Muslim outreach is a bust
Amid the WikiLeaks revelations and intense focus on domestic tax and budget matters, the Egyptian elections last Sunday attracted minimal coverage in the U.S. The elections, quite frankly, were a disaster.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley e-mailed me yesterday to stress that the U.S. had made it clear that the elections "fell short of international standards." And he indicated that the runoff election today "is likely to share the same characteristics" as last week's election, and that the U.S. "will have more to say early next week."
The Project on Middle East Democracy released a report before last week's vote outlining criteria to evaluate the conduct of the election. It concluded at the time:
[T]he government of Egypt has essentially already failed to run transparent or fair elections, according to all six criteria outlined by the U.S. administration. Given the clear public statements by high-ranking officials, including President Obama himself, about the importance of "credible and transparent elections in Egypt," the conduct of these elections appear to be a public rebuke to the U.S. administration on the part of the Egyptian government. It now remains to be seen how President Obama and the U.S. administration will respond in the wake of these elections, as observers begin to turn attention toward next year's presidential elections.
The election, POMED's executive director told me in a phone interview on Friday, was the worst election since the 1970's, replete with fraud and violence instigated by government forces. The U.S. State Department agreed issuing a rather bland statment on November 29 that there was "cause for concern" and an only marginally tougher statement on Wednesday:
The real issue here is the relationship between Egypt and its own people and we believe that the election fell short of the expectations that the Egyptian people have for what they want to see in terms of an open political process, a chance to play a more - or a significant role in the future of their country, a chance to participate more fully in a political process. That's what the Egyptian people are saying to the Egyptian Government and, as a friend of Egypt, we are communicating to Egypt that we hope it will improve its electoral standards and its electoral performance. . .Our focus is on helping the Egyptian people achieve the aspirations that they have for a more open political process.
The Egyptian elections are yet another failure for Obama's "Muslim outreach." Our quiet diplomacy -- the Obama team likes to refer to its efforts as "smart" diplomacy -- has proven to be utterly ineffective. It's clear that Hosni Mubarak doesn't take the administration very seriously. And in fact that's increasingly true throughout the Middle East.
The Post reported yesterday:
Syria's fresh interference in Lebanon and its increasingly sophisticated weapons shipments to Hezbollah have alarmed American officials and prompted Israel's military to consider a strike against a Syrian weapons depot that supplies the Lebanese militia group, U.S. and Israeli officials say.
The evidence of a resurgence by Syria and its deepening influence across the region has frustrated U.S. officials who sought to change Syrian behavior. But the Obama administration has so far failed through its policy of engagement to persuade the country to abandon its support for Hezbollah and sever its alliance with Iran.
It seems that soft-peddling human rights, sending Sen. John Kerry there to yuck it up with Bashar al-Assad, and sipping frappucinos with the Syrians (complete with live-tweeting of their dessert parties) didn't do the trick. Neither did ignoring the violation of the UN Resolution. And the attempt to deploy an ambassador never made it out of the Senate.
Syria is now closer than ever to Iran, its influence in Lebanon has never been greater and the U.S.'s standing has since WWII never been weaker. Some are calling for Hillary Clinton's scalp over the WikiLeaks leaks, something she had little control over. Her contribution to the state of our Middle East policy, however, is something else. But, you object, this is all a reflection of Obama's own flawed vision. True, but nothing to do about that for a couple of years. And meanwhile, the centrifuges keep spinning in Iran.
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