For anyone observing the latest dramatic and historic developments in the Middle East in the past two months, it is obvious that the U.S. State Department is acting out of step with what’s really happening on the ground. Playing catch up and having to change alliances at the last minute not because it wants to but because it has to.
The reputation of the U.S. in the Middle East is on the line today more so than ever before. Protesters are criticizing the U.S.’s role in their lives as they chant slogans asking their leaders to step down.
Secretary Clinton said today that the U.S wants “peaceful, orderly transition to free, fair & credible elections that lead to real democracy in Egypt.”
What does that really mean, now that tens of thousands of protesters are in the streets of Cairo defying a curfew and threats of “severe consequences” as stated in the military’s communiqué? These words don’t mean much anymore and they certainly don’t carry much weight, not in this stage of the political game at least.
The reason is simple: The people demanding the change already feel betrayed by the U.S. administration for supporting the Mubarak regime up until this point. Even now, the U.S. rhetoric is still not direct enough to satisfy the protesters who feel they are very close to reaching their goal of change; judging by their defiance, they can almost taste the freedom they’ve been asking for.
It is high time the U.S. realizes that most Arabs don’t trust its foreign policy and are skeptical of its intentions. This is the message across the Middle East not just in Egypt or as we’ve seen earlier in Tunisia.
In case the Obama administration is not aware, Jordanians are demonstrating against the current government and holding protests demanding the Prime Minister step down. If the Jordanian Monarch, one of the U.S.’s main allies doesn’t respond to his peoples’ demand, the protests will sooner or later turn against him and his monarchy. What will the U.S. do then? React?
Yemen is boiling. Secretary Clinton just visited Yemen to forge alliances in the fight on terrorism with the man people want out. What is the U.S. waiting for to act there to protect its interests?
Bahrain, another U.S. ally, known as the Vegas of the Middle East has been seeing opposition activity and a desire for reform.
One shouldn’t discount varying degrees of instability in Sudan, Algeria, Libya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the ever-troubled shaky Lebanon. Add to that the interest of some groups and countries to create havoc in the region and you get a much bigger problem than you ever imagined.
Syria’s opposition is getting ready to take to the streets. All one has to do is check their planned activities on line, on Facebook to be exact. After all, isn’t that how Egyptians organized themselves for their uprising? The first U.S. ambassador to Syria since 2005 just assumed his duties in the middle of the regional turmoil. If the U.S. has a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad, this is a good time to send it. If protests erupt in Syria next month or next year, the message then won’t have any effect.
Egypt’s January 25 uprising wasn’t a surprise; its enormous effect and reverberation across the world are. We knew about the specific #Jan25 as it was planned and organized openly on social networks. At that time, U.S. officials had started referring to their once-ally Zein El Abedine Ben Ali of Tunisia as a “dictator.” That only came after Tunisians, fed up of their dire economic conditions, preferred to die than take any more abuse from their dictator.
I hope Secretary Clinton can woman up to the extremely dangerous situation in Egypt. She needs to face and start a dialogue with the NEW Egyptian leaders the U.S. will be dealing with. The old tactics won’t work. Diplomacy should have a new strategy inspired by the sights and sounds of the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez, Sidi Bouzid, Tunis and other Arab cities.
Along with the right Re-Action to Egypt, the U.S. should be Pro-Active on the Middle East scene to ensure its interests are preserved no matter who is in charge.
I’ve been observing and analyzing the Middle East for a long time. I can assure you that the winds of change have been blowing for a while. They have reached their peak in Tunisia and now in Egypt and they won’t stop here.
My sense is that across the Middle East, leaders of yesteryear won’t be the leaders of tomorrow. We need to get used to the idea and start dealing allies and foes accordingly.