The Obama Administration’s Middle Eastern policy is irrational and detrimental to American interests in the region. The decision to support the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria and Egypt is the strategic equivalent of Emperor Nicholas I Romanov’s support for the Habsburgs in suppressing the Hungarian revolution in 1849. The cost of that geopolitical blunder was evident the following year, when Franz Joseph’s Chancellor Felix zu Schwarzenberg declared that “Austria will astound the world with the magnitude of her ingratitude.” The end result was the disaster of 1914.
In Syria the Obama administration is fully committed to supporting the rebels, although it still lacks accurate information on the ideological outlook and long-term objectives of Bashar al-Assad’s foes. The partnerships forged thus far are ominous. The New York Times reported a month ago that CIA officers are operating secretly in southern Turkey, “helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arms to fight the Syrian government.” The weapons are being funneled across the Turkish border “by way of a shadowy network of intermediaries including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood.”
Syria is the region’s only remaining country where Christians live effectively as equals with their Muslim neighbors. The predictable consequences of Assad’s fall and the Brotherhood’s victory would be the creation of a shari’a-based Islamic state, followed by exodus and eradication of the remaining Christians. That this scenario seems perfectly acceptable to the Obama Administration became obvious last October when Dalia Mogahed, Obama’s adviser on Muslim affairs, blocked a delegation of Middle Eastern Christians led by Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai from meeting with Obama and members of his national security team at the White House. Mogahed reportedly canceled the meeting at the request of the Muslim Brotherhood in her native Egypt. Rai has warned repeatedly that a Brotherhood-led regime would be a disaster for Syria’s Christian minority, but his admonitions are unwelcome in Washington. Earlier this month the Department of State vigorously lobbied against bipartisan Congressional legislation to send “protection envoys” to the Middle East to examine the position of the Christian minorities. The State Department called the ‘protection envoy’ role “unnecessary, duplicative and likely counter-productive.” In the meantime, tens of thousands of Syria’s Christians have already fled rebel-controlled areas as Islamists who dominate in the rebel ranks target them for murder, extortion and kidnapping.
At the same time, Administration officials are continuing to press Egyptian generals into gradual surrender to the Muslim Brotherhood’s takeover of the country. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs Mike Hammer declared in Cairo last week that Washington would deal with “satisfaction” with the new Egyptian leadership and that Egypt “is moving in a positive direction.” Hammer added that “Secretary of State Hillary Clinton held a very positive meeting with President [Mohamed] Morsi,” whose victory in the presidential election last June was the Brotherhood’s greatest success to date. Hammer’s visit followed the State Department’s waiver of congressional restrictions in order to transfer $1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt after the Brotherhood’s victory in the parliamentary elections.
The decision to treat the Muslim Brotherhood as a strategic partner has been on the cards ever since February 10 of last year – one day before Hosni Mubarak’s resignation – when President Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper made an astounding statement. He told the House Select Committee on Intelligence that the Brotherhood “is an umbrella term for a variety of movements… a very heterogeneous group, largely secular, which has eschewed violence and has decried al-Qaida as a perversion of Islam.”
The assertion by a top-ranking member of Obama’s team that the Muslim Brotherhood is “largely secular” defies belief. It came into being in 1928 as a reaction against secularism, and to this day it is based on a simple credo: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” In other words, the Brotherhood is an archetypical Islamic revivalist movement that opposes the ascendancy of secular ideas and advocates a return to integral Islam as a solution to the ills that had befallen Muslim societies. Today it has branches in every traditionally Muslim country and all over the world, including the United States. Its members all share the same long-term goal: the establishment of a world-wide Islamic state based on Sharia law. They all believe that the Koran justifies violence to overthrow un-Islamic governments, and they look upon America as a sworn enemy.
During the Cold War Washington routinely pandered to various Islamists as a means of weakening secular Arab nationalist regimes. In the mid 1950s the Americans even promoted the idea of forming an Islamic bloc, led by Saudi Arabia, to counter the Nasserist movement. That may have made some sense during the Cold War, but not today. To any sane person the lesson of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan should have been that militant Islam cannot be turned into a tool of policy. “Blowback” is the apt metaphor: the strategy of effective support for Islamic ambitions in pursuit of short-term political or military objectives of the United States has helped turn Islamic radicalism into a truly global phenomenon detrimental to U.S. security interests. The ridiculous notion that the Muslim Brotherhood can become America’s user-friendly partner merely proves that the architects of our Middle Eastern policy have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Dr. Srdja Trifkovic, foreign affairs editor of Chronicles, is the author of The Sword of the Prophet and Defeating Jihad.