution to fit his whims, the new leader will be able to transform the country via executive fiat. In which case the Obama administration’s faltering attempts to portray the Brotherhood as moderates or to work with a military that is rapidly losing control of the situation will all have been in vain.

The absence of a new constitution will make the battle for the Egyptian presidency even more crucial for the future of the Middle East. But right now, it looks as if the Brotherhood is holding most of the cards. The popular candidate of its main Islamist rival may be disqualified. Former general Omar Suleiman, the army’s choice, may not get on the ballot. But even if he does, he will have little chance as he is associated with the brutality of the former regime as well as with its close ties with the United States.

The secular alternative, Amr Moussa, the favorite of many foreign observers, is finding himself boxed out by the rise of the Islamist parties. He’s also fending off the worst possible slur that can be suffered by an Egyptian politician: the charge that he has a Jewish relative. Moussa has fervently denied the accusation that he has a Jewish half-brother with Israeli citizenship as a scurrilous lie. Whether true or not, and it’s difficult to have sympathy for either side in that argument, the fact that this is the sort of thing Egyptians care about speaks volumes about a political environment in which extremist Islamists can be viewed by the Obama administration as “moderates.”

As previously reported, the administration recently entertained a Brotherhood delegation in the White House. As troubling as that development was, as Steve Emerson noted in his Investigative Project on Terrorism Website, it turns out that the welcome mat rolled out for the Brotherhood involved giving the members of the visiting group a pass on vetting for ties to terrorism or other crimes. As Emerson points out, the head of the Brotherhood delegation, Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, has been implicated in a U.S. investigation of a child pornography ring that relates to activities during a period when he lived in this country. But the State Department ensured Dardery was treated as a diplomat with blanket immunity from questioning or even inspection of his baggage or computers that is standard since 9/11 for visitors from Egypt.

The administration may think it can work with the Brotherhood, but if its presidential candidate obtains Mubarak-style powers, President Obama may find that a country that was once a key to stability in the Middle East will go completely off the tracks and take with it any vestige of American influence.

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Obama Legacy Watch

As Jennifer points out, Syria joined Libya at the Arab League summit this weekend in egging on the Palestinian Arabs to quit the peace process with Israel. There were many ominous references at the summit to the probable failure of the current peace process, but the League reached no unified resolution on a way ahead for the Palestinian question. Arab news outlets derided this lack of resolution as a missed opportunity to declare the peace process dead and take a harder line with Israel. But there was no question among observers that, as Al Jazeera proclaimed, “Israel dominated the summit.”

This isn’t surprising, of course, but in the larger context of regional dynamics, it’s a bad sign. With Iran supporting insurgencies in Yemen and Lebanon, establishing a military presence in the Red Sea, and nearing a nuclear breakout, the summit’s histrionic focus on housing construction in a part of Jerusalem that has never even been on the bargaining table has a somewhat demented air about it.

The League didn’t ignore Iran, however. On Saturday, Egypt’s Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, reiterated his call for a regional negotiating forum with Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Moussa proposal — which includes Turkey as a forum participant — with alacrity. Erdogan himself was present at the summit and made headlines with his official address on Sunday, in which he referred to Israel’s stance on Jerusalem as “madness.” He then pointedly appropriated a biblical allusion — “Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim” — and pretty much put to rest any doubts about his partisan posture. (Not that there were many doubts remaining after his March 7 proclamation that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”)

Barack Obama’s legacy is beginning to emerge. An Al Jazeera editorial writer made this telling statement in a background article on the Arab summit on Friday: “Arab leaders often meet in order to follow U.S. dictates.” We in the U.S. don’t think that’s true, naturally, but the overstatement does get at the underlying truth that U.S. policy has for several decades set boundaries on what the Middle East’s various actors consider possible. In countering the Soviet Union, affirming Israel’s right to exist, containing Iran, and keeping the seaways open, American policy has set the conditions in which the nations of the region operated.

The irresolution of this weekend’s summit is an indication that the Arab League’s members aren’t sure yet what boundaries are implied by Obama’s policy. But after 14 months of it, Turkey’s overtly Islamist posture is hardening and its commitment to secularism is being dismantled. The Arab League is talking seriously about launching a negotiating forum with Iran, precisely because of the impotence of U.S. policy. And the League is pessimistic about the future of the peace process, unified on this point if on no other: that under current conditions, the Palestinians should not agree to rejoin sponsored talks of any kind.

As Jennifer points out, Syria joined Libya at the Arab League summit this weekend in egging on the Palestinian Arabs to quit the peace process with Israel. There were many ominous references at the summit to the probable failure of the current peace process, but the League reached no unified resolution on a way ahead for the Palestinian question. Arab news outlets derided this lack of resolution as a missed opportunity to declare the peace process dead and take a harder line with Israel. But there was no question among observers that, as Al Jazeera proclaimed, “Israel dominated the summit.”

This isn’t surprising, of course, but in the larger context of regional dynamics, it’s a bad sign. With Iran supporting insurgencies in Yemen and Lebanon, establishing a military presence in the Red Sea, and nearing a nuclear breakout, the summit’s histrionic focus on housing construction in a part of Jerusalem that has never even been on the bargaining table has a somewhat demented air about it.

The League didn’t ignore Iran, however. On Saturday, Egypt’s Amr Moussa, the Arab League’s secretary-general, reiterated his call for a regional negotiating forum with Iran. Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan endorsed the Moussa proposal — which includes Turkey as a forum participant — with alacrity. Erdogan himself was present at the summit and made headlines with his official address on Sunday, in which he referred to Israel’s stance on Jerusalem as “madness.” He then pointedly appropriated a biblical allusion — “Jerusalem is the apple of the eye of each and every Muslim” — and pretty much put to rest any doubts about his partisan posture. (Not that there were many doubts remaining after his March 7 proclamation that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs “were not and never will be Jewish sites, but Islamic sites.”)

Barack Obama’s legacy is beginning to emerge. An Al Jazeera editorial writer made this telling statement in a background article on the Arab summit on Friday: “Arab leaders often meet in order to follow U.S. dictates.” We in the U.S. don’t think that’s true, naturally, but the overstatement does get at the underlying truth that U.S. policy has for several decades set boundaries on what the Middle East’s various actors consider possible. In countering the Soviet Union, affirming Israel’s right to exist, containing Iran, and keeping the seaways open, American policy has set the conditions in which the nations of the region operated.

The irresolution of this weekend’s summit is an indication that the Arab League’s members aren’t sure yet what boundaries are implied by Obama’s policy. But after 14 months of it, Turkey’s overtly Islamist posture is hardening and its commitment to secularism is being dismantled. The Arab League is talking seriously about launching a negotiating forum with Iran, precisely because of the impotence of U.S. policy. And the League is pessimistic about the future of the peace process, unified on this point if on no other: that under current conditions, the Palestinians should not agree to rejoin sponsored talks of any kind.

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Hostility to Israel Plays out

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

Given the Obami’s assault on Israel’s building in its eternal capital, this should come as no surprise:

The chief of the Arab League warned Saturday that Israel’s actions could bring about a final end to the Middle East peace process. Amr Moussa urged an Arab leadership summit in Libya on Saturday to forge a new strategy to pressure Israel, saying the peace process could not be “an open ended process.”

“We must prepare for the possibility that the peace process will be a complete failure,” Moussa said. “This is the time to stand up to Israel. We must find alternative options, because the situation appears to have reached a turning point.”

Speaking at the event, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said there would be no peace agreement without ending the occupation of Palestinian land, first and foremost east Jerusalem. He accused Prime Minster Binyamin Netanyahu’s government of trying to create a de facto situation in Jerusalem that would torpedo any future peace settlement.

Then the increasingly Islamic-tilting Turkish government gets into the act:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a guest at the summit, said in his speech that the Israeli “violation” of peace in Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites was unacceptable. Erdogan said that the Israeli position defining the whole of Jerusalem as its united capital was “madness.” Israeli construction in east Jerusalem was completely unjustified, he said

The UN, of course, can’t be left out of the Israel bash-a-thon. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pipes up:

Ban called for the lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip which has created an “unacceptable and unsustainable” situation on the ground.Ban reiterated his condemnation of settlement activity in east Jerusalem, describing the settlements as “illegal.” “Like all of you, I was deeply dismayed when Israel advanced planning to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem. There are several other recent unilateral actions as well,” Ban said noting Israel”s recent announcement of plans to construct another 20 dwellings and tensions surrounding the Al-Aqsa mosque, among others.

This is not only predictable; it is frankly by design — the Obami’s bully-boy pressure tactics encourage others to pile on. Obama thereby endears (he supposes) the U.S. administration to the “international community” — which, of course, seeks not a secure and peaceful Israel but a hamstrung and delegitimized (if not entirely eradicated) one.

As Bill Kristol explains, the Obami’s anti-Israel bent is no accident but part of his larger approach, which seeks realignment in Middle East policy as Obama becomes not the leader of a single nation or even of the alliance of democracies but the wise mediator for all humanity:

And there’s no better way to be a leader of humanity than to show disapproval of the Jewish state. Sure, Obama’s turn against Israel will make it less likely that Palestinians will negotiate seriously with her. Sure, it will embolden radical Arabs and Muslims against those who would like their nations to take a different, more responsible, course. Sure, it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Iran. But the turn against Israel is ultimately a key part of what Obamaism is all about. That’s why there’s been so little attempt by the administration to reassure friends of Israel that Obama has been acting more in sorrow than in anger. Obama’s proud of his anger at the stiff-necked Jewish state. It puts him in sync with the rest of the world.

In this, we see the intersection of Obama’s multilateralism, his aversion to American exceptionalism, his fetish with his own international popularity, his obsession with engaging despots, his disinterest in promoting human rights, and his hostility toward the Jewish state. They are interlocking pieces in the greater Obama vision — each reenforces the other and makes more precarious the security of not only Israel but also the United States. Obama may suppose he is making America more popular or reducing conflict with rogue states, but instead, he is fueling the ambitions of aggressive despots and frittering away America’s moral standing. We are abetting an international free-for-all as the world’s bullies look for openings to assert themselves and to show just how dangerous it is to be a small democratic ally of the U.S.

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