Arab Spring? What Arab Spring?: US policy in the Middle East shows no change since the fall of Mubarak

Some telling remarks buried in a speech (“On Ensuring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge”, PDF) justifying the annual US$3 billion aid package to Israel by Andrew Shapiro, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs:

I know that the uncertainty over the Egyptian transition has prompted some in Congress to propose conditioning our security assistance to Egypt. The Administration believes that putting conditions on our assistance to Egypt is the wrong approach, and Secretary Clinton has made this point strongly. Egypt is a pivotal country in the Middle East and a long-time partner of the United States. We have continued to rely on Egypt to support and advance U.S. interests in the region, including peace with Israel, confronting Iranian ambitions, interdicting smugglers, and supporting Iraq. Egypt’s well-being is important for the region as a whole.

Conditioning assistance risks putting our relations with Egypt in a contentious place at the worst possible moment. As the Secretary explained, “We support the democratic transition, and we don’t want to do anything that in any way draws into question our relationship or our support.” The Egyptian people, not just the Egyptian government, view our assistance as symbolic of our support for their country and their transition. At this time of great change, we need to maintain the flexibility to respond to events and adjust our assistance accordingly.

As The Arabist notes, it was ever thus: “there was reluctance to upset Mubarak and a feeling that arguing with him was a lost battle. The SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] is playing the same obtuse game of stubbornness.”

So is this Administration.

And yet Obama still isn’t good enough for the Israel lobby and Congress. He threw the Palestinian Authority under the bus at the UN (and continues to do so at the moribund Quartet Talks), and he’s apparently willing to endure SCAF’s troubling actions – sectarian violence, constitutional manipulation, the torture and detention of activists – all in the name of the Camp David Accords.

Bahrain, Shmarain – there’s the Fifth Fleet to consider (Tunisia sure is lucky that it doesn’t host a U.S. naval base). And Yemen is the new Afghanistan. Send in the drones.

Goodness knows what Obama has planned for Libya, though I imagine Bechtel and Halliburton have some ideas (and if not them, others will).

Of course, the fact that Obama is nonetheless willing to do business with Islamists is (somehow) just further proof of his anti-Israel sentiment, even though these people are Israel’s silent partners in the region, thanks to their shared fear of Iran and willingness to throw Palestinian statehood under the bus.

Man, what’s a President got to do to win some love from John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s favorite people?

About Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.
Posted in Arab Spring, Egypt, Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Middle East, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 4 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Dan Crowther says:

    The Lobby sees that Obama is doing his best to reassemble the old order in the Middle East – with some different faces and parties- they are just keeping the pressure on him so he doesn’t go off course.

  2. Chespirito says:

    Thank you for the reminder. Nothing makes me grind my molars more than when Americans Who Should Know Better pretend that the US is somehow a neutral bystander in Egypt when we have been intervening heavily, so heavily, by arming, training and bankrolling Mubarak and now SCAF sans Mubarak, for three decades. The second biggest recipient of US foreign aid. When pressed, supporters of this cruel and foolish policy argue that it’s been a really terrific investment in America’s security–forgetting that Mohammed Atta (remember him?) and Ayman Zawahiri were/are both Egyptians angered by the US government’s heavy hand in their part of the world, and their attacks on the US are purest blowback.

    And yet it’s v difficult to get a straight answer from American intellectuals, on the left or right, about why we should be lavishly funding and arming SCAF; this overwhelming geopolitical fact of our alliance structure is either ignored or accepted as a fact of nature, like rain or gravity. (Ditto for our support of Israel too of course.) There is something in our destructive and self-destructive support for SCAF and for Israel that ought to upset American conservatives, liberals, moderates, you name it. And yet MondoWeiss is one of the few forums willing to raise the point. How much longer will this last?

  3. Larry says:

    The Arab Spring is just fine since the US had no real power to stop it anyway. Egypt is after all a real country – unlike Israel which is a construct of the US government and the American tax-payers.
    The “Palestinian Spring” will never happen if the US has its usual, cynical Jewish Lobby-driven way. Obama is a cynical, little man whose number one interest – like all politicians – is getting re-elected. Look at his recent cowardly decision on the tar sands bill.
    The twisted, corrupt US political system insures that the Palestinians will never receive real help, support, compassion or honest brokering from the US government. It is an impossibility for any politician who wants to be president or even in Congress. Yes, just ask John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt – or 99% of this planet…