The storming yesterday of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt should not come as a surprise to those who have been following the increasingly volatile situation in that country, and as the radical Islamic organization, the Muslim Brotherhood, takes great control there. The embassy violence also comes at an inconvenient time, as the U.S. relationship with Egypt was already being tested by its new president, Mohammed Morsi, who will visit the U.S. later this month.
For a number of reasons the Morsi visit is important. Even if one is hesitant to blame the Obama Administration for badly calibrating the U.S. response to last year's "Arab Spring" uprising and the revolution in Egypt, it appears that this newly elected president is ready to bring Egypt into a full embrace of radical Islam, with stronger ties to Iran, and, as the embassy-storming indicates, a very different relationship with America .
So who is Mohammed Morsi? He was an influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood, which spearheaded the people's revolution. Once elected to office earlier this year, Morsi resigned his membership, though he has placed Muslim Brothers in virtually every part of Egypt's government, has endorsed the inclusion of Sharia law in a rewritten Egyptian constitution, and seems content to let his friends pursue whatever extremist activities they feel necessary to bring their fellow citizens into line with the Brotherhood's radical agenda. Just last month, Middle Eastern media outlets reported:
[P]rotestors belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood crucified those opposing Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi naked on trees in front of the presidential palace while abusing others. Likewise, Muslim Brotherhood supporters locked the doors of the media production facilities of 6-October [a major media region in Cairo], where they proceeded to attack several popular journalists.
As noted by Lawrence Haas in a recent column:
[Morsi] promised to push Washington to release the "Blind Shiekh," Omar Abdel-Rahman, who's serving time for the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center. He also released jailed terrorists, including members of the dangerous Gama'a Islamiya and Islamic Jihad.
Morsi embraced the Holocaust-denying, Israel-threatening Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at an Islamic Summit in Saudi Arabia.… Sent tanks into the Sinai and reportedly plans to send more along with rockets and helicopters, though the [1979 Egyptian-Israeli] treaty calls for a demilitarized peninsula to serve as a buffer between Egypt and Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood's media adviser recently called the treaty a "mark of shame" that brought "cancer, hepatitis, and kidney infections" to Egypt."
It should be noted that the U.S. for more than 30 years has provided more than $1 billion in aid annually to Egypt -- much of it in the form of "foreign military financing." But rather than visit the nation that has provided tens of billions of aid to his country and served as a strategic partner, Morsi chose to visit Iran and China first, thus removing any doubts as to whether Morsi was a politician capable of playing to his home base. The result: talks of bail out payments from China and oil-sale deals with Iran. Just this week it was announced that Egypt was open to purchasing Iranian oil that was sitting in an Egyptian port, or possibly serving as a middle man to sell the oil for Iran, a move that would undercut international sanctions.
In fact, while Morsi has made critical comments about the massacre in Syria while visiting that regime's key benefactor, Iran, he has shown at the least a willingness to deal with Tehran to Egypt's and possibly Iran's benefit. To counter, the U.S. has offered the prospect of securing billions of dollars in aid, with Morsi apparently receiving no pressure from the Obama administration to help end Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons or to ending the violence against Muslim Brotherhood opposition.
Nor does there appear to be any interest on the part of President Morsi to pull back from his promise to demand, upon arriving in the U.S., the release of the "Blind Sheikh," Omar Abdel-Rahman, the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center. He has also no interest in having constructive discussions on his government's decision to enforce Sharia on its citizens. While Egypt was far from a haven for human rights under the previous government, the advent of yet another U.S. strategic partner in the Middle East imposing Sharia without our protest makes a sham of our support for human rights, especially for those of women.
All of these issues should be prominently on the table when Morsi arrives in two weeks. What remains is an even more fundamental issue: Does the Administration truly understand the threat and the potential threat that radical Islam poses to our interests and our values? Perhaps the violence in Cairo will speed insight into just what it is we're up against.
UPDATE: When I posted the article last night on Egyptian President Morsi and America's challenges with his leadership in the Middle East, the violence at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, as well as the murderous attack on American diplomatic officials in Libya, had not yet been fully known.
Now we’ve seen the reaction from the Obama Administration on both, and frankly, it's appalling, particularly when Secretary of State Clinton chooses to not dwell on the Egyptian attacks (given the Morsi visit in ten days, are we surprised?).
And based on this report from Wired, the administration and its foreign policy team appear to be not only out of their depth, but clearly under the impression that the U.S. must do all it can to placate the radical Muslim community, whether for domestic consumption here in the U.S. to maintain good relations with the American-Muslim community in a political year, or overseas to maintain what the administration apparently believes are good relations with the Muslim communities overseas.
Based on what we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, not only is the Obama Administration out of touch with the realities of America’s standing among Islamic countries, its people are actually making the situation worse.