- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2011

If you threw a dart at a map of the Middle East and North Africa, you almost couldn’t miss hitting a spot where a historic event was unfolding.

In the headlines of just Saturday and Sunday - normally slow news days - one could read of Syrian tanks slaughtering the rebellious civilians of Deraa; NATO bombs killing a son and grandchildren of Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Gadhafi, with the United Nations pulling out its staff from Tripoli as a result; 80 percent of Jordan’s gas supply being taken off-line by sabotage; the Taliban starting its spring military offensive in Afghanistan; President Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen refusing to sign a transition deal involving his removal from power, threatening to derail efforts by the Gulf states to control months of unrest in that key U.S. ally. The Washington Post headlined the question, “Will Pakistan erupt like Egypt?”

Or perhaps you saw the headline that Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal arrived in Cairo for talks with Egyptian officials on the unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, where Hamas officials reiterated their refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist. Or perhaps you didn’t.

With so much going on simultaneously, neither the world’s statesmen nor the leading editors of worldwide journalism can agree upon what to focus the world’s limited attention. This provides the world’s nefarious leaders with a golden opportunity for the foreign policy equivalent of getting away with murder in broad daylight.

It brings to mind the observation in 1864 of Europe’s most brilliant diplomat, Prussian Chancellor Prince Otto von Bismarck, who said the practice of diplomacy “teaches that one can be as shrewd as the shrewdest in this world and still at any moment go like a child into the dark.”

Last week’s news that the Egyptian government has brokered an agreement between the main Palestinian factions - Gaza-based terrorist Hamas and Fatah’s West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) - should be shedding more light in the United States than it so far has on the darkness that is current Middle East events.

The United States identifies Hamas as a terrorist organization. With Hamas included in the PA regime, almost a billion dollars in yearly U.S aid presumably will have to be cut off - and should be. Already Israel has cut off its prorated $80 million annual contribution.

Also, already, Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Al-Arabi has said that the critical Rafah crossing from Egypt into Gaza will be opened permanently, marking the biggest breach in the Gaza blockade, which was imposed by Israel and backed by the West, since 2007. This fact alone ought to be seen as a storm warning.

An ever more highly armed Gaza Strip makes Palestinian-Israeli military engagement more likely. The reduced economic activity that the loss of Western money to the West Bank is likely to cause may increase unrest and undermine the recently reduced corruption there.

But the greater significance of these events rests in what they may tell us about the nature of Egypt’s post-Hosni Mubarak foreign policy.

It suggests that Cairo is feeling tremendous urging from broad Arab sentiment to return, after 30 years, to its traditional Middle Eastern foreign policies as a leading Arab nation rather than as the ally of the United States and Israel.

It certainly has been an historically odd fact that with Egypt and Saudi Arabia allied with the United States and following our lead on policy, the structure of Middle East policy has been driven by non-Arabs - the United States, Turkey, Iran and Israel. While this has worked powerfully to our advantage (except for Iran’s role) those days may be ending.

Turkey has been slipping away - first slowly, now faster - from an American alliance since 2003. Saudi Arabia - appalled by our undercutting of Mr. Mubarak - is beginning to forge its own path, as evidenced by its unprecedented decision to cut rather than expand oil pumping during this current oil price rise.

Now Egypt expedites the promotion of terrorist Hamas into Palestinian leadership and wantonly prepares to permit the rearming of the Gaza Strip. The obvious target: Israel.

It is reported that the Egyptian-brokered deal was a “surprise” to the world. Can it really be the case that the United States, with our well-earned closeness to the Egyptian army, which currently governs Egypt, was genuinely unaware of this shocking development? Or did we know and not try to stop it? Or did we know and try but fail to stop it?

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