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Commentary: Geopolitical amnesia

By ARNAUD DE BORCHGRAVE, UPI Editor at Large   |   Oct. 15, 2013 at 7:23 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- As the White House and Congress flirt with irrelevancy, anger is building throughout the country over what appears to be a dysfunctional government and defective sinews.

Abroad, the U.S. president felt compelled to cancel two Asian summits. A new Chinese president and Russia's long-serving president took center stage and the United States was conspicuous by President Barack Obama's absence.

Congressional shenanigans have brought government itself to the edge of the precipice. Idiocy, ineptitude and indolence were some of the kinder reviews of Obama and congressional leaders.

Foreign editorials across the Americas, Europe, the Mideast and Asia speculated that the United States could no longer afford the price tag for being the world's dominant superpower.

Most Middle Eastern experts at home and abroad questioned the wisdom of the U.S. decision to curtail military and economic aid to Egypt as diplomatic punishment for excluding the Muslim Brotherhood from the political process -- and keeping its ousted leader Mohamed Morsi incommunicado in a secret location awaiting trial.

Evidently lacking the historical knowledge of the anti-democratic posture of Muslim Brotherhood, Obama concluded appeasement was the better part of valor.

The Muslim Brotherhood believes in one-man-one-vote-one-time. Once in power, as they demonstrated in Algeria in the early 1990s, religious dictatorship takes over. Almost a decade-long civil war ensued. And the military prevailed to this day.

The Muslim Brotherhood's attempted takeover of Egypt Jan. 26, 1952, is what triggered a military coup by Abdel Nasser's "Free Officers," followed by Anwar Sadat, followed by Hosni Mubarak for a total of 60 years.

Egypt's top general, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, is convinced, as are most educated Egyptians that a Muslim Brotherhood regime would eradicate modernity and take Egypt back to the Dark Ages. A civilian government, meanwhile, is in charge, determined to keep Muslim Brotherhood at bay with strict enforcement.

The U.S. decision to appease the Muslim Brotherhood backfired instantly.

By withholding deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles to Cairo, as well as $260 million in cash to push Cairo into accepting the Brotherhood as a normal political party, Obama's decision backfired.

Defiant, Cairo made clear it wouldn't give in to U.S. pressure. And Obama now finds himself cast in the role of a Muslim Brotherhood supporter.

Egyptians were angered by Obama's appeasement of the Muslim Brotherhood. And Sisi is quite willing to turn back to Russia as Egypt's principal supplier as it was under the Soviet Union. "Gulfies" would then pony up the cash, in any event more than the annual $1.5 billion allocated to Egypt.

"Screw U.S. aid," screamed one red-lettered headline while an adjoining echo says "Obama is a terrorist."

Following Morsi's overthrow, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged to Egypt a total of $12 billion in loans, outright grants and fuel discounts.

Egypt has been the second largest recipient of U.S. military aid after Israel.

It Egypt now turns to friendly Persian Gulf suppliers for its defense needs and replaces $1.5 billion in annual U.S. military assistance, the gulf's wealthy oil producers won't even feel the pinch.

Unhelpful to the United States' image abroad was the unreliability of a security commitment. Dictating a domestic political course as a quid pro quo for security assistance is seen by Egyptian and other non-American opinion as rank interference in another country's internal affairs.

Egyptians and other Arabs seldom tire of bringing up the monumental misjudgment that led to the trillion-dollar Iraq war, the execution of Saddam Hussein, the dismissal of the entire Iraqi army and the election of a pro-Iranian government that cannot control the spread of al-Qaida on its territory.

Saddam was a ruthless dictator but he was also Iran's principal regional adversary. Today, al-Qaida in Iraq is a jihadist group of mostly Sunni fighters who rose from the wreckage of the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam.

From its secure Iraqi bases, AQI has expanded into the Syrian civil war by linking with Jabhat al-Nusra, a group of Sunni terrorists. Together, they now call themselves the "Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria."

The overall Sunni Muslim terrorist group seeks to fan the flames in order to create a caliphate -- a transnational Islamic state governed by Shariah law.

Syria as it has existed since its creation as an independent state in 1945, when France gave up its post-World War I mandate, will probably see itself reborn with Iraq as a hybrid Islamist condominium.

The U.S. State Department amended its terrorist designation of AQI to include Jabhat al-Nusra (Victory Front). In 2013, the group says it was responsible for "roughly 600 attacks in several major Syrian cities, including Damascus, Aleppo, Hama and Deraa.

In April, AQI chief Abu Du'a confirmed Western suspicions of the group's links to Sunni jihadists fighting in Syria; he announced AQI's union with Jabhat al-Nusra.

The longer the fighting in Syria, the more the situation in Iraq deteriorates and the closer Iran's military "mullahocracy" comes to dominating the entire region.

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