Events in Egypt continue to take a dramatic turn, and while, of course, they will primarily affect Egypt itself, they also have the potential to seriously jeopardize the U.S. position in the country, and the entire region.
With toppled President Hosni Mubarak released from prison and placed under house arrest Thursday evening, the campaign against the Muslim Brotherhood has continued in earnest, events taken simultaneously to indicate the country is right back where it was in 2010, before the phrase “Arab Spring” had any meaning.
On a national level the outlook appears bleak. Violence has claimed almost 1,000 lives since early July, and social cohesion seems to be at an all time low. Rights groups warned Thursday that authorities must do more to prevent extremist attacks on churches, and concerns were also voiced about this summer’s Cairo crisis potentially providing Al-Qaeda with a new support base in the region. The Sinai is already proving to be a hotbed for Islamic extremist dissent.
All the while, world powers look on, divided in their support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but united in their self-interested approach to the situation, and safe in the knowledge that struggling Egypt is hugely reliant on any financial support they can offer.
But at least as far as the U.S. is concerned, the current Cairo government appears surprisingly defiant, with military leader Gen. Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi refusing to take a phone call from President Barack Obama.
This follows weeks of sloppy confusion over how to deal with the overthrow of Egypt’s first elected president, Mohammad Morsi. One could almost see the decision-makers in Washington scratching their heads and asking: Is this a legitimate popular uprising? Do we support the elected government or the people? What constitutes a “coup”? And apparently they have still not reached any conclusions.
This tardy and unsatisfying response comes as just the latest in a string of American foreign policy disasters in this part of the world, with examples almost too plentiful to be worth mentioning.
And as this dithering and inaction continues, as with Syria, Vladimir Putin is waiting like a vulture in the shadows, ready and willing to pick up the pieces after the U.S. finally concedes defeat.
Always having harbored aspirations of a return to Soviet glory, it now appears to Putin that the day may finally have arrived. But if it is indeed to be, this will not be thanks to any plucky courage on the part of the Russians, or intelligent planning, but simply due to a series of gross failings and clumsy mismanagement on the part of the Americans.
If the U.S. is to retain any clout in the Middle East, it is imperative that it refrains from seeing the countries of the region as little more than malleable market places, and spheres for influence. It must listen to the wishes of the people of this region, and act accordingly with any support that it can provide.