Sunday, December 2, 2012

Egypt's 'new regional role': Danger!

'...  significant developments are taking place that will guide the new Administration’s international strategy, whoever eventually succeeds Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. In an important speech on November 30th on Middle East policy, for example, Clinton made clear that the US approach will first and foremost focus on Israel’s security. After a week in which the US faced international and domestic criticism for its isolation over the vote in the UN General Assembly to grant the Palestinian Authority status as a state and in which the Administration found itself awkwardly placed to respond to proposed new Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, Clinton made clear that these criticisms will not call into question the US commitment to Israel. Administration officials tell us that this sentiment will underpin the US approach to the three main regional problems: Egypt, Syria and Iran. On the first, US officials remain concerned that the sweeping powers assumed by President Morsi foreshadow a more radical restructuring of Egypt’s regional role. They are trying to counteract this danger by building on the good will deriving from the joint US-Egypt efforts to bring about a truce in Gaza. Regarding Syria, the US is edging toward giving official recognition to the Syrian opposition, but we see no evidence that any deeper on the ground involvement is contemplated. On Iran, the temporary withdrawal of a US aircraft carrier suggests that tensions are for the moment on hold. However, we expect US engagement – backed by tough new sanctions – will accelerate once new leadership is in place at the State Department....'

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