EDITORIAL: The next Mideast war

Obama policies are pushing volatile region to the brink

The Obama administration is pressing a reset button to return the Middle East to the bad old days of open Arab-Israeli warfare. The White House is requiring participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in any prospective new Egyptian government, while the brothers themselves are telling their countrymen to “prepare for war.” The current crisis in Egypt and the Obama administration’s maladroit response are forcing strategists to consider conflict scenarios that had been mothballed since the 1970s. 

The Camp David Accords have formed the bedrock of U.S. security policy in the Mideast region since they were signed in 1978. The strategic logic behind the accords was that no coalition of Arab states could have a chance of waging a successful conventional conflict against Israel without including powerful Egypt. Subtracting Cairo from the equation would mean no new Arab-Israeli wars.  

The possibility now looms that Egypt could be back on the bad side of the ledger. Rather than reaching out to progressive, secular, Western-oriented dissident groups, who are more sympathetic to the United States and not virulently anti-Israel, President Obama is inexplicably placing his weight behind “important non-secular actors” such as the America-hating Muslim Brotherhood. A new government dominated by these Islamic extremists would almost certainly seek another round of conflict. The brothers have not only threatened war against Israel but also have a long term objective of “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” 

If Egypt falls under the sway of this band of religious zealots, it will quickly move backwards culturally, economically and politically. This revolution will empower and embolden radical Islamist groups seeking to destabilize other pro-Western regimes in the region. Actively promoting the fortunes of the Islamist parties makes neither strategic nor moral sense. 

The Obama team maintains that giving prominence to the religious parties will “give Egypt a strong chance to continue to be [a] stable and reliable partner.” This is nonsense. Empowering Islamists will promote regional instability and drive Egypt away from the United States and towards Iran, which is loudly promoting the Muslim Brotherhood’s cause. One of the first items on the agenda of a new hard-line Islamist government will be to renounce the Camp David accords and the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. Next will be to lift the Egyptian part of the Gaza embargo and open a channel for arms flowing to Hamas. Iran will do its part by sending increased aid to Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria, and generally foment violence when possible. 

Israel, the lone stable democracy and America’s most reliable ally in the Middle East, will then have openly hostile neighbors to the north and south, a weakened Jordan to the east, and uncertain support from the west. Israeli leaders already are wondering whether the current occupant of the White House would rush to the aid of the Jewish State in time of war or simply make a few speeches deploring the violence but leaving Israel to fend for itself. 

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton insisted the United States is “not advocating any specific outcome.” Some outcomes, however, are much worse than others. One of the worst would be a new coalition of radicalized, Islamist, anti-Western states facing off with Israel and working against U.S. interests in the region. Unlike previous such coalitions, this time they would be able to count on support from Iran, which may soon add nuclear weapons into the mix. 

Mr. Obama is in over his head with this crisis and may end up helping dismantle the only positive and lasting achievement of Jimmy Carter’s administration. The Obama team could not have better orchestrated a looming existential crisis for Israel and the Mideast if they had tried.

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