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President Obama’s Big Diplomatic Test – Egypt

It is clear that the Obama Administration is facing a big diplomatic test in dealing with the fast developing situation in Egypt.  On one side is the Obama Administration’s interest of promoting freedom and democracy for the people of Egypt.  On the other side is the national security interest of maintaining a strong pro-Western U.S. ally in the Global War on Terror in Egypt.  These are very difficult interests to balance. 

The big fear in the West is that if this revolution is a success, and the Muslim Brotherhood or another extremist group seizes power in Egypt, the Egyptian people will not secure liberty and freedom.  Two co-workers of mine at The Heritage Foundation, James Phillips and James Carafano, have produced excellent analysis that may help conservatives to navigate and understand this difficult issue. 

Jim Phillips has written a new piece titled “Bringing Freedom and Stability to Egypt.”  Phillips argues that the Obama Administration should demand an end to violence and a path to a free society of the government in Egypt.

The U.S. should demand that any new government that emerges act in the best interest of the Egyptian people—ending violence and putting the nation on a path to a free civil society and more liberal economy. This is the surest means to meet the needs and aspirations of the Egyptian people and retain an important ally and a force for peace and stability in a tumultuous region.

Phillips further raises a concern that the Muslim Brotherhood may hijack the Egyptian revolution.

The U.S. should demand that any new government that emerges act in the best interest of the Egyptian people—ending violence and putting the nation on a path to a free civil society and more liberal economy. This is the surest means to meet the needs and aspirations of the Egyptian people and retain an important ally and a force for peace and stability in a tumultuous region.

Phillips has 4 recommendations for the Obama Administration to demand of Egypt’s government.

  1. Pledge to minimize the use of force and the loss life in its efforts to restore order;
  2. Agree to open up the political system to allow meaningful participation by Egyptian citizens in forming a representative government;
  3. Restore Internet service and access to the world; and
  4. Release opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei from house arrest.

Jim Carafano of The Heritage Foundation has written a blog post on the Obama Doctrine titled “Obama Doctine is Failing in the Middle East.”  Carafano argues that the Obama Doctrine failed the people of Iran when they rose up against a tyrannical government.

The Middle East was meant to be the crowning achievement of the Obama Doctrine. Once in the White House, President Obama focused laser-like on a “charm offensive” with Iran. When voices rose against the regime in Tehran in the wake of a disputed national election, Obama offered virtually no support for the cries for freedom. Nevertheless, the “playing nice initiative” with Tehran fell flat. Today, the regime is more aggressive than ever—backing a terrorist take-over of the government in Lebanon, snubbing Western nuclear negotiators, and promoting an Islamist agenda across the region.

Carafano concludes that the Obama Administration needs a new approach.

A new approach can start with Egypt where the White House needs to set clear and unequivocal expectations for how the government in Cairo should treat its own people.

Carafano argues that President Obama needs to finish the job in Iraq and to revitalize the U.S. partnership with Israel.

Next, the Administration must make clear it will finish the job in Iraq and keep the U.S. forces and resources in place that the government in Baghdad needs to complete its transition to a secure and sovereign state that can protect itself and look after the needs of its own citizens. Obama must also revitalize the partnership with Israel. Israel remains America’s most important and reliable ally in the region.

Carafano concludes with the thought that the White House needs to use sanctions and other toos to isolate the repressive regime in Iran.

And the White House must go after the regime in Iran. Sanctions and political isolation have hurt Iran, but the administration has been reluctant to press for further sanctions or ensure the full implementation of the ones on the books. That is a huge mistake. The most effective means to tame the regime in Tehran and help lay the foundation for its eventual demise is to stiffen U.S. resolve to isolate and punish the regime for fostering terrorism, promoting an Islamist agenda, pursuing nuclear weapons, and causing suffering and loss of liberty to the Iranian people.

The revolution in Egypt is developing minute by minute.  This may prove to be the biggest diplomatic challenge for the Obama Administration to date.  The President’s purported diplomatic acumen is being tested.  The American people need to keep a close eye on every word uttered by President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to see what message the U.S. government is sending to the American people, the people and government of Egypt and the world.

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