Foreign Policy

Dear Mr. Speaker: Supporting the Egyptian people in a House resolution

The following letter was sent to House Speaker John Boehner to vote on a resolution in support of the Egyptian people:

Dear Mr. Speaker:

In view of the tragic violence unfolding in Egypt, we write to request that the House take up an emergency resolution in support of the Egyptian people and their struggle for freedom and democracy as soon as possible returning to session.

Congress can and should send a strong message calling on the Egyptian government to immediately halt any aggression against the Egyptian people by forces aligned with their regime. The Egyptian military should be strongly encouraged to intercede to protect vulnerable, unarmed citizens. We must urge the government to respect the Egyptian people’s right to assemble peacefully, and to stop blocking the access to communication that is a basic right of free people.


Our 30-year mistake

The events in Egypt of late have captured the attention of the world, as many thousands of Egyptians take to the streets both in opposition to and in favor of the current regime. We watch from a distance hoping that events do not spiral further into violence, which will destroy lives and threaten the livelihoods of average Egyptians caught up in the political turmoil.

I hope that Egyptians are able to work toward a more free and just society. Unfortunately, much of the blame for the unrest in Egypt and the resulting instability in the region rests with U.S. foreign policy over the past several decades. The U.S. government has sent more than $60 billion to the Egyptian regime since the Camp David Accords in 1978 to purchase stability, including more security for the state of Israel. We see now the folly of our interventionist foreign policy: not only has that stability fallen to pieces with the current unrest, but the years of propping up the corrupt regime in Egypt has led the people to increase their resentment of both America and Israel.

We are both worse off for decades of intervention into Egypt’s internal affairs. I wish I could say that we have learned our lesson and will no longer attempt to purchase – or rent – friends in the Middle East, but I am afraid that is being too optimistic. Already we see evidence that while the U.S. historically propped up the Egyptian regime, we also provided assistance to groups opposed to the regime. 


Why Morocco matters

Pundits do not, as a rule, make good prophets, but that does not stop them from aligning themselves with various scenarios of what will happen in the Arab world in the wake of the regime change in Tunisia. While Egypt followed Tunisia with its own serious domestic uprisings calling for changing the government, and Yemen may well face the same challenge, a broad brush approach is hardly useful in defining what US policy options are or ought to be.

Morocco is a case in point. It is a strong monarchy with a representative Parliament, and its King enjoys a unique religious and political leadership status with his people. It is a country that has moved away from authoritarian behavior and invested in institutional change that is opening political space for its citizens and responsible opposition to critique government policies, exercise individual freedoms, and seek opportunities from a market-centered economy. 


From Egypt to Africa

Looking at the Maghreb region in Northern Africa nowadays, living in the EU can sometimes make you feel a little uncomfortable. 

Only a few weeks ago, the riots started in Tunisia and Algeria. Meanwhile they are spreading now via Libya and Egypt even to Jordan. The only stable country in the region is Morocco, basically because democratic reforms had started here a lot earlier. 

The U.S. is in a state of alert since they are currently losing their stable political anchors in the region, making U.S. diplomacy even more difficult than after the WikiLeaks disaster. And military activity along with intelligence gathering is also not becoming easier that way. 


Seeking to protect Egypt's democratic transition

Egyptians have taken to the streets in full force again today to demand the departure of President Hosni Mubarak, in their eleventh consecutive day of mass mobilization for regime change. At the same time, the American policy establishment is hyperventilating about the possibility of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood (MB) coming to power when all is said and done.

As an Egyptian Christian woman, I have deep concerns that Egypt could be ruled by illiberal forces that do not abide by democratic principles or govern with respect for fundamental human rights including religious freedom, protection of minorities, and equal rights for women. However, there are many reasons why I do not believe Egypt is headed in this direction, and why I support Egypt’s Lotus Revolution.


Afghanistan and Pakistan: sorting fact from hope

President Obama's State of the Union Speech cited a light at the Afghan tunnel’s end, and General Petraeus said a few hours earlier that conditions are improving in Afghanistan. For readers of Google News on Afghanistan and Pakistan these statements hit a discordant note; journalists are describing steady deterioration in both countries. While it is perhaps disrespectful to question the veracity of Messangers Obama and Petraeus, a look some facts can help assess their claims.

In Afghanistan, since 2007, the tempo of the Taliban insurgency has increased, notwithstanding U.S. reinforcements and frequent drone attacks. This period, in fact, has seen the insurgency spread from southern and eastern Afghanistan to all areas of the country, including the north where the allies of Washington and President Karzai are based. Insurgencies, of course, wax and wane, but the import of this dispersion lies in it occurring as nation-building measures meant to check Taliban appeal have had success. Three million more Afghan children are in school; more reliable supplies of potable water, electricity and medicine are available; and many miles of road have been built. There seems, then, no correlation between nation-building successes and defeating the Taliban.


New policy on Iran

In a cross-Atlantic conference on Iran in Brussels, a bipartisan group of senior former U.S. government officials from the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations, joined by prominent members of the European Parliament, articulated this new approach.
The first step, they argued was for the U.S. to remove the principal Iranian opposition movement, the People's Mojahedin (PMOI/MEK) from its list of terrorist groups. The participants also called for urgent action to protect the 3,400 residents of Camp Ashraf in Iraq, PMOI members who are protected persons under the Fourth Geneva convention but who are under constant threat by the Iraqi government at the behest of Tehran. Our failure to do this was an issue which I raised in the British Parliament this week.
"The Iranian people are not alone in suffering. The legitimate concern for all people in Camp Ashraf, in the Iraqi pledges to the United States for the safety and security, needs to be recognized and revitalized…," said Gen. James Jones, who until October was Obama's National Security Advisor.


Responding to tomorrow's 'Day of Rage' in Yemen

“Yesterday Tunisia! Today Egypt! Tomorrow Yemen!” a small group of Yemeni protesters chanted on Sunday. Gaining inspiration from the popular protests sweeping the Arab world, Yemen is now preparing for its own “Day of Rage,” with massive demonstrations to take place tomorrow. 

As the government of Yemen, the region and the United States brace for this latest exhibit of mass unrest, many are wondering if President Ali Abdullah Salih, the longest standing Arab ruler, will become the next autocrat to lose control of his regime. 

The Republic of Yemen emerged in early 2010 as a priority in the war on terror. It suffers from rampant poverty and unemployment, a youth bulge, severe water shortages and several acute political crises, including the six-year Huthi conflict in its northern provinces, the secessionist Southern Movement in its South, and an emboldened al-Qaeda affiliate. 

Unlike Egypt, which maintained a façade of stability during the thirty year reign of President Hosni Mubarak, Yemen has rarely masqueraded as anything but volatile. Its current predicament has the potential to foment global terrorism, disrupt regional security and lead to the suffering of millions of Yemenis. 


Bush's true legacy in Egypt

The protests in Egypt must be understood within the prism of past policy in Washington, specifically President George W. Bush’s policy. While U.S. policies in the Middle East have never been dependable, let alone consistent, many conservatives in Washington this week, including former Bush appointees Elliott Abrams and Michael Gerson, are hailing Bush-era efforts to bring democracy and freedom to Egypt. Yet, one of the biggest blots on U.S. attempts to bring democracy and freedom in Egypt occurred under Bush.

The Bush administration called it the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a misnomer for a policy that did little to foster real partnership, substantially more to alienate. More accurately, Bush’s reform-minded efforts would have been titled the “Middle East Pan-Islamic Initiative.” That is exactly what MEPI, bolstered by a heavy dose of foreign aid, was doing: Fostering a pan-Islamic movement throughout the Middle East. 


Reassessing U.S. aid in light of Egypt

One way or another, the 30-year rule of Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak will be coming to an end this year.  If, as we must all hope, the transition out of the Mubarak era is not to be accompanied by a complete bloodbath, then any successor regime must include the energies of the present massive opposition movement, which is one that unites secularists and Islamist parties. 

Their central demands have been that Mubarak leave office and that an accountable, democratic government replace his autocratic rule.

Attainment of that first goal will take place this year, in one way or another. Attainment of an accountable form of government looks harder, but still on balance quite probable—provided, of course, that Mubarak’s thugs get reined in very soon.