Puzzling U.S. Support for Islamists Over Moderates

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It should be pointed out that there are truly moderate Muslims and non-Muslims scattered throughout the Middle East who desire Western freedoms. They are in the minority, however—just over 20 percent, estimates Andrew McCarthy in his new book Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy (2013, p. 55). But they are not the ones receiving Western support—even in places where they have higher numbers.

Consider Tunisia, for example, long regarded as the most Westernized of Arab nations. The Muslim Brotherhood's Ennahda Movement or "Renaissance Party," which Western media wrongly paint as moderate, took over the leadership of the country after the 2011 revolution but captured only 42 percent of the popular vote. Though restrained by having to govern through coalition with non-Islamists, the party still pushes the Islamist agenda, and sharia is gaining ground. Two men have even been sent to prison for posting cartoon images of the prophet Muhammad on Facebook.

In interviewing actual moderates who advocate secular government, Michael Totten hears the repeated complaint that they have no support from the United States: "The Americans are with the Islamists. They support Ennahda in Tunisia and the Wahhabists in Saudi Arabia. I've heard this complaint from every single secular person I've interviewed in this country without exception, from academics and democratic activists to journalists and teachers.

"They seem to be unanimously shocked and dismayed and appalled. The subject comes up again and again in conversation even when I ask about other things. It's impossible to spend any time here whatsoever without hearing about it" ("US Criticized by Tunisian Secularists for Backing Islamists," World Affairs, March 21, 2012, emphasis in original).

This reflects a disturbing realignment in U.S. foreign policy. When Lebanese-born Middle East expert Walid Phares was asked in a recent interview to expand on his statement that "everyone in Washington knows Obama supports the Muslim Brotherhood," he offered this stunning response:

"It is time to understand the policies of the Obama administration, the ones that are public and those that are obvious. If you compare the various Obama administration policies regarding the Middle East uprisings, you'd clearly see that the positioning of Washington regarding these demonstrations and protests is proportional to the outcome of these revolts.

"When the rising masses are targeting Islamist regimes, the Obama position abandons the uprising. When the revolt will end up with an Islamist takeover, the US position swiftly sides with the revolt. These are not theories, these are measurable realities.

"In June 2009, when millions of Iranians, mostly young (and female) were demonstrating against the Ayatollahs, President Obama stated the US 'wouldn't meddle.' But when the demonstrations in Egypt exploded, the Obama position evolved in two stages. As long as it was the youth and seculars on the streets, Washington stayed in the middle. But when the Muslim Brotherhood entered Tahrir Square en force, President Obama meddled 'strongly by asking Mubarak to step down.'

"[The] same scenarios occurred in Tunisia and in Libya and seem to be repeating itself in Syria. Observers and commentators in the region, particularly in Egypt, aren't shy about this description. They clearly state and provide evidence for an alignment of the Obama administration with the Muslim Brotherhood. US lawmakers for the past few years have been warning that the administration is favoring the Brotherhood fronts in Washington and seeking their influence in national security and foreign policy. 

"Well, since the Arab Spring and particularly this year 2012 in Egypt, this alignment has never been clearer. Ironically, the Obama administration denies siding with the Brotherhood because the American public wouldn't digest such an un-American positioning. It would be the equivalent of an American partnership in the 1930s with the national socialists [German Nazis] or the Italian fascists. 

"Today, in the Arab media there are hundreds of articles, statements and panels openly exposing and criticizing the Obama administration support to the Islamists in general and the Brotherhood in particular" (interview with Jennifer Hanin, "How Does Egypt Regain Its Once-Coveted Status? . . . Part I," Breitbart.com, Dec. 17, 2012).

McCarthy likewise mentions "the stinging rebukes of Obama's performance by authentic Egyptian democrats, demoralized over America's infatuation with the Islamists. This, too, mirrored the Islamist ascendancy in Turkey: the more unabashed Erdogan became in promoting sharia and the Brotherhood's jihad against Israel, the closer Washington drew to him" (p. xiv).

To illustrate how bizarre matters have gotten, in June 2012 the U.S. administration hosted a delegation of Egypt's new leaders in Washington that included new parliament member Hani Nour Eldin, a member of the Islamic Group—the terrorist organization headed by the imprisoned Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, spiritual leader behind the first World Trade Center terror attacks in 1993.

"The White House and State Department stonewalled media inquiries about how a man well known to be a member of a formally designated terrorist organization could conceivably have been issued, first, a visa to enter the United States, and then, an invitation to consult with our government's security and foreign policy officials in Washington" (p. 174). The matter was brushed off as no big deal since Nour was, after all, democratically elected.

Then there are the recent claims of the Egyptian magazine Rose El-Youssef, translated into English on the website of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, that six American Muslim leaders working with the Obama administration are Muslim Brotherhood operatives who are helping to shape U.S. policies. Of course, while that may be, there's no proof that anyone needed to steer the administration to where it is today.

Topping all this off is the fact that, despite the course Egypt is now set on, the U.S. government is continuing to send it, the most powerful Arab nation, billions of dollars in military aid and hardware (including 20 advanced F-16 fighter jets and 200 Abrams tanks)—equipment that could end up being used against Israel or even American forces. We need to open our eyes to the future that's being set up today.

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