Opinion

Situation in Middle East warrants Policy review at the Hill

Only one year back President Obama has asked Hosni Mubarak to democratize and bring in reforms in Egypt.

Only an year ago President Barak Hussain Obama of the United States had advised his Egyptian counterpart President Hosni Mubarak to democratize his country and bring in reforms in accordance with dynamically changing socio-economic scenario of the Middle East.

During his speech in June 2009 at Al-Azhar University Cairo, Obama said, ”I do so recognizing that change cannot happen overnight. No single speech can eradicate years of mistrust, nor can I answer in the time that I have all the complex questions that brought us to this point. But I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, “Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.” That is what I will try to do – to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

Part of this conviction is rooted in my own experience. I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims. As a boy, I spent several years in Indonesia and heard the call of the Azaan at the break of dawn and the fall of dusk. As a young man, I worked in Chicago communities where many found dignity and peace in their Muslim faith.

As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam. It was Islam – at places like Al-Azhar University – that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe’s Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

Obama having the confidence of his country’s strong grip over Egypt and its Army still pleaded for more Education and Democratization. He made the speech at the displeasure of his host Hosni Mubarak in his pursuit for strong democracy in Middle East and much-needed reforms. Hosni Mubarak beaming with overconfidence could not pick the lead. He kept managing his country in old style.

Events which have been set in motion in Land of Pharos have even brought a degree of embarrassment for the UN Intelligence Community itself. Current events are an eye opener for
U.S. Designed Camp David Accord, Israeli-Egyptian Peace Treaty and warrants a review of Israel’s Security Doctrine.

US intelligence agencies are drawing criticism from the White House and Congress that they failed to warn of revolts in Egypt and the downfall of an American ally in Tunisia.

President Barack Obama has told National Intelligence Director James Clapper that he was “disappointed with the intelligence community” over its failure to predict that the outbreak of demonstrations would lead to the ouster of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in Tunis, according to one U.S. official familiar with the exchanges, which were expressed to Clapper through White House staff.

Top senators on the Intelligence Committee are asking when the president was briefed and what he was told before the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. “These events should not have come upon us with the surprise that they did,” the committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein said in an interview.

“There should have been much more warning” of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, she said, in part because demonstrators were using the Internet and social media to organize. “Was someone looking at what was going on the Internet?” she asked. Top CIA official Stephanie O’Sullivan told senators that Obama was warned of instability in Egypt “at the end of last year.” She spoke during a confirmation hearing to become the deputy director of national intelligence, the No. 2 official to Clapper.

The leading Republican on the committee, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, asked for a written record of the timetable of Obama’s intelligence briefings. It’s due to the committee in 10 days.

The chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, said it was unrealistic to expect intelligence agencies to predict what would happen in either country. “We’ve got to be realistic about its limits, especially regarding the complex and interactive behavior of millions of people,” he said.

DNI spokeswoman Jamie Smith insisted that the intelligence community “has been closely tracking these countries and as tensions and protests built in Tunisia, it was fully anticipated that this activity could spread.” But top intelligence officials said that after Tunisia, they’d promised the White House to “do better,” according to two officials briefed on the process.

White House national security staff relayed the president’s disapproval over the wrong call in Tunisia to Clapper and other top intelligence officials in one of a series of high-level meetings in mid-January, prior to the outbreak of the demonstrations in Egypt, according to one official.

In the aftermath of the botched call on Tunisia, the intelligence community widened the warnings to the White House and the diplomatic community that the instability could spread to much of the Arab world. The White House publicly rejected charges that intelligence agencies underperformed on Tunisia and said the intelligence community warned the president that Tunisia’s protests could inspire copycats.“Did anyone in the world predict that a fruit vendor in Tunisia would light himself on fire and spark a revolution? No,” said White House spokesman Tommy Vietor.

“But had the diplomatic and intelligence community been reporting for decades about simmering unrest in the region? About demographic changes including a higher portion of youth? About broad frustration with economic conditions and a lack of a political outlet to exercise these frustrations? Absolutely,” Vietor said.

They specifically warned that unrest in Egypt would probably gain momentum, said another official familiar with the intelligence, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters.

Of major concern to US intelligence officials is the possibility that the political upheaval in Egypt could be “hijacked” by the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned but politically popular religious and political movement that provides social and charitable support for much of Egypt’s poor.

The Tunisian surprise, followed by the worsening events in Cairo, has led some intelligence officials to question whether the hunt for Al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, has starved other parts of the intelligence arena of resources and hampered long-term strategic analysis and prediction.

“Both the American and Israeli intelligence communities will have to ask themselves what they missed in Tunisia and Egypt,” said former CIA officer Bruce Riedel. “Are we too fixated on terrorism and Iran today and not enough on the broad generational changes in the region?” Retired CIA officer Michael Scheuer also defended the intelligence world for concentrating on the Al-Qaeda terrorism nexus from Afghanistan to Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. “Those are the people who are going to reach out and kill Americans,” he said.

Scheuer said the CIA has devoted resources to Egypt for years, fostering such a close working relationship with its intelligence service that the CIA regularly turned over suspects of Egyptian origin to its intelligence service, before there was a US facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to hold suspects.

Former CIA analyst Charlie Allen said multiple national intelligence estimates had warned successive US administrations that Egypt and Tunisia were brutal dictatorships with all the ingredients for revolt. The volatile situation outlined in those assessments of foreign nations included “youth bulges” of frustrated and often unemployed men under the age of 25, Allen said.

But Allen, speaking at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies’ annual terrorism review, said intelligence analysts cannot predict the spark that turns festering anger into full-scale revolt.

Its either time for the United States to review and re-frame its Foreign Policy or pick only allies. Obama’s toughest trial is not to ensure a pro-Israel Egypt intact but an over-all policy review.

Source Arab News

About the author

Azhar Masood

Azhar Masood is Controller of News in PTV, and Chief Instructor of PTV Academy, working for Arab News. He has Covered Iraq War from Baghdad for CNN, BBC, FOX News, and Al-Jazeera and other regional channels. He covered conflict in Bosnia Herzegovina. He interviewed Yasir Arafat of Palestine, Paul Wolfoweit, Prime Minister Jean Ghteyan of Canada, Dr. Amar Musa of Egypt, Mr. Haris Slajic, Prime Minister of Bosnia Dr. Akbar Ali Vallayati, former Foreign Minister of Iran, President Kumaratunge of Sri Lanka, Mr. Kumar Su Bramanyem, Director of National Defence Institute of India, Mr. Hamid Karzai President of Afghanistan, Dr. Ahmad Chalabi of Iraq National Congress, Mr. Hoshyar Zubari, Vice President Kurdish Democratic Party of Iraq

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