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Sunday, July 31, 2011

21st Century Statecraft: A Policy Blunder Gone Asunder

State Department press briefings are becoming more and more vague about activities in the middle east. The 21st century statecraft that the Obama administration continues to implement is backfiring in the face of the president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Ignoring the powder burns and lacking a coherent Middle East strategy the administration simply chooses to disregard the mess and carnage that they were instrumental in creating. The consequences of the Egyptian revolution are now coming to fruition. Cairo’s Tahrir Square is routinely filled with protesters calling for Sharia Law and brandishing signs that read  "Liberals and secularists are the enemies of Allah!", and chanting slogans such as "The solution is Islam!" Egypt’s radical Muslim groups are ratcheting up the rhetoric and the violence. Coptic Christians and Egyptian secularists are taking the brunt of the violence.
The Egyptian social media networks that the Obama Administration put so much stock in have been demonized by the Muslim Brotherhood. The implementation of Sharia will in all likelihood be included in the rewrite of Egypt’s Constitution thus outlawing any type of Internet activity. The U.S. State Department instituted a program for young Middle Eastern adults called the Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) and the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).  In December 2008 AYM held a conference at Columbia Law School in New York for the express purpose of establishing a network of operatives. These operatives were to insight the public and facilitate the implosion of the Egyptian Government.The number of Egyptians with any access to social media tools is about six million. Egyptians that were registered with Facebook in the first quarter of 2011, the time when protests were spring up across Egypt  is only about 5% of the population. According to the Dubai School of Government’s Arab Social Media Report published in May. Twitter usage is even smaller, with only about 130,000 Egyptians registered.

The Obama administration has touted the democratization of the Egyptian state through “free and fair elections” as Secretary Clinton put it when she was in Egypt March, 15th 2011 
“I want to begin by saying very clearly and directly to the people of Egypt that this moment of history belongs to you, that this is your achievement and you broke barriers and overcame obstacles to pursue the dream of democracy, and the United States and President Obama and I will stand with you as you make this journey.”

A 2010 Pew Global Attitudes poll found surprisingly high support for the implementation of sharia law in Egypt. 82% of Egyptians support stoning for adultery, a practice most frequently directed at women, 77% were in favour of whippings and limb amputations as punishment for theft and robbery, 84% believed in the death penalty for people who leave Islam. At least half of Egyptians favour gender segregation in the workplace and in public.
Based on that Pew pole the upcoming elections will certainly not favor the interests of the United States. It is clear that the lack of vision and competency in the Obama administration has lead to the destabilization of Egypt and the Middle East. Unrest and murderous activity have become commonplace. A police station in the Sinai was attacked and Six people were killed and more than 20 were injured when armed men attacked on Friday, 7/29/2011. Muslim gunmen bombed the Sinai natural gas pipeline on Saturday, 7/30/2011 for the fifth time since the protesters first hit Tahrir Square.

As part of the Camp David Accords Israel receives about 40 percent of its natural gas from that pipeline, and having it out of order has reignited the debate over whether or not Israel should continue to purchase natural gas from Egypt. (Israel has recently discovered its own massive natural gas reserves of the coast and will soon be energy independent and may curtail it’s purchases of natural gas from Egypt putting one more nail in Egypt’s financial coffin. End Comment.)
Israel’s chief of military intelligence Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi sad recently that Iran has deepened its influence over the Middle East and is actively intervening in Egypt by specifically trying to prop up Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Iran is also taking advantage of the upheaval in the region to gain influence in other countries, such as Bahrain, Sudan, Yemen and Iraq. Kochavi also made the comment that Iran was also involved in planning two attempted infiltrations of Israel from Lebanon and Syria in recent months.

Iran’s spreading influence will no doubt play a role in the upcoming Egyptian elections. The radical Shia state is reaching out to Yemen and the Egyptian electorate with hopes of stealing away important allies from the United States. If successful Iran theoretically could garner influence over the Suez Canal and the Red Sea shipping lanes from the Gulf of Aden to Port Said. Iran continues to assert it’s influence in the Persian Gulf  and the Straights of Hormuz as was demonstrated in the recent “Great Prophet 6” exercise. This giving Iran incredible clout on the geopolitical stage and will directly threaten the energy security of the United States by manipulating maritime choke points used by oil tankers entering and exiting the region.
Iranian war ship in the Suez
The violent protests will  continue during Ramadan out of economic frustration and the governments perceived ambivalence toward the plight of the masses. Tahrir Square resembles a bustling Bedouin bazaar as it did on 2/11/2011 with protesters demanding a resolution to a myriad of issues from skyrocketing food prices and consumer goods  to religious unification. Food inflation in Egypt is rising at a rate of 19 percent over the same time last year.

The consequences of President Obama’s 21st century statecraft will become apparent after Egypt’s elections and will impose significant challenges to the next administration.

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