Smart diplomacy?previous post, just one day after winning lavish praise from President Obama for his role in negotiating a truce between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy declared himself a dictator.
That led to strong reactions on Friday from, among others, former IAEA chief Mohammed El-Baradei, and riots across Egypt.
[A]nti-Morsi demonstrators set fire to Muslim Brotherhood offices in cities across Egypt on Friday. As enraged demonstrators torched Muslim Brotherhood offices in several Egyptian cities, a defiant Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi defended his recent decree granting himself sweeping powers before a crowd of supporters outside the presidential palace in Cairo Friday. …You can see Tahrir Square in the picture above. The 'democratically elected' Morsy had his troops respond to the demonstrators with teargas, just like the 'dictator' Hosni Mubarak did a year and nine months ago. You all remember Mubarak, right? Mubarak was the guy who was forced out due to the Obama administration's 'smart diplomacy.' John Hinderaker has some more delicious irony in this situation that's really got him confused (Hat Tip: Memeorandum).
Reacting to the decree, thousands of demonstrators gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday, responding to calls by Egyptian opposition leaders for a “million-man march” to protest against what they called a “coup” by the Islamist president.
But never mind that–I am still really, really confused! Mubarak was our friend, but a bad guy. So he had to go, and Obama denounced him and helped force him out. Morsi is our enemy, and also is a bad guy. So Obama thinks he’s A-OK, and helped Morsi take power. That’s called “smart diplomacy.” You probably wouldn’t understand.
Other things are confusing, too. Did Obama know that Morsi was about to claim dictatorial powers when he made Morsi the “hero” of the Israel-Gaza cease fire? If so, did he mind? If Obama didn’t know–which seems more likely–does he now think that Morsi double-crossed him by capitalizing on his faux diplomatic mission to proclaim himself a dictator? Or is that one more thing that is A-OK with Obama? If Obama doesn’t like the fact that Morsi has cut “Arab Spring” democracy off at the knees, does he intend to do anything about it? Or, when bad things happen, is it “smart diplomacy” to do nothing and pretend you don’t mind?Read the whole thing.
Jennifer Dyer argues that Morsi's grant of dictatorial powers to himself is part and parcel of his taking responsibility for (read: gaining control over) Hamas.
So, those of us who said Morsi was an Islamist extremist who would quickly reestablish authoritarianism in Egypt – with a sharia flavor – were right. Those who said Morsi was a moderate were wrong.
And his Napoleonic self-crowning event changes the calculus for Gaza and Hamas, among other things. The universal interpretation of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt this week puts the responsibility for preventing attacks by Hamas against Israel squarely on the Morsi government. (Not all analyses refer to “frantic” diplomacy on the part of the United States.) Far from making Egypt anyone’s partner in repressing Hamas, this move effectively hands Hamas over to Morsi – and with Hamas, the Gaza Strip.
Hamas is a terrorist group whose independence of him is an inconvenience for Morsi. Hamas is the finger of Iran in the Levantine “pie” situated on Morsi’s northeastern border. Hamas lies between Morsi and Jerusalem. Morsi is not going to “work with” Hamas; he is going to give Hamas the choice to work with him, or be rendered insignificant.
Hamas can be useful to Morsi, if that’s what its leaders choose to do. There may or may not be a “break” with Iran; it would probably be better from Morsi’s perspective to keep Iran on a string with Hamas, and prevent a divergence of objectives – i.e., between Egypt and Iran – for as long as possible.
But do not be deceived. Iran has just taken a big strategic hit from the terms of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire. Iran may still have Qods Force operatives in the area, but Morsi has established a veto over Iran’s activities there. There may be a few more attempts by Hamas at independence from Morsi – although frankly, I doubt it – but the die is cast: what happens from now on will happen on Morsi’s timeline and his say-so.
That, at least, is what he intends. He has been rather transparent in the last few days. Immediately upon getting the ceasefire on terms advantageous for his intentions, he declared himself all-powerful in Egypt. This was not a coincidence. His pursuit of the ceasefire was part and parcel of his overall planning. He was happy to accept the vaguest of commitments on Israel’s side, as long as the understanding was that Egypt would guarantee Hamas’s behavior. That was the prize Morsi sought.Dyer goes on to argue that botched US diplomacy has brought all this about, and that Egypt has turned itself into a player as important as Iran and Turkey over the last week. Read the whole thing.
So why did Netanyahu sign onto this situation? Here are his calculations as I see them.
1. Egypt has an interest in controlling Hamas, because as noted above, controlling Hamas makes it a player in the Middle East. Netanyahu has just purchased quiet on the Gaza border which he could not have purchased in any other way short of a Dresden-like bombing.
2. Egypt will never be able to become a nuclear power anyway. Its economy is a bigger basket case than Iran's or Turkey's, and besides, Iran financed most of its nuclear development while selling oil at high prices while the world looked the other way. Egypt has almost no oil to sell and nothing else of value. No one else is going to give it money to finance a nuclear program.
3. Egypt will not abrogate its treaty with Israel. It cannot take the risk that the US will respond by cutting off aid. So between those three items, Netanyahu is free to attack Iran without worrying about Egypt or Gaza.
Of course, there's one small catch. Morsy could lose power as quickly as he gained it - we are seeing rumblings in that direction already - and Israel could find itself with an Islamist anarchy on our southeastern border.
Better neutralize Hezbullah soon and then go after Iran before Syria can get its act together.
What could go wrong?