URL of the original Posting Site: http://conservativebyte.com/2015/03/suspicious-ties/
The White House’s outrage over Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to speak before Congress in March — a move he failed to coordinate with the administration — began to seep through the diplomatic cracks on Friday, with officials telling Haaretz the Israeli leader had “spat” in President Barack Obama’s face.
“We thought we’ve seen everything,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying. “But Bibi managed to surprise even us.’
“There are things you simply don’t do. He spat in our face publicly and that’s no way to behave. Netanyahu ought to remember that President Obama has a year and a half left to his presidency, and that there will be a price,” he said.
Officials in Washington said that the “chickenshit” epithet — with which an anonymous administration official branded Netanyahu several months ago — was mild compared to the language used in the White House when news of Netanyahu’s planned speech came in.
In his address the Israeli leader is expected to speak about stalled US-led nuclear negotiations with Iran, and to urge lawmakers to slap Tehran with a new round of tougher sanctions in order to force it to comply with international demands. The Mossad intelligence service on Thursday went to the rare length of issuing a press statement to deny claims, cited by Kerry, that its chief Tamir Pardo had told visiting US politicians that he opposed further sanctions.
Haaretz reported that Obama had personally demanded that Netanyahu tone down his pro-sanctions rhetoric in a phone call between the two last week. The president has said a sanctions bill would cripple negotiations with Iranian leaders at a critical stage, and has threatened to veto such a bill should it come through.
The Washington Post reported that Netanyahu’s apparent disrespect for the US leadership was particularly offensive to Secretary of State John Kerry, who over the past month had made frenzied efforts on Israel’s behalf on the world stage — making dozens of calls to world leaders to convince them to oppose a UN Security Council resolution which would have set a timeframe for the establishment of a Palestinian state.
“The secretary’s patience is not infinite,” a source close to Kerry told the Post. “The bilateral relationship is unshakable. But playing politics with that relationship could blunt Secretary Kerry’s enthusiasm for being Israel’s primary defender.”
The White House said Thursday that Obama would not meet with Netanyahu when he travels to Washington, with a spokeswoman citing a “long-standing practice and principle” by which the president does not meet with heads of state or candidates in close proximity to their elections. Kerry will also not meet with Netanyahu. Netanyahu will be in Washington in part for a March 3 address to a joint session of Congress. House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak to Congress without consulting the Obama administration.
The White House initially reacted icily to Netanyahu’s plans to address Congress, an appearance apparently meant to bolster opposition to a nuclear deal with Iran as it is currently shaping up, as well as opposition to new sanctions against Tehran.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Wednesday that Netanyahu and Boehner had broken with protocol in not informing Obama of the prime minister’s travel plans.
“The typical protocol would suggest that the leader of a country would contact the leader of another country when he is traveling there. That is certainly how President Obama’s trips are planned,” explained Earnest.
Speaking several hours after Earnest, top US diplomat Kerry said Netanyahu was welcome to give a speech at “any time” in the United States. But Kerry agreed it had been a “little unusual” to hear about the Israeli leader’s speech to US Congress next month from the office of Boehner and not via the usual diplomatic channels.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, said that Boehner blundered when he invited Netanyahu to address Congress amid sensitive negotiations about Iran’s nuclear program and in the shadow of Israel’s elections.
“If that’s the purpose of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit two weeks before his own election, right in the midst of our negotiations, I just don’t think it’s appropriate and helpful,” Pelosi told reporters Thursday at her weekly news conference. The speech, Pelosi suggested, could give Netanyahu a political boost in elections a few weeks later and inflame international talks aimed at stopping Iran’s nuclear program.
Israel is scheduled to hold elections on March 17. Netanyahu confirmed Thursday that he would address Congress in early March. He was initially slated to speak on February 11, but changed the date so he could attend the AIPAC conference.
“The Prime Minister is expected to arrive in the US at the beginning of March and will also participate in the AIPAC conference,” read a statement from the PMO. “The speech in front of both houses of Congress will give the prime minister the opportunity to thank President Barack Obama, Congress, and the American people for their support of Israel.
“I look forward to the opportunity to express before the joint session Israel’s vision for a joint effort to deal with [Islamist terrorism and Iran’s nuclear program], and to emphasize Israel’s commitment to the special bond between our two democracies,” Netanyahu said, according to the statement.
Israel and the United States are close allies, but personal relations between Obama and Netanyahu have reportedly deteriorated over the years. The pair have publicly clashed over Israeli settlement building in the West Bank and about how to tackle Iran’s disputed nuclear program. Obama’s allies fear Netanyahu’s March trip could be used by Israel and by Republicans to rally opposition to a nuclear deal, undercutting years of sensitive negotiations just as they appear poised to bear fruit.
In November the already faltering ties between the leaders were served a new blow when an anonymous US official was quoted calling Netanyahu a “chickenshit” in an article published by journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in the American magazine The Atlantic. The article portrayed the rift between the United States and Israel as a “full-blown crisis.”
During a roundtable with the media this week, Secretary of State (say that without shuddering) John Kerry said the following:
“(The U.S.) has to start major efforts to delegitimize ISIS’s claim to some religious foundation for what its doing and begin to put real Islam out there and draw lines throughout the region. And I think this is a wake-up call with respect to that because every Arab leader there today was talking about this, about real Islam and how important the Friday sermons are and where they need to go.”
Instead of perpetuating this post-9/11, politically-correct charade that Islam is “a peaceful religion hijacked by a few extremists,” it’s good to see our chief diplomat has decided to pursue a conversation about “real Islam.” Since I’m almost not-at-all positive Secretary Kerry actually thoroughly vetted and researched this subject matter before spouting off about it, I have a few questions for our newest theologian.
Finally, Mr. Secretary, if those 10 questions prove too difficult for you, allow me to submit a bonus question:
Where in the world today are Muslims better off living in a culture under Sharia Law than they would be if they lived in the United States?
(Steve Deace is a nationally-syndicated talk show host and also the author of the new book “Rules for Patriots: How Conservatives Can Win Again.” You can “like” him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeaceShow.)
I have to ask you all if you can answer this question: what is a “very significant counter-terrorism operation with many moving parts that will be done over a period of time?”
Well, I served in the U.S. Army for 22 years and commanded at two levels, Company and Battalion, and was a Brigade-level operations officer. I deployed into several combat zones and even did a two-and-a-half year stint training Afghan officers and established a staff officers training course at the Kabul Military Training Center — so I know just a tad about operational planning. I have no idea what Secretary of State John Kerry meant — perhaps actress Tea Leoni could explain since she will be portraying that same position in the CBS series “Madam Secretary.”
As we discussed last Wednesday, Obama’s speech about his ISIS strategy made no sense — sadly ISIS knows that as well. If we were to utilize the model of Afghanistan with a force of some 500 to 600 U.S. Special Operators/CIA Operators with an indigenous force like the combined Kurdish Peshmerga force — meaning Syrian and Iranian Kurds as well — we would have the same calculus as with the Northern Alliance. As I’ve previously mentioned, the Taliban had a force of 70,000 along with 5,000 al-Qaida fighters and were routed out of Afghanistan under the massive pounding of U.S. airpower.
However, Mr. “Military Tactician” Barack Hussein Obama believes he has a better plan of Yemen or Somalia as an example — and has reiterated that he won’t be following the “mistakes” of the previous administration — hmm, I wonder about whom he’s referring?
We cannot “destroy” ISIS because that means every single person would have to be killed – after all, you cannot destroy an ideology. What we can do is defeat ISIS to render it combat-ineffective to pursue any further goals and objectives. As for the ideology, we must “delegitimize” it and that is a dedicated strategic and operational information war – using social media and operational/tactical level psychological operations messaging.
We must understand that destroying Islamo-fascism is a long term endeavor just as we destroyed Nazism, Japanese imperialism, or communism in the fall of the Soviet Union — however, socialism still exists, even here in America.
We should be immediately deploying an air task force to Kirkuk AB — as we recommended here previously — of attack helicopters, close air support (SecDef Hagel that means A-10 Warthogs), and deep strike air interdiction strike aircraft. This forward deployment would enable us to truly increase strike sorties — not 150 in a month — but that in a day.
This is war not just against ISIS but the ideology of Islamo-fascism and it’s time a message is sent, beginning with ISIS. And that also means removing the poison of Islamism from our own shores.
Under the pen name of Joseph Miller — a ranking Department of Defense official with a background in U.S. special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan who has worked in strategic planning – gives his assessment in The Daily Caller regarding what it will take to win the war against ISIS.
He writes, “While there are many issues with the strategy Obama laid out on Wednesday night, the first one that must be addressed is the goals of the strategy. We have yet to “destroy” al-Qaida or its affiliates, even with hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces on the ground fighting in the Middle East, though we have significantly degraded their capacity to conduct terrorist attacks. As long as “destroy” remains the end goal of the president’s strategy, it will never succeed. You cannot destroy an ideology. Our goals will have to be revised to read defeat ISIS’s military capability and degrade its capacity to commit acts of terrorism.”
The second major issue is the way we will fight the Islamic State. It cannot be limited to a “counter-terrorism campaign,” as articulated by the president and Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr. Miller concedes that there are two separate areas of operation within the overall theater — one in Iraq and one in Syria and it is a delicate tight rope to not be seen as supporting Bashar al-Assad. And given the recent revelations that the Free Syrian Army may have agreed to a cease fire with ISIS that further complicates the issue — hence why I recommend uniting the Kurds in total.
Miller also writes, “to wage these two military campaigns in the War against the Islamic State, the president is going to have to accept that the plan to use air power in support of Iraqi army and Free Syrian Army rebel ground forces will require a significant number of embedded U.S. special forces soldiers. If we fail to embed U.S. forces to coordinate strikes, we will have a very difficult time achieving the ends that the president seeks. That is not to say we should go it alone. The president is right to seek the involvement of allied and regional powers.”
Obama has a two-fold problem. First, he is an intransigent political ideologue and doesn’t want to engage in a war — despite the fact we have 1,500 ground troops deployed in Iraq right now — he cannot commit and will not make the case before Congress. Secondly, Obama is not trusted as a leader — remember his “red line” moment? It is far more difficult to build a coalition when no one believes you are capable — so Obama is just hoping and outsourcing the problem.
This is not about hashtags, it is about a carefully orchestrated, deliberate combat operation to render ISIS ineffective. However, it has to mark the beginning of America’s dedicated war against Islamo-fascism which involves hellish strike operations combined with homeland security, securing our border, information operations — not pinprick drones which have no effect on the capability or capacity of the enemy. Wherever the cockroaches exist, they have to know they will be pursued, found and killed.
And above all, we cannot execute this type of global operation while we are degrading and destroying our own military capacity.
The Obama administration is refusing to describe the expanded military campaign against the Islamic State as a war — despite plans to launch airstrikes across two tumultuous Middle East countries, dispatch hundreds more U.S. military personnel and build a coalition of nations to ultimately “destroy” the growing terror network.
The reluctance to use that label has generated confusion on Capitol Hill, particularly in light of new intelligence estimates that the Islamic State has as many as 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria. That’s the size of a small army – and close to the estimated size of the Taliban force in 2001.
Yet in television interviews on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly avoided the term “war” to describe the mission, instead calling it a “major counterterrorism operation” that could last a long time.
“It’s hard to find a response to that,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Fox News, when asked about Kerry’s comments. “Then what was the president talking about [Wednesday] night?”
McCain and other lawmaker suggest Kerry’s comments do not square with President Obama’s stated goal of defeating the Islamic State, or ISIS.
“This is John Kerry, vintage,” McCain said.
Other members of the administration besides Kerry appeared to be struggling to both define the conflict and the terms of victory, as the U.S. enters a new and potentially risky phase of its operation against the terror group.
Earnest tried to explain the operation as falling under the umbrella of the 2001 authorization to use military force – the measure that provided the legal basis to go into Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks. (Kerry also compared the operation to strikes against terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen.)
The administration is using this argument in order to avoid seeking new congressional authorization for the fight against ISIS.
But the Islamic State was not originally linked to the Sept. 11 attacks and has since split from the perpetrator of those attacks, Al Qaeda.
Some lawmakers say the administration is on shaky legal ground by treating this as a mere continuation of the counterterrorism missions in other countries, and is effectively downplaying the entire challenge ahead.
McCain said that if the president doesn’t understand the difference between the Islamic State and terror networks in places like Yemen, “then … he is oblivious to the size, shape, strength and ability of ISIS. It’s like comparing a little league team to the New York Yankees.”
A CIA spokesperson confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that the ISIS fighting force has sharply increased from the original estimate of at least 10,000 fighters.
“CIA assesses the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria, based on a new review of all-source intelligence reports from May to August,” the spokesperson said. “This new total reflects an increase in members because of stronger recruitment since June following battlefield successes and the declaration of a caliphate, greater battlefield activity, and additional intelligence.”
Asked Thursday whether the government still views these operations as part of the “war on terrorism,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said: “It’s certainly not how I would refer to our efforts.”
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said the semantics over what to call the operation “weakens the mission.”
“Words matter,” McCaul said Friday.
McCaul praised the president for moving to expand the mission into Syria, where the “head of the snake” of ISIS is located. But he said the administration is being careful with its language because the terror group defies Obama’s “campaign narrative” about ending the war on terrorism and putting Al Qaeda on the run.
“ISIL clearly hasn’t gotten the memo that I think John Kerry did,” McCaul said.
So reports the Jerusalem Post, based on the testimony of Martin Indyk, until recently a special Middle East envoy for the president. The war in Gaza, Mr. Indyk adds, has had “a very negative impact” on Jerusalem’s relations with Washington.
Think about this. Enraged. Not “alarmed” or “concerned” or “irritated” or even “angered.” Anger is a feeling. Rage is a frenzy. Anger passes. Rage feeds on itself. Anger is specific. Rage is obsessional, neurotic.
And Mr. Obama—No Drama Obama, the president who prides himself on his cool, a man whose emotional detachment is said to explain his intellectual strength—is enraged.
With Israel. Which has just been hit by several thousand unguided rockets and 30-odd terror tunnels, a 50-day war, the forced closure of its one major airport, accusations of “genocide” by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, anti-Semitic protests throughout Europe, general condemnation across the world. This is the country that is the object of the president’s rage.
A photo has emerged of a young apparently on a trip to the Middle East, holding up a severed human head for his proud terrorist father.
The photo was published in the Australian press to illustrate the problem of Australian Muslims going to the Middle East for terror training and the danger of them then returning home to carry out the Islamist agenda.
Secretary of State John Kerry — at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, and Australian Minister of Defense David Johnston — denounced the photo, saying, “That child should be in school. That child should be out learning about a future. That child should be playing with other kids, not holding a severed head and out in the field of combat.”
I do get what Kerry is trying to say, even if he said it in the lamest way possible. The problem, though, is that the kid is in school and learning about a future — but it’s an Islamist school and an Islamist future that the world’s terrorist Muslims want for the entire human race.
The problem isn’t that the boy isn’t in school, it’s that the boy is the face of modern Islam — a little cherub bringing a human sacrifice to the altar of Allah.
Right now, that movement is most strongly represented by what the media have taken to calling the Islamic State.
It’s the ISIS caliphate.
I’ve said in other writings that the world has not yet come to terms with the full impact of ISIS’s declaration of the first caliphate in nearly a hundred years on Obama’s watch.
But far more importantly, the caliphate is a beacon that will draw Islamist fighters to it, representing the hope of empire in a way that no mere Muslim nation has done or can do. Merely establishing the concept of a caliphate as a reality conjures visions of the conquest of Byzantium, the career of Saladin and the victories of the warlord Mohammed himself. A caliphate, to the Muslim mind, once more puts the ghost of the Holy Roman Empire and the entire West at the mercy of Muslim swords.
The news from the Middle East bears out this analysis, as U.S. officials are seeing Islamist fighters abandoning al-Qaida and other Muslim Brotherhood offshoots to swear allegiance to the caliphate, which has far more money and ambition than any mere terror group. The caliphate plots to take all of Iraq, Syria and any other country it can get its hands on, then it is coming for Europe and the United States.
Multiple reports indicate that Islamists from Western countries are being trained and shipped back to their homes, including the United States, to carry out whatever plots the caliphate can concoct. Given the strength and vision of ISIS, it’s likely that such enemy agents won’t just be looking at the usual “blow up and party” attacks but at long-term subversion of liberty and democracy.
“We have evidence that there are a significant number of Australian citizens who are taking part in activities in Iraq and parts of Syria, extremist activities and terrorist activities,” Bishop said at the press conference with Kerry. “Our fear is that they will return home to Australia as hardened, homegrown terrorists and seek to continue their work here in Australia.”
The same goes for the U.S., where the Border Patrol has caught numerous terror suspects trying to sneak across the border but untold numbers have gotten through. To illustrate the point, investigative filmmaker this week dressed up as Osama bin Laden and crossed unhindered from Mexico into the United States this week.
Still venting over the photograph of the child with the severed head, Kerry said, “This is utterly disgraceful, and it underscores the degree to which ISIL (ISIS) is, you know, so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups. …”
He’s not wrong, but Kerry still seems to not be coming to grips with the full reality here.
The word you’re looking for, John, is “evil.” That’s what ISIS and the entire Islamist movement is, and until the U.S. accepts that and acts accordingly, we’re all at their mercy.
John “Lurch” Kerry, our Secretary of State, had a tough weekend as our Chief Diplomat. Off the top of our head, there was the religious cleansing going on in Iraq with ISIS butchering both Christians and Kurds. There was Gaza, where the Israelis were fighting to defend their citizens from near constant terrorist attacks from Hamas rockets and their terror tunnel network. Then there is Syria, where a couple of thousand Arabs were butchered last week, but they were butchered by other Arabs so it’s not newsworthy. Kinda like a bunch of murders in Chicago on any given weekend.
We’re sure there was lots more in the world of diplomatic problems to be solved, like Ukraine and the Russian dudes which we plum clean forgot in the first paragraph. Obviously, being the Chief Diplomat is a very tough job.
To prove he’s the right man for the job, the press made sure that Secretary Kerry’s agenda was kept under wraps, lest whoever the “bad guys of the moment” are find out what he’s up to and launch a diplomatic counter offensive. We’ll note at this juncture that we have a really hard time – and to be fair it’s late in the day and we’re tired – imagining anything more offensive than US foreign policy.
Anyway, a Curmudgeon approved super-secret photographer was on the job at Kerry’s summertime headquarters in Nantucket, MA. Here’s a great shot of the Secretary defending US interests worldwide.
Yes gentle readers, that really is a pink girls bike. In tow is his white dog, likely some sort of French breed, named “Surrender.” Yes Sir. That’s our John Kerry, reporting for duty. The same guy who was so anxious to help these fellows.
Really makes you proud of your country, doesn’t it. We’re sure that once again, Michelle has found something for which to be proud right here in her Amerika.
Sources familiar with conversations between Netanyahu and senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry, say the Israeli leader advised the Obama administration “not to ever second guess me again” on the matter. The officials also said Netanyahu said he should be “trusted” on the issue and about the unwillingness of Hamas to enter into and follow through on cease-fire talks.
The Obama administration on Friday condemned “outrageous” violations of an internationally brokered Gaza cease-fire by Palestinian militants and called the apparent abduction of an Israeli soldier a “barbaric” action.
The strong reaction came as top Israeli officials questioned the effort to forge the truce, accusing the U.S. and the United Nations of being naive in assuming the radical Hamas movement would adhere with its terms. The officials also blamed the Gulf state of Qatar for not forcing the militants to comply.
With the cease-fire in tatters fewer than two hours after it took effect with an attack that killed two Israeli troops and left a third missing, President Barack Obama demanded that those responsible release the soldier.
Obama and other U.S. officials did not directly blame Hamas for the abduction. But they made clear they hold Hamas responsible for, or having influence over, the actions of all factions in the Gaza Strip. The language was a distinct change from Thursday when Washington was focused on the deaths of Palestinian civilians.
“If they are serious about trying to resolve this situation, that soldier needs to be unconditionally released as soon as possible,” Obama told reporters. He added that it would be difficult to revive the cease-fire without the captive’s release.
“It’s going to be very hard to put a cease-fire back together again if Israelis and the international community can’t feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment,” he said. His comment reflected uncertainty in the U.S. and elsewhere that Hamas was actually responsible for the incident or if some other militant group was to blame.
At the same time, Obama called the situation in Gaza “heartbreaking” and repeated calls for Israel to do more to prevent Palestinian civilian casualties.
Despite the collapse of the truce, Obama credited Kerry for his work with the United Nations to forge one. He lamented criticism and “nitpicking” of Kerry’s attempts and said the effort would continue.
Kerry negotiated the truce with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon in a marathon session of phone calls over several days while he was in India on an official visit. Kerry had spent much of the past two weeks in Egypt, Israel, the West Bank and France trying to mediate a cease-fire with Qatar and Turkey playing a major role because of their close ties with Hamas.
Those efforts failed with Israel saying it could not trust Hamas and some Israelis and American pro-Israel groups complaining that the U.S. was treating the group — a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the State Department — as a friend.
Late Thursday, however, Israel accepted Kerry and Ban’s latest proposal, despite its reservations. Once the truce was violated, though, Israeli officials hit out at not only Hamas, but the United States and Qatar for its failure.
An Israeli official said the Netanyahu government viewed both Hamas and Qatar as having violated the commitment given to the U.S. and the U.N. and that it expected the international community to take practical steps as part of a “strong and swift response,” especially regarding the return of the abducted soldier.
In a phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro, Netanyahu vented his anger, according to people familiar with the call.
Netanyahu told Shapiro the Obama administration was “not to ever second-guess me again” and that Washington should trust his judgment on how to deal with Hamas, according to the people. Netanyahu added that he now “expected” the U.S. and other countries to fully support Israel’s offensive in Gaza, according to those familiar with the call. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter by name.
They said Netanyahu made similar points to Kerry, who himself denounced the attack as “outrageous,” saying it was an affront to assurances to respect the cease-fire given to the United States and United Nations, which brokered the truce.
As John Kerry travels from country to country on various diplomatic missions as secretary of state (almost half a million miles so far), he often addresses the staff and their families at the U.S. embassies in the countries he visits. Remarks at these informal gatherings are often more casual than the usual speeches or press appearances, and Kerry often jokes with the staff and recognizes employees of long standing with the State Department. Monday, Kerry had one such opportunity in Vienna, Austria, the last stop on his most recent trip, and towards the end of his talk he recalled his two Yale commencement speeches, forty-eight years apart, where he discussed “sort of the world we’re in” and America’s place in it:
“…I was privileged to speak to the graduating class of Yale this year, and it was particularly a pleasure because it happened to turn out to be, literally, I hate to say it, 48 years to the day that I was privileged to speak as a graduating senior to my own class. And I talked to them about sort of the world we’re in right now, but at the end I tried to remind them all, which I remind you of, we are – I get always a little uptight when I hear politicians say how exceptional we are – not because we’re not exceptional, but because it’s kind of in-your-face and a lot of other people are exceptional, a lot of other places do exceptional things.”
“But we are exceptional in a certain way that no other nation is. We are not defined by thousands of years (inaudible) of history. We are not defined by ethnicity. We are not defined by bloodline or by anything except an idea. And that idea was expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in our Constitution, the idea that people are created equal and that all people have a chance to aspire for greatness, for anything they want. Pretty amazing, right? So think about that. It’s the only country that is literally united and formed around and whose rule of law is based on that idea, one idea, and it’s pretty special. So thank you for representing it. Thank you.” (Applause.)
Kerry used similar language in his 2014 Yale commencement address, noting that the American idea is what makes America different: that all are “created equal and all endowed with unalienable rights” and that “America is an idea and we – all of us, you – get to fill it out over time.”
Egypt’s military-dominated government has delivered a humiliating, public slap in the face to John Kerry, the US secretary of state, by sentencing three al-Jazeera journalists to long prison terms only hours after Kerry personally expressed his deep concern about the case in high-level meetings in Cairo. The snub represents a disastrous beginning to Kerry’s already fraught Middle East tour, which took him to Baghdad on Monday for crisis talks about the Islamist extremist uprising.
The verdict, by a court responsive to government wishes, will also be seen as a deliberate, crude signal to President Barack
Obama, who criticised Egypt’s deteriorating human rights record after the former general, Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, seized power in a coup last year. Sisi has since had himself voted president. His elected predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, and thousands of his Muslim Brotherhood supporters remain in jail while hundreds of others have been killed.
In what US officials said were “candid” talks with Sisi, Kerry “emphasised our strong support for upholding the universal rights and freedoms of all Egyptians, including freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”. He noted a number of promises by Egyptian leaders “are yet to be fulfilled”, but added that “the United States remains deeply committed to seeing Egypt succeed”.
The hollowness of all this careful diplomatic language was exposed for all to see by the court’s verdict, which diplomats and observers said was reached without the complication of supporting evidence. It seems clear now that Kerry was wasting his breath; the sentences were pre-determined, intended as a stark warning to Egyptian and foreign media and as a symbol of the regime’s determination to demonstrate its independence of Washington.
This is ironic given that, before the talks, the US had made available most of the $575m (£328m) in military aid frozen by Congress after the coup against Morsi. Kerry offered more blandishments in the form of 10 Apache attack helicopters, which he said would be supplied to Egypt “very soon”. This is exactly the sort of deadly air power that Iraq’s government has pleaded for but has so far been denied by Obama.
Kerry must now be asking himself whether it was entirely sensible to offer such diplomatic, financial and military support to Sisi unconditionally before their meeting and before the court announced its verdict. This is not the way hard-headed, worldly-wise American secretaries of state, such as Henry Kissinger, George Shultz and James Baker, would have gone about it. All old Middle East hands, they would surely have driven a tougher bargain. On the other hand, they would all probably have placed America’s and Israel’s strategic interest in a strong, stable pro-western Egypt above human rights issues. Perhaps this is what Kerry has done, too.