Between Egypt and Iran (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Zalman Shoval 07/19/12)
Israel Hayom Articles-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
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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