Bill Katz: PROBABLY TOO LATE
Facing withering criticism that the Obama administration's Syria policy is too little, too late, and laced with too many yawns, Hillary Clinton has flown to Turkey to express some love for the Syrian opposition. From WaPo:
ISTANBUL — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton sought Saturday to broaden U.S. contacts with political opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad beyond a fragmented group of exiles with limited influence inside the country.
The top U.S. diplomat also pledged more military and intelligence cooperation with Turkey, a close U.S. ally now receiving a daily tide of refugees from the 17-month conflict.
This close ally is becoming increasingly Islamist, and may not be a "close ally" much longer.
“We have been closely coordinating over the course of this conflict, but now we need to get into the real details of such operational planning,” Clinton said during a day of meetings with Syrian opposition figures, refugees and top Turkish officials.
“Our intelligence services, our military have very important responsibilities and roles to play so we are going to be setting up a working group to do exactly that,” she said.
Let us note that this conflict has been going on for 17 months. Clinton's statements are pathetic, reflecting a pathetic policy. Essentially, she admits that we're just getting started.
The question is whether these opposition groups, some of which may have been influenced by extremists, still are interested in us, and whether they'll be our allies should they gain power. They owe us nothing.
Increasingly, we seem diminished, and not at all the leader.
FP: I have not been, am not and I won’t be for US intervention in Syria (or any other Arab country for that matter). But decline is decline is decline.
Gallup reports that its Economic Confidence Index was negative in all 50 states in the first half of 2012...but positive in the District of Columbia. Of course. That's where the federal government is. I mean, do you laugh or do you cry? The only place in America where people feel confident about the future is the federal government. Have the feds noticed that there's a country out there? Please send them maps. Small ones will do.
FP: See what I mean?
Steven A. Cook: Brother Knows Best
But old tricks don't always work in the new Egypt. Muwafi's admission that the GIS knew an attack was on the way provided Morsy with an opportunity to clean house -- a stunning move made possible only by the fact that he can claim a popular mandate. Out went Muwafi, North Sinai governor Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, and Hamdi Badeen, the powerful commander of the Military Police.
The SCAF, the GIS, and Ministry of Interior may yet respond, but they are in a difficult political position. How do they justify opposing the president for removing the people ostensibly responsible for failing to prevent the deaths of Egyptian troops? In the new, more open Egypt, people are demanding accountability and Morsy is giving it to them, which may be why Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the SCAF, has so far yielded to Morsy. Yet Tantawi's position is made all the more precarious because if he does not respond in some way, he is signaling that there is no price to be paid for defying Egypt's defense and national security establishment, opening the way to further efforts to undermine the deep state.
As the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other major newspapers all dutifully reported, the violence in Sinai was an "urgent" and "crucial" test of Morsy in his "tense relationship with the military." It was, indeed, an early test, and Egypt's new president seemed to pass with flying colors. Against all expectations, Morsy made the most politically out of the Rafah killings. To be sure, this episode was not exactly Anwar Sadat's takedown of Ali Sabri, Gen. Mohamed Fawzi, and Gen. Sharawi Guma in 1971 for allegedly plotting a coup d'état that ended with all three behind bars and went a long way toward consolidating Sadat's power. Yet if Morsy can make the dismissals stick, he will not only have made a convincing case that he is much more than the weak transitional figure the SCAF has sought to make him, but he also will have begun a process that could alter the relationship between Egypt's security elite and its civilian (and now elected) leadership.
FP: Just as I predicted. The military is no match to Islamists. Shades of Turkey, and Egypt is much more vulnerable to a more extreme Islamism than Turkey.
Muslim Brotherhood President al-Mursi has just removed the two commanding generals of the Egyptian military. Does he have a right to do this? Who knows?There’s no constitution. That means all we were told about not having to worry because the generals would restrain the Brotherhood was false. Moreover, the idea that the army, and hence the government, may fear to act lest they lose U.S. aid will also be false. There is no parliament at present He is now the democratically elected dictator of Egypt. True, he picked another career officer but he has now put forward the principle: he decides who runs the army. The generals can still advise Mursi. He can choose to listen to them or not. But there is no more dual power in Egypt but only one leader. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which has run Egypt since February 2011 is gone. Only Mursi remains and Egypt is now at his mercy.
Muslim Brotherhood President al-Mursi has also just named the editors of the top Egyptian newspaper and other media outlets. They are state-owned, you know, and there are a half-dozen good little independent newspapers.
But one of them, al-Destour (ironically meaning “The Constitution”), has just had a full issue seized on charges of “fueling sedition” and “harming the president through phrases and wording punishable by law.” We know this through a report in the Middle East News Agency, the state-owned monopoly.
And what was the inflammatory report? That the Brotherhood was going to seize power and that liberals and the army should join together to stop the country from being turned into an Islamist regime.
So some think the army has already been checkmated.