Monday, October 1, 2012

An Arab Spring or an Arab Winter?

A new, 18-minute mini-documentary follows the journey of Irina, a 23-year-old liberal, Jewish New Yorker who voted for Obama in 2008. Yet as her connection to Israel has grown, and she has learned more about the President's policies across the Middle East and towards Israel in particular, Irina has come to realize that "when the chips are down," the President may not "have Israel's back" as he says.

Chapter Twelve of - Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream.

Human history has often been a record of nations and tribes—and yes, religions—subjugating one another in pursuit of their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating.
—Barack Obama, speech at Cairo University, June 4, 2009

 In the last couple years, we have seen protests and rebellions break out all over the Arab and Muslim world. It started in December 2010 when a 26-year-old Tunisian set himself on fire to protest unemployment and corruption. Pretty soon there were uprisings in Tunisia which spread over subsequent months to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Iran, and Syria. When the dust had settled a year and a half later, four governments had been toppled—the governments of Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and Egypt. As of this writing, Syria continues to battle resisters in several cities. The overall impact of the so-called Arab Spring is two-fold: it has advanced the cause of democracy in the Muslim world, and it has undermined the strength and influence of the United States. As Fawaz Gerges put it in his recent book, Obama and the Middle East, “U. S. influence … is at its lowest point since the beginning of the Cold War in the late 1940s. America’s ability to dictate policy in the Middle East has diminished considerably, and it no longer determines the course of events in the region. America’s moment is coming to an end.”2

How did this rapid decline occur? The United States clearly didn’t cause the Arab Spring. This was an indigenous revolution, a response to repression and corruption which are unfortunately widespread in the Muslim regimes of North Africa and the Middle East. Yet America’s actions in responding to the Arab Spring have been wildly contradictory. In Libya, President Obama used military force to oust the dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Obama’s stated reason was to prevent the Gaddafi regime from committing genocide against the Libyan people, even though at the time America launched its attack, fewer than 250 people had been killed. Meanwhile, Obama initially refused to take any action in Syria; finally, under pressure, he reluctantly provided modest non-military aid to the Syrian resistance. Obama’s conduct is especially odd given that Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad had, over a period of several months, killed more than 10,000 people. Evidently, genocide is more acceptable in Syria than in Libya.

Obama also played an active role in removing the Egyptian ruler, Hosni Mubarak, from power. Mubarak was replaced first by an interim government established by the military, and then by a new government led by the Muslim Brotherhood and other radical Islamic groups. These groups prevailed in the Egyptian elections. The Obama administration’s role was, first, to use U.S. diplomatic pressure to back the military in pressuring Mubarak to leave; then, to turn on the military and back the street protesters’ demands for elections. Obama did not bring the radical Muslims to power in Egypt—Egyptians voted them in—but he cleared the way for their ascent. Yet if this could be considered an exercise of American support for democracy, Obama responded in precisely the opposite manner in 2009, when there were equally massive demonstrations in favor of democracy in Iran. Then Obama urged patience and restraint, and the consequence was that the mullahs and the police were successful in subduing the rebels. So Mubarak was ejected in Egypt while the mullahs continue to rule Iran.

To date, no one has convincingly explained why Obama used force in Libya while eschewing it in Syria; or why Obama aided in the ouster of the Mubarak regime while acquiescing in the crackdown of the Iranian regime. Why intervene here rather than there? What is Obama’s principle of selectivity that accounts for the seeming inconsistency in his foreign policy? There has been a good deal of head-scratching on this. The best we have is Walter Russell Mead’s theory that Obama is “the least competent manager of America’s Middle East diplomatic portfolio in a very long time. He has committed our forces in the strategically irrelevant backwater of Libya . . . . He has strained our ties with the established regimes without winning new friends on the Arab Street . . . . He has infuriated and frustrated long term friends, but made no headway in reconciling enemies.”3 But surely Obama knows that Libya is strategically irrelevant; surely he can see that he is antagonizing America’s friends and strengthening America’s enemies. So Mead’s analysis only begs the question: Why would Obama continue to act in this way when the results are as obvious to him as to Mead and the rest of us?

Here I offer a coherent explanation that better accounts for Obama’s conduct. There is in fact no inconsistency. Behind Obama’s apparent “double standard” there is a single standard that is glaringly obvious. Obama is getting precisely the results he wants. He is attempting to get rid of American allies in Egypt and several other countries, and he has done that. He is trying to conserve anti-American regimes in Syria and Iran, and he has done that. Obama’s goal is to reduce America’s footprint in the Middle East, and in four years Obama has been wildly successful in doing that too. We can confidently project that if Obama is re-elected, American influence in the region, and in the world, will decline further.

Four rulers are gone: Ben Ali in Tunisia, Ali Saleh in Yemen, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. What did they have in common? Sure, they were thugs, in a region of thugs. Sure, they were corrupt, in an area of the world where corruption is the norm. But here is the significant point: they were all also, to a lesser or greater degree, allies of the United States. Mubarak was our strongest ally in the region, not counting Israel. Ben Ali and Ali Saleh were both helping us fight al-Qaeda. Once called “the mad dog of the Middle East,” Gaddafi had renounced his past support for terrorism. Since 2002 he had suspended his nuclear weapons program and given up his quest for weapons of mass destruction. He paid reparations for his role in the Lockerbie bombing. He turned over terrorist suspects and normalized Libya’s relations with the West. He also banned radical groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya. Now all these men are gone, and in every case the United States helped push them out.

Here for instance is the April 3, 2011, headline in the New York Times: “U.S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen’s Leader, an Ally.” We read that “the United States, which long supported Yemen’s president” because “he was considered a critical ally in fighting the Yemeni branch of al-Qaeda” had, under the Obama administration, “now quietly shifted positions” and was pushing to get him “eased out of office.”4 The article expresses very little curiosity about why Obama would want to push out a ruler who is pro-American and helping in the fight against al-Qaeda.

In two of the four cases, Libya and Yemen, the devil we know has been replaced by the devil we don’t. In other words, America is quite possibly going to get new governments that are more anti-American and more sympathetic to radical Islam. In Tunisia and Egypt, we know this is the case. In Tunisia, the secular political parties were easily defeated by Nahda, a long-banned Islamist party led by the radical activist Rachid Ghannouchi. Tunisia’s new Prime Minister, Hamadi Jebali, has been quoted saying that his goal is to establish a “sixth caliphate” under Muslim holy law in Tunisia.5 The Egyptian elections brought to power the Muslim Brotherhood, in coalition with an even-more-radical Islamist party called the Party of Light.

The regimes in Syria and Iran have also been run by corrupt dictators, so there is nothing new there. What, then, distinguishes them from the regimes in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen? The distinguishing feature is that Syria and Iran are ferociously opposed to the United States. In fact, they have long been allied with each other in that opposition. If these regimes fall, we can’t be sure what sort of regimes would replace them, but in Iran at least we can be confident that the new regime would be less anti-American and less anti-Israel. Yet it is the Iranian opposition that Obama has refused to assist at all. Obama apparently believes in helping to oust pro-American dictators and leaving anti-American dictators alone.

It may seem shocking to suggest that these are actually Obama’s goals, as opposed to the unintentional consequences of his foreign policy. Yet if Obama didn’t intend these results, you would expect him to regret what has happened or start pursuing a different policy. On the contrary, Obama forges ahead, offering aid and protection to the Islamic radicals who are now in power. Obama’s actions suggest a man who knows exactly what he is doing, even as naive pundits continue to lecture him on how he can more wisely advance American interests and American influence in the Middle East. Obama coolly ignores these people because advancing American interests and influence in the region is the last thing he wants. Obama’s actions are totally consistent with those of an anti-colonialist who considers America to be the global oppressor that needs to be cut down to size.

To understand the Arab Spring, we have to recognize a shift in strategy on the part of the Islamic radicals. Actually, it is a shift back to an old strategy. Consider what Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were doing before they launched al-Qaeda. Bin Laden was fighting to overthrow the pro-American government of Saudi Arabia, and Zawahiri was fighting to overthrow the pro-American government of Egypt. In their own understanding, they were fighting the “near enemy.” The Islamic radicals in those days didn’t bother with attacking America directly, and they weren’t even that concerned with Israel. Both were regarded as the “far enemy.” One of Zawahiri’s famous slogans from that period was, “The road to Jerusalem runs through Cairo.” This meant that Muslims had first to take over their own countries; then they would be strong enough to tackle Israel and eventually the United States.6

Al-Qaeda’s formation represented a radical shift from fighting the “near enemy” to fighting the “far enemy.” Zawahiri’s rationale for the shift was that “it is clear that the Jewish-Crusader alliance, led by the United States, will not allow any Islamic force to reach power in any of the Muslim countries.”7 And on 9/11, the new strategy electrified the Muslim world by successfully striking at the symbols of American military and financial power. But now the radical Muslims have realized there is a strategy that works much better. This strategy is called: democracy! And it is the current strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest radical Muslim group in the world, with followings in dozens of Muslim countries. The Muslim Brotherhood never believed that attacking the far enemy was the right strategy, but its own strategy of domestic terrorism against the near enemy had failed because of effective government reprisals. The Muslim Brotherhood needed to find a better way, and in democracy it has found one.

True, historically the radical Muslims, including the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaeda, have been enemies of democracy. Their general view has been that it is wrong to subordinate the voice of God to the voice of the people. But while al-Qaeda still reviles democracy, the Muslim Brotherhood switched its position in 2005, when Brotherhood-affiliated candidates ran in Egypt’s parliamentary elections. Mahdi Akef, head of the Muslim Brotherhood, surprised many by saying, “The ballot box has the final say. We don’t believe in any other means of taking power.”8 Since then, the Muslim Brotherhood’s enthusiasm for democracy has only grown stronger, and the Brotherhood is now the most powerful voice in Islamic countries demanding a transition from dictatorship to democracy. They have realized that if there are free elections, they have a good chance to win. They first saw this in 1991, when a radical Muslim group called the Islamic Salvation Front won a free election in Algeria. The Muslim Brotherhood saw that its candidates won 20 percent of the seats in the 2005 Egyptian election, which was held under harshly restrictive conditions. And democracy paid off for the radical Muslims again with the 2006 election victory of Hamas in Gaza. This is why much of the Arab Spring’s push for democracy has been promoted by radical Islamic organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood.

In assessing Obama’s strategy for North Africa and the Middle East, let’s begin with Libya, the one country where Obama was willing to use military force. At first he hesitated, but eventually he backed the efforts of the Libyan resistance with attack aircraft, refueling tankers, surveillance equipment, and other military aid, as part of a United Nations-authorized NATO military action. The campaign was billed as an effort to save lives, yet it was also clearly aimed at getting rid of Gaddafi, whose 41-year-old rule came to a violent end. Why did Obama hesitate, and why did he act? On Hardball , Chris Matthews said this was “a war without explanation” and added, “The Obama doctrine—can you define it? We can’t.” Actually, I believe we can. So let’s take the two elements separately. The most reasonable explanation for Obama’s hesitation is that he was reluctant to get America involved in another war; he would prefer America play a backseat role, which one Obama adviser described as “leading from behind.”9 I believe this explanation is correct, although I would interpret it in an anti-colonial way. For Obama, American intervention is generally the problem, as in Iraq and Afghanistan. So naturally Obama wanted to keep Imperial America out of Libya. But then why did he get America involved? My argument is that he got involved in order to get rid of the longtime anti-American ruler who switched sides and became, at least to a degree, pro-American. Gaddafi was once a hero of the anti-colonialists and the anti-Americans; now he had become an embarrassment. Obama’s initial hesitation and then his “leading from behind” were the result of a clash of anti-colonial goals. He hesitated because he didn’t want to lead Imperial America against a North African ruler, and he acted because ultimately he had the more important goal of toppling an anti-colonial sellout.

But this is not the standard explanation, so we have to weigh my theory against plausible rivals. The standard justification was given by Obama and then dutifully taken up by his allies in the media. “Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries,” Obama said. “The United States of America is different.” This of course is pure humbug. We can test Obama’s professed unwillingness to turn a blind eye to atrocities by considering the case of Syria, where Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have detailed the torture and execution-style killings that the government’s thugs have meted out to protesters, especially in towns like Deraa and Homs, where the civilian death toll exceeds 10,000 people, more than forty times the number of deaths that were considered a sign of incipient “genocide” in Libya.10 A United Nations peace plan had little or no effect in stopping the sieges, arrests, and street killings.

Typical of the Obama administration’s response to the violence in Syria was a statement issued on April 22, 2011: “We regret the loss of life” in Syria and “our thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims.” In mid-August, as the killings continued and pressure for action mounted, Obama called on Assad to step down. But he didn’t actually do anything that would cause Assad to do this. Instead, the United States froze Syrian assets in America, barred U.S. citizens from having business dealings with the Syrian government, and made a few other symbolic gestures. None of this was likely to change Assad’s mind, and none of it did. In February 2012, Obama agreed to shut down the U.S. embassy in Damascus, another symbolic move. Finally, Obama agreed to supply the rebels with non-lethal aid, including medical supplies and some communications equipment. Whenever he is asked about military intervention in Syria, Obama always says it would be “premature” and could actually lead to more deaths—a thought that seems to have eluded him when it came to Libya.11

This is not to say that the case for military intervention in Syria is obvious. But Assad’s brutality has been far worse than Gaddafi’s, Syria is openly allied with America’s enemy Iran, and Syria shelters a raft of terrorist groups. Obama, of course, knows all this, so I can only smile when pundits lecture Obama about it. Here it would be difficult to top the neoconservative magazine the Weekly Standard. Max Boot informs Obama that he has an “historic opportunity” to “take Syria out of the Iranian camp and deny Hezbollah its main source of supply.” Boot urges Obama to “put away any lingering illusions about the desirability of maintaining Assad in power and do whatever is needed to topple him swiftly.” A few months later, Lee Smith in that magazine faults Obama with being “sadly oblivious” to the situation and therefore “dithering on Syria,” thus making him “a hapless spectator” of events there.12 It never occurs to these pundits and their ilk that maybe Obama refuses to use force because he wants Assad to remain in power. It’s not that he misunderstands the situation; he understands the situation all too well. It is the pundits who presume that Obama shares their goals; they are the ones who misunderstand what Obama seeks to achieve. If Assad falls, it will be despite Obama, not because of him.

Now let’s compare the situation in two countries that far surpass Libya and Syria in importance: namely, Egypt and Iran. Egypt and Iran are, along with Saudi Arabia, the most important countries in the region. We are all familiar with the mass protests that erupted in Egypt’s Tahrir Square starting in January 2011. Soon the protests spread to other cities. The protesters appeared to be a coalition of disparate groups: liberals, leftists, secularists, religious traditionalists, as well as Islamists and radical Muslims. Their target was the tough but aged ruler Hosni Mubarak, who had ruled for thirty years. Mubarak was determined to defeat the protesters or at least outlast them. But to do this he needed the support of his military and also his most valuable ally, the United States of America.

Obama’s response to the Egyptian uprising must be understood as a two-step maneuver. Stage one: Obama backed the Egyptian military high command against Mubarak. America gives $1.3 billion each year to the Egyptian military, which is estimated to cover three-fourths of the cost of its arms procurements. So Obama has tremendous leverage with the Egyptian military, and he used this leverage to pressure the generals to get Mubarak out. Defense Secretary Gates and Secretary of State Clinton reminded Obama of America’s interests in the region and of Mubarak’s reliability as an ally, but that did not deter Obama.13 He called Mubarak and told him it was time to leave. At this point, Mubarak had no choice. His most powerful ally, America, and his own generals were now against him. So Mubarak gave up.

Following Mubarak’s exit, a struggle began between the military and the protesters on the street. The military was willing to have elections, but wanted to protect its traditional prerogatives and control defense and foreign policy. “The position of the armed forces will remain as it is,” insisted Hussein Tantawi, the chief military commander. He was opposed by the street protesters who demanded full democracy, including civilian control of the military. Stage two of Obama’s approach was to turn on the Egyptian military and back the street calls for democracy. As the New York Times put it, “The Obama administration threw its weight behind the Egyptians who flooded into Tahrir Square to demand that the generals relinquish power.”14 Obama did this in the name of supporting full self-government in Egypt. Reluctantly, the military gave in, succumbing to pressure from the Egyptian people at home and from the American aid provider abroad. Elections were held, and that’s how the radical Muslims came to power in Egypt.

The new government in Egypt is certainly more hostile to Israel and the United States than its predecessor. For decades Egypt had no diplomatic relations with Iran; one of the first acts of the new government was to resume them. Egypt also weakened Israel’s position in the West Bank and Gaza by brokering a peace deal between the two rival Palestinian groups, Hamas and Fatah. Egypt’s foreign minister said he would open the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, frustrating the Israeli blockade of Hamas. The Egyptian government also cancelled a natural gas deal with Israel, which Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said was a “dangerous precedent that clouds the peace agreement between Israel and Egypt.” There are widespread fears in Israel that the peace agreement itself is in jeopardy, and that Egypt may join the ranks of Muslim nations who would like to see Israel cease to exist.15

So why did Obama support a process that produced an outcome hostile to the United States and its ally Israel? For anyone with even a basic knowledge of Egypt, it was apparent from the outset that the Muslim Brotherhood was by far the best organized group in the country, and could spread its message through Egypt’s mosques. It had demonstrated its popularity in the 2005 parliamentary elections. So it was hardly surprising when the radical Muslims swept the Egyptian parliamentary elections with over 70 percent of the popular vote. The largest vote getters were the candidates of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s creed is, “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Quran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” The al-Nour party, dominated by even more radical Salafi Muslims, was the second highest vote getter. As for the liberal and secular parties, they collectively managed a paltry 10 percent.

Obama has shown no regret whatever over the election outcome in Egypt. In fact, when the Egyptian courts and military made a last-ditch effort to thwart the rise of the radical Islamists, issuing rules that severely limited the power of the president and the parliament, the Obama administration moved quickly to block those rules. The Associated Press reported, “The Obama administration warned Egypt’s military leaders . . . to speedily hand over power or risk losing billions of dollars in U.S. military and economic aid.” The article quoted State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland saying, “We are particularly concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military’s hold on power.”16 Essentially the Obama administration demanded that the Egyptian military submit to civilian control—in practice, to control by the Muslim Brotherhood. This became even more clear when, a few days after Obama’s threat, the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate, Mohamed Morsi, won the Egyptian presidential election.

Some say Obama could not oppose a popular democratic movement, even though it threatened to undermine U.S. interests. Fortunately there is a way to test this claim. In Iran, Obama had the opportunity to support a popular democratic movement just as large as the one in Egypt, and the success of this movement would unquestionably advance U.S. interests. Obama clarified what he really thinks about democracy in the Muslim world by how he reacted to the pro-reform movement in Iran.

Massive demonstrations broke out in Iran in mid-2009. At first glance this seemed to be a quarrel among the mullahs. The demonstrators supported the candidacy of Mir Hossein Mousavi over that of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad was a proven demagogue, but since Mousavi was the former prime minister under Ayatollah Khomeini, he didn’t seem like a big improvement. Yet Mousavi had become a fierce critic of the Iranian government. His candidacy symbolized a protest against rigged elections and an illegitimate Iranian political system. For the first time in three decades, there were widespread calls for the mullahs to relinquish power. This was a stunning development, comparable to Boris Yeltsin’s call for the Communist Party in Russia to abolish itself.

Never before had the United States had the chance to back a popular democratic movement of this magnitude in a country that was unremittingly hostile to America and its allies. Yet Obama refused to support the protesters. He called for patience. He said he did not want to violate the sovereignty of Iran. He said that there was “an extraordinary debate taking place in Iran.” He expressed respectful solicitousness in noting “some reaction from the Supreme Leader that indicates he understands the Iranian people have deep concerns about the election.” He said that “the difference between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi in terms of their actual policies may not be as great as has been advertised.” He said that the best course of action was to wait and see. The U.S. government would “monitor and see how this plays out before we make any judgments about how we proceed.” And Americans waited and saw on television as the mullahs and their thugs beat the protesters into submission. Eventually the protests dissipated and the “debate” concluded. Obama’s counsel of patience proved to be a counsel of inaction. The window of opportunity closed. 17

Even many Obama supporters will not defend Obama’s conduct during the Iranian revolt. Yet one Obama cheerleader, Jonathan Alter, insists that Obama was right. “It made sense.... He avoided full-throated support for the dissidents,” Alter explains, “which would give the regime the excuse to say the revolt was inspired by the United States.”18 Perhaps it would, but at least there was a chance in Iran to turn things around. Obama’s decision to leave the protesters on their own in 2009 ensured their defeat. Two years later, demonstrations in solidarity with the Arab Spring were crushed by the mullahs, arresting 1,500 people. Once again, Obama was silent and offered the protesters no support whatever.

From the contrasting situations of Egypt and Iran, we can conclude that Obama does in fact support democracy, but only a particular kind of democracy. He opposes popular Muslim movements that advance American interests while backing popular Muslim movements that oppose American interests. He rejects calls for democracy when they undermine radical Islam while affirming those same calls when they affirm the prospects of radical Islam. None of this is to suggest that Obama is himself a Muslim, but rather, that Obama seeks a diminution of American power and influence in the Muslim world. He has acted decisively and consistently to achieve that goal. And today America is far weaker in the region than it was four years ago.

So what’s next? In my view, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not only a crucial American ally, but also America’s largest foreign source for oil. If Saudi Arabia falls, this would be a devastating blow to America’s economy and foreign policy, and if the Islamists gained Mecca and Medina it would be the greatest victory of radical Islam since the Khomeini revolution in Iran. So here is my prediction. In a second term, Obama will work with Islamists in Saudi Arabia and in neighboring countries to support a rebellion against the Saudi royal family. When it occurs, he will say it is time for the Saudi royals to move aside in favor of democracy. If the Saudi royals refuse to abdicate, Obama will cut off American aid. Absent American assistance, the House of Saud could fall just as Mubarak did. Then there would be elections, which would bring the radical Muslims to power.

While a transition of power in Saudi Arabia would be a very big deal, I believe that Obama has an even bigger objective in the Middle East. There are three major countries in the region: Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Since 1979, Iran has been in the hands of the radical Muslims. Now, with Obama’s help, Egypt is moving into the radical Muslim camp. Saudi Arabia is the only one left. So once Saudi Arabia falls, the radical Muslims have a chance to achieve what they have long dreamed about: a complete unification of the Middle East under a single Muslim caliphate. If Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia unite, the smaller countries, from Jordan to the Gulf Kingdoms, would quickly succumb or be overrun. And what can we call this new nation? Let’s call it the United States of Islam. The term is not mine. It was coined by Kamal al-Helbawy, a former spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, who is calling on Arabs to eliminate the borders “drawn up by imperialist nations” and over the next few years “have a country called the United States of Islam.”19

What is necessary for this to occur? Just one thing: the Sunnis and the Shia have to work out their differences. The theological differences are minor, but the historical enmities are real. There may be clashes between the two, or even a war, as between the American North and South, but eventually America came together, and so could the Muslims of the Middle East. I predict that if they have the chance, they will come together in the name of Islam as a global power. This way the Muslims can put up a single front against the United States and Israel. So while history will credit Ronald Reagan with producing the dissolution of the Soviet empire, history might credit Obama with producing the unification of Islam.

Reference Notes

D'Souza, Dinesh (2012-08-13). Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream. Perseus Books Group.

1 Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on a New Beginning lecture,” Cairo University, June 4, 2009.
2 Fawaz Gerges, Obama and the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), p. 152.
3 Walter Russell Mead, “The Dreamer Goes Down For The Count,” American Interest, May 25, 2011,
4 Laura Kasinof and David Sanger, “U. S. Shifts to Seek Removal of Yemen’s Leader, an Ally,” New York Times, April 3, 2011,
5 “Islamists and Secularists at One,” Economist, November 26, 2011, p. 58.
6 Fawaz Gerges, The Far Enemy (Cambridge University Press, 2005); Ayman al-Zawahiri, “The Way To Jerusalem Passes Through Cairo,” Al Mujahideen, April 1995.
7 Ayman al-Zawahiri, “Knights Under the Prophet’s Banner,” Asharq al-Awsat, December 2001.
8 Mona El-Naggar, “Banned Group Urges Egyptians to Vote on Sept. 7,” New York Times, August 22, 2005, p. A-7
 9 David Corn, Showdown (William Morrow, 2012), p. 218; Ryan Lizza, “The Consequentialist,” New Yorker, May 2, 2011, p. 55.
10 “‘We’ve Never Seen Such Horror’: Crimes Against Humanity by Syrian Security Forces,” Human Rights Watch, June 1, 2011; “In Syria, Accounts of Widening Torture,” Wall Street Journal, May 28, 2011,
11 The White House, “A Statement by President Obama on Syria,” April 22, 2011,
Steven Lee Myers, “U. S. and Allies Say Syria Leader Must Step Down,” New York Times, August 19, 2011, p. 1; Charles Levinson and Gregory White, “America Exits Syria as Russia Makes Push,” Wall Street Journal, February 7, 2012, p. 1; AP, “Obama: Syria Military Intervention Premature,” Huffington Post, March 14, 2012,
Associated Press, “Officials: Obama ramps up aid to Syrian opposition,” Townhall, April 13, 2012,

12 Max Boot, “Assad Must Go,” Weekly Standard, December 5, 2011, pp. 8–9; Lee Smith, “Free Syria,” Weekly Standard, March 5, 2012, pp. 8–9. 13 Helene Cooper, Mark Landler, and David Sanger, “In U. S. Signals to Egypt, Obama Straddled a Rift,” New York Times, February 12, 2001,

14 David Kirkpatrick, “From U.S. and Tahrir Square, Pressures Converge on Egypt’s Military,” New York Times, November 26, 2011, p. A-9.
15 David Kirkpatrick, “Egypt Lifts a Border Blockage, Along with the Hopes of Gazans,” New York Times, May 29, 2011, p. A-1; David Kirkpatrick, “In Shift, Egypt Extends Hand to Israel’s Foes,” New York Times, April 29, 2011, p. A-1; Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner, “Fatah and Hamas Announce Outline of Deal,” New York Times, April 27, 2011,
Matt Bradley and Joshua Mitnick, “Egypt Cancels Israel Natural Gas Deal,” Wall Street Journal, April 28, 2012, p A-7.
16 Associated Press, “Obama administration warns Egypt’s military leaders to hand over power or risk losing US aid,” Washington Post, June 18, 2012,
17 Haleh Esfandiari, “Iran: The State of Fear,” New York Review of Books, April 7, 2011, p. 31; Lara Setrakian, “Iran President Tells Obama to Back Off,” ABC News, June 25, 2009,
Ryan Lizza, “The Consequentialist”; Charles Krauthammer, “Hope and Change—But Not for Iran,” Townhall, June 29, 2009,
18 Jonathan Alter, The Promise, p. 355. 19 Middle East Media Research Institute, “Muslim Brotherhood Figure and Former Spokesman in the West: Establish a Global Islamic State,” June 24, 2011,

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