Having Islamists ruling Egypt, soon Syria, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and (Obama’s role model) Turkey is a major threat to Israeli security. Aside from what such governments do directly, they either help—or turn a blind eye—to even more violent Salafist groups. For example, the riseof the Islamists has brought cross-border attacks from Egyptian territory, rocket firings from Gaza, and the violent aspects of the Gaza flotilla engineered by Turkey’s government through the IHH group.
Is empowering those who want to commit genocide on the Jews and destroy Israel, in Burnett’s words, “a trade-off we have to make” because “it pays off in the end”? There’s a precedent. In 1939, British Colonial Department secretary Malcolm MacDonald explained appeasement in these words: “There are times when the most ethical consideration must give way to…necessity.”
Yet for the Obama Administration this is a policy of choice, not necessity, and it does not benefit U.S. interests.
As for claims that “moderate Islamists”—like Hamas and the Brotherhood–restrain extremists, this is an old disastrous idea. Consider, for example, the August 8, 1932, Glasgow Herald:
Murder, arson, and outrage continue to shatter the internal peace of Germany….Herr Hitler and his more moderate colleagues…are said to deplore the terrorist tactics of some sections of their followers.
The September 17, 1935, New York Times, while acknowledging that hatred of Jews was central to Hitler’s ideology, suggested antisemitic laws in Nazi Germany were a sop thrown to “the Radical wing of the [Nazi] party.”
That’s how the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists work together playing radical and moderate Islamists or–with Hamas and Hizballah–“political wing” and “military wing.” True, the latter are more eager to use violence and have less patience with political process, putting ideological mouthing-off over clever maneuvering. But both groups have the same goals and often cooperate in achieving them. In Egypt, they came together to attack the U.S. embassy, to strike against Christian churches, and to install a militant version of Sharia law.
Certainly, the United States does not control everything that happens in these countries. Yet inasmuch as it does have money and influence, that power has been used to help the Islamists and not the moderates. For example, the Obama Administration has backed Brotherhood leadership of the Syrian opposition and supports giving weapons to both the Brotherhood and Salafists, with no preference given to non-Islamists at all.
Real moderates in Iran, Turkey, and the Arabic-speaking world firmly believe U.S. policy is backing their enemies. Indeed, it was real moderates in Egypt who exposed the fact that Samira Ibrahim is an extremist!
Empowering anti-American and antisemitic Islamism in the guise of “moderate Islamism” is the most dangerous thing U.S. policy could do in the Middle East or in the world generally. The price in blood will be paid for decades to come. I’d end this article by asking Obama to stop doing this but why bother because we all know that he won’t do so.
Originally published at Rubin Reports.Barry Rubin
About the Author: Professor Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. See the GLORIA/MERIA site at www.gloria-center.org.
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