The Obama administration has Islamists in a corner – or so it thinks. According to White House logic, allowing Islamists to participate in the democratic system will require them to moderate their positions in order to win support. How ingenious, and how incredibly naïve.
Hillary Clinton gave a speech outlining American policy in the Middle East: the United States will cooperate with Islamic regimes – as long as they behave. The assumption is that Islamist parties will need to compromise in a democratic system, thus preventing extremism enabled by authoritarianism. If these Islamist regimes fail to provide tangible improvement such as jobs, opportunities and freedoms, they’ll lose the next elections and will simply be voted out of power.
The only problem with this is that no Arab nationalist or monarchic regime in the Middle East has voted itself out of power. Plenty of regimes have had elections, yet few are democratic. Parties intent on staying in power always find ways to maintain control, whether it is by patronage, manipulating elections, control over the media or other undemocratic tactics. There is no reason to assume that an Islamist regime would behave any differently. Iran, ruled by Islamists since 1979, suffers terrible economic problems and social repression. Confronted with mass protests over a stolen election in summer 2009, the Ayatollahs simply crushed the protesters. Hamas came to power in the Gaza Strip in 2006, the winners of an election promoted by the Bush administration. After throwing their opponents off roofs and shooting them in hospital beds, they remain in power. And they aren’t planning any elections any time soon. Islamist ruling parties are able to control state institutions, replacing traditionalist messages in religious institutions with their own radical beliefs, such as through school textbooks. Islamist groups are also able to control the military and create elite units to maintain power: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iran, Revolutionary Guards in Iraq, Republican Guards in Syria, etc.
Notice Clinton’s Western cynicism for the power of ideology. However, unlike in the materialistic and jaded West, people in the Middle East actually believe in their ideologies. Those who are ideologically committed to Islamism, taking marching orders from Allah and his divine guidebook, will hardly be deterred from material setbacks. Indeed, when Islamist groups fail to deliver on their promises, it is often blamed on their lack of true Islamic direction. In short, the solution is more Islamism. In Egypt and Jordan, the majority supports the implementation of sharia law – complete with amputations for theft and stoning for adultery. Negative views of Jews, Christians and other minorities are widespread in most countries. Repression often wins parties votes, rather than loses them. Islamist groups have noticeable a tendency to deflect criticism onto an outside enemy, usually Israel or the West. Turkey’s Islamist government has risen to celebrity status in the Muslim world for its repeated attacks on Israel, whipping up nationalist and religious fervour at home and abroad.
Essentially, the United States has lost all credibility with its moderate Arab allies. Jordan’s King Abdullah explained in an interview with the Washington Post that “I think everybody is wary of dealing with the West. . . . Looking at how quickly people turned their backs on Mubarak, I would say that most people are going to try and go their own way. I think there is going to be less coordination with the West and therefore a chance of more misunderstandings. Egypt is trying to develop its own way of moving forward.” Saudi Arabia has begun to move away from the United States, furious over its mishandling of the uprisings in Egypt. The US has committed itself to working with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, paving the way for the Islamization of the largest and most important Arab state.
The Obama regime’s naïve policies have doomed any hope for real democratic change in the Middle East and condemned millions of people to live under Sharia law. Moderate Arab states will have to accommodate themselves to the radicals and distance themselves from the United States. Israel, the United States’ closest ally in the region, will find itself increasingly surrounded by Islamists dedicated to its eradication. Obama is playing a dangerous game with the Islamists, and it doesn’t appear that he’s going to win.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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