Vermont Public Radio comment for Thursday August 22nd 201

 INTRO: The crisis in Egypt has created some strange bedfellows - in America and in the Middle East. This morning commentator and veteran ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore gives us his perspective.


TEXT: The libertarian wing of the Republican Party and most liberal Democrats are on the same page on this one. From the moment the Egyptian military ousted the duly elected President Mohammed Morsi last month, these opposites on the political spectrum have demanded that the United States cut off all military assistance to Egypt, which runs at $1.3 billion a year. The liberals are apoplectic over what they view as President Barack Obama’s pusillanimous response to the brutal killing by Egyptian security forces of more than a thousand civilians during the past week. Most of the dead and wounded were Muslim Brotherhood supporters protesting the overthrow of their president, who remains under arrest.


In the Middle East, Israel and Saudi Arabia - two of America’s most important allies in the region and normally implacable foes - are both supportive of the Egyptian military’s latest actions. They have each conducted extensive campaigns to persuade President Obama not to sever America’s military relationship with Egypt.


Since the 2011 revolution which overthrew then President Mubarak, the Israelis have worried about the rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood because Jerusalem felt Islamists could not be trusted to maintain the Egyptian Israeli Peace treaty. Recently, Israel sent its ambassadors in Washington and key European Union capitals to argue for tolerance of the Egyptian military’s current hard line. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee saying quote “events in Egypt are rapidly evolving…the United States should avoid taking any precipitous actions.”



Meanwhile Saudi Arabia saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat to its stability and influence in the Islamic world. As the New York Times put it, the Saudis quote “jumped at the chance to help reverse a revolution which it opposed from the start.”


The Saudis and other Arab Gulf monarchies have pledged as much as $12 billion to the military regime in Egypt which dwarfs U.S. assistance - diminishing American leverage and influence in Cairo for now at least.


While I believe it’s too early to entirely give up on Egypt’s revolution- the immediate future is not promising. If democracy is ever to be achieved there, the Generals must stand down and power must be shared between Islamists and secularists. After winning the revolution’s first elections last year, the Muslim Brotherhood failed at power sharing which is what ultimately led to their demise.


As for President Obama’s performance- Aaron David Miller, a Mideast analyst, negotiator and adviser to secretaries of state from both parties over three decades wrote this on the Foreign Policy website: Obama “intuitively grasped the limit of U.S. influence in changing the nature of Middle Eastern societies caught up in internal conflict. If we couldn’t reshape what happens in Kabul and Baghdad with hundreds of thousands of troops and trillions of dollars, how are we going to have an impact on what Egypt’s generals do….with a trifling billion or so.”


Whatever happens- that is a good question.




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