In the eyes of tens of millions of Egyptians, Senators John McCain’s and Lindsey Graham’s recent words and deeds in Egypt—which have the “blessing” of President Obama—have unequivocally proven that U.S. leadership is aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian media is awash with stories of the growing anger regarding this policy.
A top advisor to Egypt’s Interim President Adly Mansour formally accused McCain of distorting facts to the benefit of the Brotherhood, dismissing the senator’s remarks as “irrational”—or, more colloquially, “moronic.” Ahmed al-Zind, head of the Egyptian Judge Club, called for the arrest and trial of McCain for “trying to destroy Egypt.” The leader of the youth movement, Tamarod (or “Rebellion” against the Brotherhood) which played a major role in mobilizing the June 30 Revolution, said “We reject John McCain and call on the international community to let the [Egyptian] people decide their own fate.” Another incensed secular political commentator, Ahmed Musa, asserted that “These two men have made more shameless demands than the Brotherhood themselves would dare,” adding:
He [McCain] is not a man elected by the American people to speak on their behalf; today, he speaks on behalf of an armed terrorist organization—the Muslim Brotherhood… We had expected [better] from these two men who came to speak with the tongue of the Brotherhood’s leadership, and as if they had been recruited as two new leaders of the Brotherhood, which killed, destroyed, and burned in al-Muqattam, and now in Rab’a al-Adawiya [the main Brotherhood camp]. The only thing missing is to see them [McCain and Graham] in Rab’a, surrounded by armed groups, and in their midst Muhammad Badie [supreme leader of the Brotherhood] and [U.S. ambassador] Anne Patterson. That’s all that’s missing! Here comes Brother McCain today saying that we must “release the [Brotherhood] prisoners”…. are you not aware that these people are accused of murder? Are you not aware that hundreds of Egyptians have been killed at the hands of the Brotherhood, Morsi, Shatter, Qatatni, Badie, Baltagi—have you forgotten? Did you not read the report on what happened? Or did you just blindly accept your ambassador’s [Anne Patterson’s] words that it was a coup, that 33 million people did not go out?
What did McCain do and say in Egypt to earn the ire of millions of Egyptians?
First, most offensive to Egyptians—and helpful to the Brotherhood’s cause—is McCain’s insistence on calling the June 30 Revolution a “military coup.” In reality, the revolution consisted of perhaps thirty million Egyptians taking to the streets to oust the Brotherhood. McCain is either deliberately misconstruing the event, or believes the story as manufactured by Al Jazeera and promulgated by Ambassador Anne Patterson. In this narrative, at least an equal amount of Egyptians supported Morsi, and the military overthrew him against popular will. Al Jazeera has actually broadcast images of the millions of anti-Morsi protesters and identified them as pro-Morsi protesters, disinformation which was quickly adopted by Western media.
Several Al Jazeera correspondents have resigned due to Al Jazeera acting as the Brotherhood’s international mouthpiece.
Fortunately, some American officials have formally rejected this false narrative. A new congressional resolution states:
Whereas in recent weeks, an estimated 30,000,000 Egyptians in a majority of Egypt’s 27 provinces gathered to protest the widespread failures of former President Mohamed Morsi and the Government of Egypt and its violations of the most basic rights of all Egyptian citizens, including Egyptian women, minorities, and those publicly dissenting from its views and policies; Whereas the participants in the June 30, 2013, popular protests far outnumbered those involved in the protests and demonstrations of January and February 2011 …
Even the Obama administration has been sensible enough not to call the June 30 revolution a “military coup.” Nevertheless, McCain rejected John Kerry’s statement that “the [Egyptian] military did not take over.”
McCain’s designation raises other questions as well. If he considers the ouster of the Brotherhood government to be a military coup, why didn’t he extend that distinction at the fall of Mubarak’s more moderate government, which was also removed by the military in response to popular protests? If McCain’s argument is that Morsi was democratically elected and Mubarak was not, then why was the U.S. giving Egypt billions in aid for decades—thus legitimizing Mubarak’s government no less than Morsi’s?
Further angering Egyptians is McCain’s insistence that all arrested Brotherhood members be released from prison. As Musa said, McCain’s stance does not address the fact that Brotherhood leadership is awaiting trial on serious charges: inciting terrorism, causing the murder of Egyptians, and grand treason by conspiring with foreign powers against Egypt’s interests.
McCain claims he is simply interested in the human rights of the incarcerated Brotherhood members, a statement that is additionally curious. If human rights are at issue, why has McCain and the U.S. administration been indifferent to the fate of Hosni Mubarak? Morsi faces perhaps more serious charges than Mubarak does, yet McCain calls for his release.
McCain’s call to release Brotherhood leadership validates the widespread belief in Egypt that America is a fellow conspirator with the Brotherhood. Egyptians believe the U.S. fears that Morsi and others, if tried, would reveal the nature of their cozy relationship with the U.S. government, leading to any number of ugly revelations—treasonous ties and conspiracies, the exchange of billions of dollars, and Sinai issues. Hence, McCain wants them freed. This belief seems all the more reasonable to Egyptians considering that in 2011, McCain said of the Muslim Brotherhood:
I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic—at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.
McCain also personally visited Khairat al-Shatter, the multi-millionaire deputy chief of the Brotherhood who is currently incarcerated on charges of treason and terrorism. Interestingly, Shatter was not even a member of Morsi’s government. Why is McCain visiting a civilian? Shatter’s status as a major figure in the largest Islamist organization in the world is leading Egyptians to connect the dots. Even Shatter himself, understanding the awful visuals, asked McCain to visit “the legitimate president” Morsi instead.
U.S. media has said little about the administration’s ties to al-Shatter; however these ties are well-known among Egyptians: ambassador Anne Patterson was frequently seen going to Shatter’s residence.
Egyptian media has also pointed out that McCain repeatedly dodged critical questions by Egyptian journalists at the press conference. When asked about the fact that the Brotherhood in Rab’a was armed to the teeth, and—with the aid of al-Qaeda—was killing and terrorizing innocent Egyptians, McCain ignored the question. This, of course is in keeping with the fact that McCain has also ignored the question as to why he is the staunchest supporter of the jihad in Syria, which has torn that nation apart, seen the slaughter and displacement of untold thousands of Christians and the destruction of their churches, and the beheadings and “legitimized rapes” by foreign jihadis whom McCain is in favor of arming.
Many Egyptians are also wondering why McCain—as well as the Obama administration—is pushing for elections as soon as possible. Such a rush contributed to the empowerment of the Brotherhood in the first place: once the long-entrenched Mubarak was removed from power, the only party that was organized and ready to campaign was the Brotherhood. Secular Egyptian parties wanted to postpone the 2012 elections in order to mobilize their campaigns, but the U.S. was adamant that Egypt hold elections immediately. When the military wished to perform a recount, citing irregularities in the election—including widespread allegations of voter fraud by the Brotherhood—Hillary Clinton chastised them and called for a winner to be declared as soon as possible. This turned out to be Morsi, by a tiny margin—if that.
In short, McCain’s remarks and actions in Egypt have further confirmed the popular narrative—as memorably displayed by countless anti-Brotherhood and anti-Obama placards raised during the June 30 Revolution—that U.S. leadership is aligned with the Brotherhood, and thus ultimately a supporter of terrorism. Americans can no longer afford to ignore this serious accusation with broad implications
China in the Middle East: Stepping up to the plate
By defining Chinese characteristics as “seeking common ground while reserving differences,” a formula that implies conflict management rather than conflict resolution, Messrs. Sun and Wu were suggesting that China was seeking to prepare the ground for greater Chinese engagement in efforts to stabilize the Middle East, a volatile region that repeatedly threatens to spin out of control.
The scholars defined China’s goal as building an inclusive and shared regional collective security mechanism based on fairness, justice, multilateralism, comprehensive governance, and the containment of differences.
By implication, Messrs. Sun and Wu’s vision reflected a growing realization in China that it no longer can protect its mushrooming interests exclusively through economic cooperation, trade, and investment.
It also signalled an understanding that stability in the Middle East can only be achieved through an inclusive, comprehensive, and multilateral reconstructed security architecture of which China would have to be part.
Messrs. Sun and Wu’s article, published in a prominent Chine policy journal, was part of a subtle and cautious Chinese messaging that was directed towards players on all sides of the Middle East’s multiple divides.
To be clear, China, like Russia, is not seeking to replace the United States, certainly not in military terms, as a dominant force in the Middle East. Rather, it is gradually laying the groundwork to capitalize on a US desire to rejigger its regional commitments by exploiting US efforts to share the burden more broadly with its regional partners and allies.
China is further suggesting that the United States has proven to be unable to manage the Middle East’s myriad conflicts and disputes, making it a Chinese interest to help steer the region into calmer waters while retaining the US military as the backbone of whatever restructured security architecture emerges.
Implicit in the message is the assumption that the Middle East may be one part of the world in which the United States and China can simultaneously cooperate and compete; cooperate in maintaining regional security and compete on issues like technology.
That may prove to be an idealized vision. China, like the United States, is more likely to discover that getting from A to B can be torturous and that avoiding being sucked into the Middle East’s myriad conflicts is easier said than done.
China has long prided itself on its ability to maintain good relations with all sides of the divide by avoiding engagement in the crux of the Middle East’s at times existential divides.
Yet, building a sustainable security architecture that includes conflict management mechanisms, without tackling the core of those divides, is likely to prove all but impossible. The real question is at what point does China feel that the cost of non-engagement outweighs the cost of engagement?
The Middle East is nowhere close to entertaining the kind of approaches and policies required to construct an inclusive security architecture. Nevertheless, changes to US policy being adopted by the Biden administration are producing cracks in the posture of various Middle Eastern states, albeit tiny ones, that bolster the Chinese messaging.
Various belligerents, including Saudia Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Turkey, but not Iran or Israel, at least when it comes to issues like Iran and the Palestinians, have sought to lower the region’s temperature even if fundamentals have not changed.
A potential revival of the 2015 international Iran nuclear agreement could provide a monkey wrench.
There is little doubt that any US-Iranian agreement to do so would focus exclusively on nuclear issues and would not include other agenda points such as ballistic missiles and Iranian support for non-state actors in parts of the Middle East. The silver lining is that ballistic missiles and support for non-state actors are issues that Iran would likely discuss if they were embedded in a discussion about restructured regional security arrangements.
This is where China may have a significant contribution to make. Getting all parties to agree to discuss a broader, more inclusive security arrangement involves not just cajoling but also assuaging fears, including whether and to what degree Chinese relations with an Iran unfettered by US sanctions and international isolation would affect Gulf states.
To be sure, while China has much going for it in the Middle East such as its principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of others, its affinity for autocracy, and its economic weight and emphasis on economic issues, it also needs to manage pitfalls. These include reputational issues despite its vaccine diplomacy, repression of the Uyghurs in the north-western province of Xinjiang, and discrimination against other Muslim communities.
China’s anti-Muslim policies may not be an immediate issue for much of the Muslim world, but they continuously loom as a potential grey swan.
Nevertheless, China, beyond doubt, alongside the United States can play a key role in stabilizing the Middle East. The question is whether both Beijing and Washington can and will step up to the plate.
The US doesn’t deserve a sit on the UNHRC, with its complicity in the Saudi war crimes in Yemen
Last week, the US State Department communicated its intention of joining the UN Human Rights Council later this year. The UN General Assembly will be voting this October on who gets to join the 47-member UN Human Rights Council. 47 members is less than a fourth of all UN member states, so only very few countries get a seat and a say.
The United States does not deserve to join the UN Human Rights Council, with its complicity in the Saudi war crimes in Yemen.
The Human Rights Council is often criticized, especially by the right in the US, for having only bad human rights actors with atrocious records as members. But the US is not an exception to the atrocious human rights record club.
In the seemingly war-less Trump period, the US nevertheless still managed to get engaged in war and war crimes in the completely devastated Yemen, which was hit by the worst humanitarian crisis and famine over the last years, after US-backed Saudi forces basically flattened the country. Over 13mln people suffered from starvation. Media and human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch alike have pointed to US complicity in war crimes in Yemen.
Months ago, I criticized UNICEF chief Henrietta Fore for lauding the Saudis’ “humanitarian leadership” in Yemen for the price of USD 150mln. The UN blue-washing partnerships were possible after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres removed Saudi Arabia from the UN blacklist in 2020 to make sure the rivers of cash by the Saudi humanitarian heroes kept flowing in the UN’s direction. But in October this year, it is not Antonio-it’s not a big deal-Guterres that decides who gets on the UN Human Rights Council. It’s all the UN member states. And many of them will not be impressed by the Saudi humanitarian leadership.
And even though a month ago, new US President Joe Biden announced that the US is ending its support for the Saudi offensive – and in parallel the US intell revealed the Khashoggi report which outlined the Saudi prince’s involvement in the murder of the journalist – questions still persist about the US role in the Yemeni situation from now on. 73% of all Saudi arms imports come from the US. The US State Department will simply be playing on words from now on in redefining what constitutes “offensive” support for the Saudi coalition, as the State Department Spokesperson Ned Price seemed to suggest. Any military expert knows how difficult it is to differentiate between offensive and defensive capabilities. Unless it’s really barb wire standing on your border, it’s pretty hard to make the case that something will serve for only defensive purposes. Especially if the “defense-only” capabilities are for a war-driven Saudi-led coalition. So, basically the Biden policy is the Trump policy, but much more polished. The language is more technocraticly elegant, but the essence is the same – just like many of the other decisions by the Biden Administration in its first weeks. It’s basically Trump, only the phrasing is much more polished and professionally shrewd.
This week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized Yemen’s Houthies for breaking the peace in responding to the Saudi forces, but it is safe to say that there isn’t much peace to break in Yemen, and the US has also taken care of that. So, Blinken’s statement reveals a new doze of hypocrisy – hypocrisy, which also characterizes the US’s decision to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council.
Biden’s Syria strikes that left many Biden supporters quite surprised last week also indicated that many of us who thought Biden would be a classical Democrat centrist were actually wrong. Biden has much more in common with the right now, judging by his very first policy choices – at home and foreign policy wise.
The US government will have to try a bit harder than “we are not Trump”, if it wants to convince the rest of the countries in October that it deserves a sit on the human rights table. If the Biden Administration continues the same way, it’s not going to be able to do so.
Beyond the friendship diplomacy between Morocco and Mauritania
Over the past decade or so, many politicians and diplomats have held that the most significant bilateral relationship has been between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. That remains true today, and it will be likely the case for long- term partnership to come, even as the sort of that relationship changes over time. Due to, diplomatic rapprochement between them and bilateral cooperation on several levels, Mauritania, tends formally to withdraw its full recognition of the Polisario Front “SADR” before the term of the current president, Mohamed Ould Al-Ghazwani, ends.
Yet, the truth is that Mauritania has unalterably shifted from the previous engagement with Morocco to the recent conflict with it on nearly all the key fronts: geopolitics, trade, borders security, finance, and even the view on domestic governance. To that extent, Mauritania was the most affected by the Polisario Front militia’s violation to close the Guerguerat border crossing and prevent food supplies from reaching their domestic markets. This crisis frustrated Mauritanian people and politicians who demanded to take firm stances towards the separatists.
In the context of the fascinating development in relations between Rabat and Nouakchott, the Mauritanian government stated that President Ould Ghazwani is heading to take a remarkable decision based on derecognized the so-called Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Polisario Front as its sole representative and follow up the recent UN peace process through the case of Western Sahara conflict under UN Security Council resolutions.
Similarly, the United States announced that “Moroccan (Western) Sahara is an integral part of The Kingdom–a traditional Ally, and it supports the Moroccan government’s constitutional procedures to maintain Moroccan Southern provinces strong and united.” It was rapidly followed by all major countries of African, and the Arab Middle East also extended their supports to the government in Rabat. What a determined move against the Polisario Front separatism in a sovereign state!
During the Western Sahara dispute, the Moroccan Sahrawi was humiliated to the end by Polisario Front: it not only lost their identity but also resulted in the several ethnics’ claim for “independence” in the border regions within. currently, Morocco is the only regional power in North Africa that has been challenged in terms of national unity and territorial integrity. The issues cover regional terrorism, political separatism, and fundamental radicalism from various radical ethnic groups. Although the population of the “Polisario groups” is irrelevant because of Morocco’s total population, the territorial space of the ethnic minorities across the country is broadly huge and prosperous in natural resources. besides, the regions are strategically important.
In foreign affairs doctrine, the certainty of countries interacting closely, neighboring states and Algeria, in particular, have always employed the issue of the Western Sahara dispute in the Southern Region of Morocco as the power to criticize and even undermine against Morocco in the name of discredit Sahrawi rights, ethnic discrimination, social injustice, and natural resources exploitation. therefore, local radical Sahrawi groups have occasionally resisted Morocco’s authority over them in a vicious or nonviolent way. Their resistance in jeopardy national security on strategic borders of the Kingdom, at many times, becoming an international issue.
A Mauritanian media stated, that “all the presidential governments that followed the former President Mohamed Khouna Ould Haidala, a loyal and supporter to the Polisario Front, were not at all satisfied with the recognition of the SADR creation due to its fear that it would cause reactions from Algeria. however, Mauritania today is not the state of 1978, it has become a well-built country at the regional level, and the position of its military defense has been enhanced at the phase of the continent’s armies after it was categorized as a conventional military power.”
This is what Mauritania has expected the outcome. Although neighboring Mauritania has weeded out the pressures of the Algerian regime, which stood in the way of rapprochement with the Kingdom of Morocco, and the Mauritanian acknowledged that Nouakchott today is “ready to take the historic decision that seeks its geopolitical interests and maintain strategic stability and security of the entire region, away from the external interactions.” Hence, The Mauritanian decision, according to the national media, will adjust its neutral position through the Moroccan (Western) Sahara issue; Because previously was not clear in its political arrangement according to the international or even regional community.
Given the Moroccan domestic opinion, there is still optimistic hope about long-term collaboration on the transformation between Morocco and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, even considering some temporary difficulties between the two in the Western Sahara conflict. For example, prior Mauritania has recognized the Polisario since the 1980s, but this recognition did not turn into an embassy or permanent diplomatic sign of the separatist entity in Mauritania, the Kingdom has a long-standing relationship with Mauritania and the recent regional politics would not harm that, because it’s a political circumstance.
Despite the strain exerted by the Polisario Front and Algeria on Mauritania, and intending to set impediments that avoid strategic development of its relations with Rabat, the Mauritanian-Moroccan interactions have seen an increased economic development for nearly two years, which end up with a phone call asked King Mohammed VI to embark on an official visit to Mauritania as President Ould Ghazwani requested.
For decades, the kingdom of Morocco has deemed a united, stable, and prosperous Maghreb region beneficial to itself and Northern Africa since it is Kingdom’s consistent and open stance and strategic judgment. Accordingly, Morocco would continue supporting North Africa’s unity and development. On the one hand, Morocco and Mauritania are not only being impacted by the pandemic, but also facing perils and challenges such as unilateralism, and protectionism. On the other hand, Rabat opines that the two neighboring states and major forces of the world necessarily established their resolve to strengthen communication and cooperation with each other. To that end, both states would make efforts to set up long-term strategic consensus including mutual trust, reciprocal understandings, and respect to the United Nations and the current international system based on multilateralism.
In sum, both Morocco and Mauritania are sovereign states with a strong desire to be well-built and sophisticated powers. Previous successes and experiences in solving territorial disputes and other issues have given them confidence, which motivated both countries to join hands in the struggles for national independence, equality, and prosperity. In sense of the world politics, two states promise to advance the great cause of reorganization and renovation and learn from each other’s experience in state power and party administration.
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