Monday, July 28, 2014

What does Egypt and Libya mean for US foreign policy?

One of the lesser covered issues of the Israeli war with Hamas is the reverberations it is having in Egypt.  Secretary of State Kerry has been in Cairo ostensibly to help broker a peace in the Gaza Strip via the Egyptians.  The recent cease fire not withstanding, matters with Egypt could be more concerning than in the Gaza Strip.

First, Kerry has to deal with President Sisi who came to power by overthrowing the democratically elected Morsi (and then throwing him in prison).  Overthrowing a duly elected president, even on who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and widely unpopular, is not something many leaders find appealing.  One of the most vocal Sisi critics is Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan who has called Sisi a "tyrant" and has equated Netanyahu's actions to that of Hitler.  Now the Turks are sending the Mavi Marmara flotilla to aid the Palestinians on the Gaza Strip.  The Mavi Marmara attempted this before in 2010 but failed when it was boarded by Israeli Commandos who killed nine activists.  This time, the Mavi Marmara is being escorted by the Turkish Army.

The other problem for Kerry and Sisi is what to do with all the Palestinians that are fleeing Gaza for Egypt.  The political situation in Egypt has been volatile since the Arab Spring in 2011.  A huge influx of refugees could be destabilizing.  Or Sisi could be driven to try to retake Gaza and repatriate the refugees.  An odd three-way war between Turkey, Israel and Egypt could erupt.

Even if Kerry is successful in keeping Egypt calm, a conflict between Turkey and Israel could still occur.  Israel is the most powerful US ally in the region.  It is also the only Jewish state in the worlds surrounded by Muslim states.  Turkey is also a powerful US ally and is the only Muslim nation in NATO.  Trying to navigate any kind of peace between the two will be beyond the current White House team.

The White House has been jumping from one situation to another before getting resolution.  The latest example is Libya.  Libya was an early entrant into the Arab Spring of 2011.  On Sep 11, 2012, somewhere between 120-150 armed gunmen attacked the US Embassy Mission in Benghazi killing US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith, and CIA contractors and former Navy SEALS Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty.  The White House team, especially Hillary Clinton, were widely seen as accountable for the deaths since they are alleged to have withheld vital intelligence from the embassy.

Now once again, the US has had to evacuate its embassy in Libya.  While the attention has been on other countries (or even the debacle of US immigration), the central government in Libya has continued to crumble.

"The administration sort of took its focus off of Libya and things have been getting worse for quite some considerable time now," Ed Royce, chairman of the U.S. House foreign relations committee, told CNN on Saturday after news of the U.S. diplomats' departure.--Reuters

It appears the US is now be played more than ever.  As it begins to focus on one event, something else pops up.  Whether those events are random or planned out, it is showing an inherent weakness in the White House.  It can only focus on one thing at a time and cannot stay focused long enough to bring matters to a conclusion.

UPDATE:  Forgot to mention Iran.  The deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Brig Gen Hossein Salami) vowed revenge against Israel for its ongoing military incursion into Gaza, which has already killed hundreds of Palestinians and dozens of Israelis.  “We will chase you house to house and will take revenge for every drop of blood of our martyrs in Palestine,” Salami said. “and this is the beginning point of Islamic nations awakening for your defeat.”.  So much for whatever good will was brokered between Washington and Tehran over Iraq.

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