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Between Egypt and Iran (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Zalman Shoval 07/19/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=2258 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Hillary Clinton, America´s hard-working secretary of state, landed in Israel after a quick visit to Egypt and a focused tour of countries in the Chinese periphery. In Mongolia, she spoke of democracy; in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, she stressed America´s commitment to secure freedom of movement in the South Pacific Ocean.

America´s vigorous political and democratic activity in the Far East actually serves to further highlight the lack of enthusiasm and confusion that have at times characterized its policy in the Middle East, an area of equal importance for the U.S. Egypt is an obvious example of the confusion seen in recent years, where American policy excelled in flawed intelligence, false hopes, baseless pondering, and unrealistic ideological approaches (true of the administrations of both the second George Bush and Barack Obama, as seen in his Cairo address). America also had to pay a price for abandoning President Hosni Mubarak, in particular in other parts of the Arab world.

Beyond the mistakes and failures, there hangs a much more fundamental question about the way in which Washington interprets the Arab Spring and its implications for the future. Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former director of Policy Planning for the Department of State under the first George Bush, recently wrote in the Financial Times: "We are now a year and a half into what many persist in calling the Arab Spring even though there is no end in sight to the turbulence and it is hardly certain to have a happy ending. Nowhere is this more the case than in Egypt."

What is clear is that the Americans did not predict that Islamist parties would engulf almost all areas of the Arab world where the old regimes were brought down, and so it is now trying to take comfort in the fact that there are some supposedly "moderate forces" within the Muslim Brotherhood and that democracy helped advance the uprisings. And so, Clinton bit her lip and even praised Egypt´s new rulers, despite the uncomfortable, harrowing experience she had there.

Those in the State Department and the American media, even though they too are still paying lip service to the Arab Spring, who take a more realistic and sober outlook, have fewer illusions about the situation. Jackson Diehl, the Washington Post´s foreign affairs commentator, wrote last week, "U.S. officials will have to navigate between [President Mohammed] Morsi and the Brotherhood, with their nominally democratic but fundamentally anti-Western agenda," and he warns that in the long-run, they cannot be trustworthy partners for America.

These groups conclude that America must set out what its main interests are, including peace between Egypt and Israel, without getting carried away with fantasies about the real nature of the new rulers in Cairo and other places around the world. America must also condition any financial assistance or other forms of cooperation in additional areas on meeting U.S. demands.

At the same time, they believe that the U.S. must strengthen its relations with its remaining allies in the region, namely Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. Judging by her comments in Cairo and Jerusalem, including on the Egypt-Israel peace accord, this appears to be Clinton´s basic approach too. And mending relations between Turkey and Israel is also in America´s interests.

Clinton arrived in Jerusalem at the end of her long journey, and this was a chance for both sides to hold in-depth discussions on the relevant issues, first and foremost Egypt and Iran. On the latter, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made it clear to her that Israel has serious reservations about the fruitless talks between the P5+1 and Tehran, and recommended that sanctions be ratcheted up immediately, even presenting concrete proposals on the matter.

The secretary of state and the prime minister may have declared that the U.S. and Israel are "on the same page" over Iran, and this is certainly true in principle, but it is unclear whether this will still be the case in the future. The Palestinian issue also came up, of course, but it was clear to both sides that dealing with this issue was not politically convenient to either side, nor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. And in any case, this issue does not have a real impact on other events in the region.


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