In order to further relations with Arab and Islamic countries, President Obama introduced a new policy of appeasement contrasting with his predecessors’ efforts to fight and isolate Muslim extremists. This week was yet another painful reminder of what it means.
Ryan Crocker, who was the US ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, called for opening a dialogue with the Hezbollah, saying that the group "is a part of the Lebanese political landscape, and we should deal with it directly." Jeffrey Feltman, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, promptly denied that such change was being contemplated. According to Reuters he said Washington could rethink its policy if Hezbollah would stop maintaining a militia, drop "terrorist" activities and evolve into a "normal" part of Lebanon's political fabric.
Crocker is retired today but was certainly aware of the fact that John Brennan, the president’s assistant for homeland security and counter-terrorism, had been widely quoted as hinting that the Administration was interested in reinforcing "moderate elements" in Hezbollah.
Barely two months ago, at the beginning of April, the White House declared it would no longer use terms such as “extremist and militant Islam.” During a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in late May, John Brennan described violent extremists as victims of "political, economic and social forces," and added that those planning attacks on the United States should not be described in "religious terms“.
In other words, for Brennan there is no religious factor involved when Islamist terrorists kill women and children – even if the terrorists themselves ceaselessly claim they are fighting to impose Islamic rule upon the world.
In December 2009, State Department Egyptian desk director Nicole Chapman told Egyptian daily “Almasry Alyom” that the United States was engaged in a dialogue with the Muslim Brothers in Egypt and that meetings had taken place with its leaders, without giving details about the content of these meetings. Asked why then the US refused to talk to Hamas’ Khaled Mashaal, she was quoted at having said “We work with all political parties including those belonging to the political Islamic stream in all the countries of the world.”
The following January, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton lifted the visa ban imposed on Tarik Ramadan six years earlier. Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, is considered the most senior representative of the movement in Europe today and the best Radical Islam propagandist in the West. According to the new White House policy, he was admitted into the United States; he was offered a teaching position at Notre Dame University.
Policy of contradictions
However, the new American policy is replete with contradictions. How will it be possible to engage in a dialogue with Hezbollah, an organization created, supported and financed by Iran and strictly supervised by the Revolutionary Guards, who while supplying it with weapons do not let it stray from their position regarding Israel and the West?
The US also made openings to Syria in the hope it would cut its links to Iran, stop giving assistance to Hezbollah and loosen its grip on Lebanon – but to no avail. Meanwhile, the US refrained for giving support – even moral support – to the Iranian people protesting again the theft of their votes in the last election.
Returning to the Muslim Brothers – “Extremist Islam” which the White House wishes to eradicate from accepted political jargon, is at the core of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement which has been threatening Egypt for the past 80 years and as such has been prosecuted and persecuted by successive Egyptian governments. President Mubarak keeps fighting the group because it threatened the stability of the country. After all, the motto of the Brotherhood is unchanged: “Islam is the solution”.
So how can the US maintain dialogue with an outlawed organization in a country which is allegedly a friend and an ally?
One has to see this policy of appeasement at all cost within the framework of Obama’s first actions in office. On the very first day at his swearing in ceremony, he mentioned Islam before Judaism as having contributed to the construction of the United States. (When and how is not clear…), adding that some nine million Muslims live in the country – a wildly inflated number. He gave his first interview to al-Arabia - the well-known Saudi TV channel – and flew to Turkey and then to Cairo to deliver his famous speech, stressing that the US and Islam share common values of justice and progress, tolerance and respect.
One can only wonder whether cutting off arms and legs, killing homosexuals, stoning adulterous women, executing people for converting to another religion represent those values of justice and progress? And what about the Taliban, Ahmadinejad or Sheik al- Awlaki who incited Major Nidal Malik Hasan to kill fellow American soldiers?
More pressure on Israel
Unfortunately this new policy of appeasement included increased pressure on Israel and a departure from long established understandings. The demand for so-called proximity talks with the Palestinians and for the cessation of all new construction, including in Jerusalem, is a complete reversal of traditional American positions. It upset the delicate balance achieved at Oslo and its main success, direct talks with no preconditions. Abbas and with him the whole Arab world embraced the new terms set down by Israel’s erstwhile strongest ally.
America went a step further. When the periodical review on the implantation of the NPT convened last month, it endorsed the resolution demanding that Israel sign the treaty and providing for a special meeting to be convened within two years to check implementation. In its efforts to further appease Arab and Islamic states, including Iran, it willfully ignored the fact that Israel has to deal with the threats of Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas chorusing together that they want to eradicate Israel from the surface of the earth.
What is perceived as a weakening of America’s support undoubtedly led Turkey to mount a deliberate provocation against Israel. A move which drew applause from the Arab world and from the European Left, with President Obama calling on Erdogan to present his condolences on the killing of peaceful Turkish citizens (didn’t he know that they belonged to a group of Islamist terrorists?) and agreeing to an immediate meeting of the Security Council and to the condemnation of Israel and a call to end the Gaza blockade.
But what, if anything, did this policy of appeasement achieve? Nothing. No country changed its position regarding Israel or the US; on the contrary, more and more concessions are demanded of Israel since it is expected that Washington will increase the pressure.
For decades the US had made it clear in deeds and words that it was behind Israel. Public opinion in the country is overwhelmingly pro-Israel as is the case in Congress and in major media outlets. However, executive power is vested in the White House, there winds of change are blowing. Notwithstanding Obama’s often repeated declarations of undying support for Israel’s security, it is unclear what would happen in case of a major confrontation between Israel and its sworn enemies. What if the sanctions against Iran are powerless to deter that country and it achieves nuclear capability? Would America intervene… or leave Israel to battle alone?
Zvi Mazel, Former Ambassador of Israel to Romania, Egypt and Sweden and a Fellow of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and State