Revamping the Nixon Doctrine

Kagan and Dunne on the restoring of full levels of military aid to Egypt:

Unfortunately the idea that Sissi will be an effective ally against Islamic terrorists is misguided. He has, in fact, become one of the jihadists’ most effective recruiting tools. The simple truth is that, since Sissi took power, the frequency of terrorist attacks in Egypt has soared; there have been more than 700 attacks over 22 months, as opposed to fewer than 90 in the previous 22 months. Harder to measure is the number of young people radicalized by Sissi’s repression, but we can assume it is significant and growing. A well-regarded Egyptian rights organization estimates that 42,000 political prisoners are being held; torture and sexual assault in the course of arrest or detention reportedly are rampant. There has been no accountability for the mass killings of 2013. Amnesty International listed Egypt as one of the top two countries issuing death sentences, with 509 people condemned in 2014.
. . .
In this environment, is it surprising that reports surface regularly about the trend of radicalization of Egyptian youth, including previously peaceful Islamists? Sissi’s brutal actions speak far louder than his few words about reforming Islam; to believe that he, or the religious institutions of his government, can have a positive impact on young people susceptible to radicalization is beyond wishful thinking. It would be laughable if it were not dangerous self-delusion.
. . .
We are back on the same old course in Egypt. It’s the Nixon Doctrine all over again, and we are falling prey to the same illusions that dictatorship equals stability, that brutal repression is the answer to radicalism. We lionize Sissi just as we lionized the shah, Mubarak and the other Middle East dictators before him. He is our guy, right up until the day his regime collapses. Geopolitical godsend? Try geopolitical time bomb.

The most important point they make is that unblocking the blocked portion of the military aid was not really necessary for counter-terrorism operations, as is frequently argued by the pro-Sisi crowd. Egypt already gets all sorts of counter-terrorism aid, it did not need the unblocked F16s and tank kits for that purpose. I suspect it's much more about the symbolism, especially in the context of many of the traditional allies of the US (the SADDAM - Sunni Arab Dominated Dictatorships Against the Mullahs) anxiety about the Iran nuclear deal. On the other hand, they do not mention the change in cashflow provisions in the way the aid is administered. In any case, I am not sure the aid levels matter as much as political measures – the most damaging thing the Obama administration has done is to embrace the new regime as building a democracy (as John Kerry, notably, has done.) 

By the way, you really have to read the Bret Stephens piece they reference as an example of the Sisimania in the US – it's a spectacular piece of brown-nosing.

Biden on Mubarak

'Mubarak, he's no dictator' | LRB blog:

When asked by Jim Lehrer, the host of Newshour on PBS, if Hosni Mubarak was a dictator, the US vice president, Joseph Biden, said: ‘Mubarak has been an ally of ours in a number of things and he’s been very responsible on, relative to geopolitical interests in the region, Middle East peace efforts, the actions Egypt has taken relative to normalising the relationship with Israel… I would not refer to him as a dictator.’

Here are some excerpts from the rest of Lehrer’s interview with Biden, containing more of the VP’s candid assessments.

On Darth Vader: Look, I know Darth fairly well, and Jim, I just want to mention that Darth has overcome asthma, some serious, serious asthma, and it’s just a really inspiring story, he’s written a children’s book about it, I gave a signed copy to my granddaughter for Christmas. Anyway our position is that before Darth blows up the planet Alderaan with his so-called Death Star, which is really just a large weather satellite with a few dual-use components, Darth should, you know, take some of that planet’s concerns into account

Read the whole thing — they go on with Biden on Cruella de Vil, Ozymandias, Colonel Kurtz and more. Typical response from Joe "I am a Zionist" Biden.

Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.