Just Another Week in the Middle East

While the world is focused on Syria and a possible American response, some recent events in the Middle East bear some watching. These events have gone largely unnoticed in the American press. The first is the decision by the interim military-backed government in Egypt to put former president Mohammed Morsi on trial for alleged atrocities committed before and after the military take over and his ouster. A word on the Egyptian military and a lesson Obama can learn from them. Remember when they told Morsi to get out of office and he refused? That is, Morsi crossed the “red line.” The Egyptian military moved swiftly and decisively. Remember when the Egyptian military told the Muslim Brotherhood protesters to decamp from their protest sites and they refused? That is, the protesters crossed a “red line.” Just some food for thought. And incidentally, the interim military government in Egypt is generally respected in the Middle East except for a few rogue states and Turkey. The lesson for Obama: when you say something, only action that backs up words and threats gains respect in the Middle East. These are not American voters enamored with your eloquent speeches.

And while talking about Egypt, their military recently captured Abdel Mohammed Ibrahim. Never heard of him? He is the leader of Al Qaeda in the Sinai and his fingerprints are all over acts of mischief in the Sinai. For example, in 2005 in a series of coordinated terrorist bombing attacks in the southern Sinai resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, 88 people were killed. Originally, the Mubarak government arrested and blamed local Bedouin militants. Today, we know that they merely helped in these attacks and instead it was carried out by a group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. They, in turn, are an offshoot of Al Qaeda. More recently, a year ago, the group is implicated in the deadly attack on an Egyptian border crossing station in Rafah that left 16 Egyptian soldiers dead. Hamas was blamed for the attack, which they denied. In all likelihood, it could have been a coordinated attack between the two terrorist groups. The perpetrators, by the way, were killed by Israeli forces after they stole an armored personnel carrier and drove it across the border with Israel. According to the Egyptian government, Ibrahim is directly implicated in several other terrorist attacks in the Sinai over the past ten years.

Why would Al Qaeda be operating in Egypt? Because they view that country, when ruled by Mubarak, as a puppet of the United States and Israel. They, along with Hamas, share a palpable hatred of Israel. So it is natural that they would team up to destabilize the Egyptian government through terrorist attacks. But with Morsi in power and the Muslim Brotherhood, what would motivate them? The attack in 2012 in Rafah was on the Egyptian military which Hamas and Al Qaeda view as a secular institution in an Muslim country and therefore a legitimate target. There is also evidence that Hamas, whose fighters probably carried out the actual attack with support from Al Qaeda, was receiving moral support from Morsi himself in their battle against Israel.

The Egyptian navy shot a Palestinian fishing boat recently. According to the Egyptians, the boat was in Egyptian territorial waters and refused an inspection. The Palestinians claim it was simply a fishing boat. If a fishing boat, why deny an inspection? Most likely, it was a boat attempting to smuggle arms into the Gaza Strip. And armed Hamas forces raided the Egyptian Cultural Center in Gaza and the members of the center were harshly interrogated. This is characterized by the Egyptian government as retaliation for recent crackdowns on Hamas in the Sinai.

With respect to Syria, there are reports that businessmen from Saudi Arabia working on behalf of King Abdullah are quietly trying to “buy” the cooperation of Russia in Syria’s 2 year civil war. Allegedly, they are offering increased gas and oil exports to Russia at a discount. Additionally, they would use their influence in OPEC to keep prices down with respect to Russia specifically should the United States initiate any military action and the expected spike in oil prices occurs. Since the United States basically has no leverage on Putin and Russia’s interests in Syria are greater than the US- geopolitical, military and economic- the Saudi proposal, expected to be joined by the United Arab Emirates, may hold some sway with the Russian leader. Increased oil imports at a discount would certainly help buttress Putin’s stagnant economy. The payoff would be a lessening of rhetoric coming from Moscow and a decrease in the flow of arms to Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

And in beautiful Afghanistan, 18 people were killed in two separate terrorist suicide bombings in the last 24 hours. The one attack was at a police check point near a bank and killed 23 people. The other attack killed a NATO serviceman.

Just another day in the wonderful, cut-throat world of the Middle East and Muslim world. While Obama dithers and plays golf with BFF Joe Biden, John Kerry is out spinning Obama’s “Syria policy” trying to spread his ineptitude beyond the White House. Again, the credibility of the United States is not at stake; the credibility of Barack Obama is at stake. It is amazing how one man can royally screw up not only domestically, but internationally in such a short time to such a large degree. His miscalculations are too numerous on the international stage. The only thing that can be taken from recent events is that whoever is elected in 2016 has their work cut out for them. But, this is all the fault of George W. Bush. If only those evil neocons and Bush had not gone into Iraq, there would not be this “war fatigue” today and Americans would be protesting in the streets demanding a military strike on Syria. With friends like Barack Hussein Obama in the Middle East, who needs an enemy? He is alienating allies and emboldening enemies. Way to go, Barry.