WASHINGTON/CAIRO: To maintain a new policy of less on-the-ground interference in the Middle East, the United States would by and large accept a scenario of the Egyptian inheritance of power and is unlikely to exercise a military option against Iran, American researchers told Daily News Egypt.
The US is a strong ally of the Egyptian regime; supplying it with $1.5 billion in military aid a year and the two have mutual geo-political interests in the region, which has led to speculation that the US would not oppose a presidential succession that would maintain the status quo.
Its relationship with Iran is the opposite – an almost nonexistent one that mirrors the relationship Egypt has with Iran – and the jitters about a possible US assault on Iran is constantly being mooted whenever talk of Persian nuclear designs is doing the rounds.
Egypt’s Succession of Power
Talk continues to intensify regarding the succession of power in Egypt, with the belief that President Hosni Mubarak’s son, Gamal, is being groomed as his successor as president. With democracy watchdogs constantly stating that elections in Egypt are marred with fraud, a succession of this sort would not be accepted as a democratic transfer of power.
Lawrence Korb, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress said, “What the US is going to do is it’s going to say, this is up to the Egyptians. That the US is looking to have stability. We’ve recognized that elections don’t lead to democracy and if the Egyptians have a fraudulent election, we’ll speak out. In the final analysis we have to deal with whoever is in power. I have met Mubarak’s son, I was very impressed with him. The father is not a democratic leader, would the son be?”
Korb admitted that in the US there was a tug of war between democratic ideals and having those in power be amenable to American interests, indicating that if a group like the Muslim Brotherhood for example were to ever assume power in Egypt, the US would reconsider its relationship.
“We have to be careful, we had elections in the Palestinian territories and Hamas won and it’s a tough balancing act between stability and democracy. If it’s a democratic election then whoever wins should win and if they do not go along with that then the US would have to review its policy and all of the other interactions that it has,” he said, “What we have to recognize is that the world is not going to conform to the way we (the US) want it and if a group that’s considered radical wins, that’s a decision for the Egyptian people and they’re going to have to live with the consequences.”
Mubarak advised that Muslim troops should fight Al-Qaeda
Arnaud de Borchgrave, senior advisor for the Center for Strategic International Studies, stated that non-intervention would be the best policy for the US, and after praising Mubarak, recounted how Mubarak had advised that Muslim troops should be the ones to enter Afghanistan and fight Al-Qaeda in the wake of 9/11.
He said, “Non-interference appears to me as the better part of valor. I have known President Mubarak since the day before President Sadat appointed him Vice President. He was the note taker at an interview I conducted with Sadat but we were not introduced. Next day I saw the announcement in the newspapers about his appointment as VP. My view is that he has been good for Egypt. In the private conversations I have held with President Mubarak he has always struck me as a wise leader.”
De Borchgrave added, “I was with him in Sharm El-Sheikh two days after 9/11, having arrived in Cairo the day before, quite by chance. He told me then that it was essential that any retaliatory blow against Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda be conducted by Muslim troops only. No American or other Western troops. It was probably wise advice but clearly impossible from the standpoint of logistics – flying Egyptian, Moroccan etcetera troops in would have required US air transports and other forms of US involvement – e.g., resupply, helicopter gunships etc.”
US will live with Iranian nuclear bomb
As for Iran, despite the consistent threat of military action by Israel and hawks in the US, the researchers believed that not only was it not feasible from a logistical standpoint, but that there was no groundswell of support for it.
Korb said, “I think the US will never publicly admit that it doesn’t have a military option [in Iran] but in realistic terms it knows it can contain, it knows that time is on our side. It knows that even if it did use the military option, the consequences would be much greater than the potential benefits.”
He added, “When the Israelis bombed the reactor in Osirak, in Iraq (in 1981) that accelerated the Iraqi nuclear program and we were surprised when we went in during the first Gulf war (1990) how far along it had been.”
De Borchgrave also believed that a US attack on Iran would be practically impossible, and that the public in America had had their fill of international intervention on the ground.
“The US is already stretched thin on the ground with commitments in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Japan, Western Europe … A ground attack in Iran would require tens of thousands of troops that are simply not available given rotations in and out of Afghanistan and Iraq [where there are still 50,000 troops that have to be rotated after a one-year deployment]. The US public would be dead set against a ground invasion of Iran. Air strikes would, of course, be feasible, but would be immediately denounced by every regime on the Arab side of the Gulf [even though some of them would be delighted and have been hoping this would happen],” he said.
“The bottom line is that three former CENTCOM commanders – General Abizaid, General Zinni and Admiral Fallon – have said publicly at open meetings that we should learn to live with an Iranian bomb the way we learned to live with Stalin’s and later Mao’s. Four of the world’s eight nuclear powers are in Iran’s vicinity – Russia to the north, Israel to the West, and Pakistan and India to the east. If Pakistan, a 63-year-old country that is a failing [not failed] state can have a nuclear deterrent, all the more reason for a country that was once the Persian empire to have one too. Israel’s so-called “existential threat” has been much exaggerated. Everyone knows that if Iran were to touch Israel, it would be vaporized next day,” he added.
To conclude, de Borchgrave said, “Americans are fed up with foreign military interventions and Defense Secretary Bob Gates is working hard to cut the $700 billion annual defense budget – more than all the countries of the world put together. Our own country is falling apart in many key areas – schools, roads, bridges, drain pipes. In Washington and New York, broken pipes, including one for gas, are over 100 years old. Ariana Huffington has just written a book titled “Third World America.” Airports in Singapore, Shanghai, Doha, Abu Dhabi etcetera have put US airports to shame. The American people are ready to come home – before China eats our lunch!”