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Posted at 2:00 PM ET, 12/ 5/2010

Muslim outreach is a bust

By Jennifer Rubin

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.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 5, 2010; 2:00 PM ET
Categories:  foreign policy  
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The only country in the Middle East to hold free, fair, transparent, and open elections remains Israel. All of the other countries in the region, which are either dictatorships or kingdoms, from Morocco to Iran, hold either fake, unfair. rigged, or meaningless elections. And everyone knows this, all the people in those Moslem countries know it, their leadership knows it, and I would wager that even the US Department of State knows it. And there is nothing, not one single thing, that America can do to change or even positively influence this ugly and oppressive situation. But what is really frustrating about the lack of free and fair elections in the Moslem Arab (and Persian) nations is that if free and fair elections were held, the party that won them would do everything it could to keep power, including fake,unfair,rigged, or meaningless elections. After all this is the Moslem Middle East where political treachery and duplicity are revered in a leader, and honesty and fairness considered signs of failure and weakness.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 5, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

It is a wonder that President Obama did not send Jimmy Carter to Egypt to monitor their elections, and to apologize for the way the US runs its elections.

Posted by: Manjer | December 5, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Why does the WaPo give a soaobox to an Arab Hater like Jennifer Rubin.

Posted by: Thoughtful-Ted | December 5, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Beniyyar, you're forgetting Iraq. For all the difficulties they have, they now hold free and fair elections. And in my opinion, that is a HUGE thing that the US did to change the unfree dynamics of the Middle East. Deposing Saddam and instituting a democratic form of govt is the rock thrown in the pond of the ME. My bet is that when other countries see how prosperous and free Iraqis become, there will be irresistible pressure for those countries to also become democratic.

Posted by: RitchieEmmons | December 5, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

Ms. Rubin, no external force will create free and open elections in Egypt. That will have to burble up within Egypt itself. It's a stretch to call something the US has no power to change a 'failure.'

And I think you understand that but decided to say it anyway.

Posted by: MsJS | December 5, 2010 7:41 PM | Report abuse

What a RIOT that the WaPo has gotten itself its own conservative person!!!
Good luck, Jennifer---- I may be enticed to peruse WAPO every now and then IF you turn out to be the real deal and don't eventually morph into a fuzzy brained little nutcase a la Noonan and Parker!

Posted by: Fleur1 | December 5, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

RitchieEmmons is correct and I agree that Iraq did in fact recently hold what was largely a fair, open, and free election. I have no doubt that so long as American troops remain in Iraq they will continue to do so. However, I am not so sanguine about the elections continuing to be fair, free, and open once the US withdraws.

Posted by: Beniyyar | December 6, 2010 2:23 AM | Report abuse

The petulant four-year-olds masquerading as America's conservative pundits would have us bombing Muslims until their hearts and minds are won. There is no democratic tradition in that part of the world. It is normal and expected for those in power to do anything to keep it. This is something like the GOP, its big fundraising events, its war on non-existent voter fraud, and its robocalls to African-Americans informing them that the election has been postponed to Wednesday.

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | December 6, 2010 3:56 AM | Report abuse

This is funny because it is so true: "It is a wonder that President Obama did not send Jimmy Carter to Egypt to monitor their elections, and to apologize for the way the US runs its elections."

It's also funny that an "Arab hater" is now someone who writes passionately in support of the people of Muslim countries struggling for democracy and basic human rights. This actually was the seminal error Obama made that he is now coming to terms with: there is no effective "outreach" when the targets of your attention are despotic rulers. Keep commenting everyone! It makes for great reading, agree or not.

Posted by: Jennifer Rubin | December 6, 2010 7:07 AM | Report abuse

Israel is about as much of a democracy as South Africa WAS before the end of apartheid. Just love all you armchair pundits who think you know more than Jimmy Carter. You probably could of done a better job as president. This post is exhuding a neoconic smell. Plus you are self-defeating- if Obahma had cracked down on Egypt- Muslim Brotherhood - who you genuises think are "terrorists" would have won. Would have been just dandy with me but you PNACers only like free elections in which you control the outcome. For example, Hamas's victory which was sadistically punished. You took the "Wrong Turn" Missy.


Posted by: damon9923 | December 7, 2010 2:32 AM | Report abuse

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