Friday 23 August 2013

The Failure of Western Diplomacy in Egypt

An anti-Morsi protest at the White House, Washington,
August 22, 2013. [Source: ThinkProgress]

An idealistic policy undisciplined by political realism is bound to be unstable and ineffective; 
political realism unguided by moral purpose will be self-defeating and futile.
– “Ideals and Self-Interest in America’s Foreign Relations”, Robert E. Osgood (1953).

The ousting of Egypt’s first elected president, Mohammad Morsi, has been quite a test for Western diplomacy, particularly in the European Union and the United States, both of which have invested significantly in the nation’s continued development.

Morsi’s regime had a problematic record on human rights. Thus, spectators might have been forgiven for thinking that an Egyptian regime more secularised, and so less intolerant of religious diversity, would have pleased the West. They could not have been more wrong.

Western responses to the way in which the Egyptian Authorities have dealt with both the Muslim Brotherhood protests, and associated terrorist links, demonstrate a self-defeating ideological blindness, which fails to address the realpolitik environment of the region, and patronises as much as it moralises.

This lack of diplomatic realism has merely reinforced an already pronounced diplomatic weakness.

Double standards at the European Union

The European Union issued a predictably strong response in the aftermath of the suppression of the pro-Morsi Cairo Sit-in protest. Three of the most senior EU officials publically threatened to cut off aid to a nation highly dependent on foreign assistance, whilst indicating a change to a more confrontational diplomacy, both at an EU and national member-state level:
Together with its member states, the EU will urgently review in the coming days its relations with Egypt and adopt measures aimed at pursuing” the goals of promoting an “end to violence, resumption of political dialogue and return to a democratic process.
The European Union stated that its 6.7 billion dollar aid package to Egypt was under review, just a few days after Morsi’s ouster. This rapid change in policy occurred after approximately 42 Egyptians died in clashes on July 8th. While the EU foreign policy mantra has been one of respecting human rights, democracy, etc., the sincerity of their commitment to such values can nonetheless be questioned.

The interim Egyptian government had publicly set out a timetable of reform for their Islamist constitution and the holding of democratic elections, one day before the EU expressed a change in its diplomatic policy toward Egypt.

The diplomatic fall-out worsened a week after the violent clashes of the 14th. EU foreign ministers decided to reduce military ties with Egypt in a special meeting on the crisis, and suspend export licensing for military equipment to Egypt. Provisions for security assistance would be up for review, with EU officials threatening further action if the situation in Egypt does not improve.

The ministers lambasted the crackdown on protesters but also criticized the violent acts by pro-Morsi elements, perhaps in an effort to appear balanced. However, blame was principally ascribed to the authorities. They demanded the freeing of prisoners and an end to the state of emergency. Such a stance indicates they did not seriously consider the challenges that the interim Egyptian government faces.

The EU agreed to pump 6.7 billion dollars into Egypt, in order to prop up its stagnant economy four months after Morsi’s election, at a time when problems had begun to emerge with his rule. A week later the intensive protests leading to his ousting began.

Furthermore, the EU’s annual 1.4 billion dollar aid package had become something of a moral hazard. A report noted that EU bureaucrats had systematically failed for years to ensure how the funds were managed.

Therefore, the timing of the EU’s diplomatic shift, and the very contrasting sanguinity it adopted over the intolerance of the Morsi regime, suggest EU policy tinged by pro-Muslim Brotherhood sentiment.

Notably Catherine Ashton was the first foreign official permitted to see Morsi after his ousting and detention.

A poster of ex-president Mohammed Morsi,Cairo,  July 5, 2013.

Divergent voices within the United States

The United States Administration avoided branding Morsi’s removal from office as a coup d’etat, a controversial move that has been subject to much criticism.

Senate Foreign Relation Committee leader, Senator Bob Corker (Republican Party), sounded a cautious note
Egypt is a very strategic country in the Middle East and what we need to be is an instrument of calmness.
The Administration sought out a bi-partisan cross-party consensus, due in part to its problematic record on Middle Eastern issues, including the Benghazi controversy, which has refused to go away. Two senior Republican Party Senators, John McCain and Lindsay Graham, travelled to Egypt a month into the crisis, at Obama’s request. However, the portents for the impending visit did not augur well. Before the trip Graham told reporters:
We want to deliver a unified message that killing the opposition is becoming more and more like a coup.
Rather than strengthening diplomatic links, and perhaps developing an action-plan to resolve the crisis, McCain and Graham pre-emptively decided upon a strategy prior to their meetings with the interim Egyptian regime. The visit angered the Egyptian Administration, a development that such experienced politicians should have envisaged. McCain later added that the US had no credibility left in the Middle East, thereby bringing bi-partisanship to a possible close.

Latterly, the US sharply condemned Egypt’s provisional government for its relatively uncompromising policy on protests. President Obama stated after the break-up of the Cairo camp:
The United States strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt’s interim government and security forces. We deplore violence against civilians. We support universal rights essential to human dignity, including the right to peaceful protest. We oppose the pursuit of martial law, which denies those rights to citizens under the principle that security trumps individual freedom or that might makes right. And today the United States extends its condolences to the families or those who were killed and those who were wounded.
President Obama also ordered the cancellation of joint US-Egyptian bi-annual military exercises, a symbolic act considering the context of relations between the two nations, which were strained to an atypical extent.

Incoherence, and an evolving foreign policy

Whilst Obama’s response was thematically in keeping with that of the EU, it still marked a significant deterioration in Egypt’s links with the West due to the close relationship the Arab State has with the US. By sharply criticising the protest crackdown, Obama may sound like he has adopted a position of moral rectitude to his Western audience. Yet an important question could be asked: what is he trying to achieve with these criticisms? Is he trying to please an electorate influenced by the pro-Morsi coverage in the mainstream media? Alternatively, is Obama attempting to get Egypt to tow-the-line politically?

To an extent, the Egyptians had already fallen out with representatives of the United States some days earlier. The Egyptian government’s increasingly strident response to foreign calls for restraint had already become apparent. Thus it seems probable that the strength of Obama’s criticism would only serve to alienate, and thereby make less likely the hearing of any appeals for greater moderation.

It has been suggested that there is significant pressure on the US Administration from “The Beltway” (an assortment of political voices, lobby groups and media influences) to cut off aid, supposedly to gain greater leverage in Egypt. Yet it may be that elements hostile to any moderating American influence in the Middle East are pushing this message.

However, there are some senior moderating voices in the US administration. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who is against pulling aid, asserts that the U.S. has “important and complicated interests” in Egypt. At the beginning of August, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the Egyptian military was “restoring democracy”, although he quickly backtracked.

Boxing oneself into a corner

Over time however, the US diplomatic position appears to be hardening. There are reports that the US has unofficially put a delay on its funding to the Egyptian government for economic programs. The US Administration also condemned the detention of Mohammed Badie, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “Supreme Guide”, on terrorist charges. A White House spokesman stated:
It’s certainly not the standard that the Egyptian people expect of their government in terms of upholding basic human rights.
Unfortunately, Western governments appear to ignore the involvement of the Muslim Brotherhood in inciting violence through the guise of legitimate protest, such as calling for a “Day of Rage” immediately after the high death toll of August 14th.

Neither have they alluded to the consequences of the Muslim Brotherhood’s use of sectarianism to further their cause. The staggering levels of violence against Christians ought to cause greater concern, should the organisation hold the reigns of power again. Yet western diplomats have said little of substance other than to continue demanding reconcilation talks, without seriously addressing the challenges involved.

This issue may of course be influenced by coverage of the crisis. The mainstream media has given tacit support to Morsi, his supporters, and the notion an outright coup d’etat occurred. Sections of the media have also ignored the Muslim Brotherhood’s associations with terrorism.

The behaviour of the provisional Egyptian government indicates that those ruling the nation are very sensitive to the issue of their legitimacy, and whilst it seems the Obama administration would be a bit more comfortable with the Muslim Brotherhood out of the ring, as indicated by Kerry’s inopportune utterance, the United States has merely succeeded in alienating both sides. Worse, it has alienated the present leadership of the nation, who in ideological terms would be their natural allies, far more so than the Muslim Brotherhood, who clearly would not.

Foreign policy: balancing idealism with pragmatism

The US sends 1.5 billion dollars in aid to Egypt each year, along with additional grants. Whilst not an inconsiderable sum, it is largely spent on advanced US military wares, thereby funnelled back into the American economy. After the Sadat-Begin peace accords, Egypt became a focal point of stability in the Middle East, a stability that served America’s interests as well as those of Israel and Arabian states.

Some commentators describe US aid to Egypt as a “bribe” to keep peace with Israel. However, the challenges oil-dependent Western nations faced with the pan-Arab and USSR-Arab axis some decades ago caused ripples of greater import to the West. This was an Arab world that Egypt led. Therefore, it would be self-defeating for the US administration to effectively abdicate upon relations with this nation, especially after endowing it with a particularly strong army over some three decades.

With the United Arab Emerites and Saudi Arabia so keen to assist Egypt economically, any attempt at incentivised diplomacy based on the threat of withdrawing aid only serves to antagonise the Egyptian authorities. The cost Saudi Arabia is willing to pay to keep the much-feared Muslim Brotherhood out of governance, must surely signify the great importance of Egypt’s position.

Withdrawing aid may also be harmful to the prospects of the Egyptian people in the long term. Egypt is currently a dependent on foreign aid. 40% of Egyptians are believed to live on less than two dollars a day, with around half of those living on less than one dollar every day. Critical wheat stocks are also reported to be running out. Egypt’s employment rate is no more than 32.5%, a rather shocking statistic for a nation so central to the region.

There is no question that Egypt is important to the US/EU. However, their diplomatic strategies are rapidly contributing to the loss of any sway they once had on the State. Regardless of the legitimacy of the crackdown, the West’s ability to soften Egyptian reaction to these protests has been a total failure.

Yet the US/EU pushes on blindly. It would appear that the West has inadvertently begun a process of turning a vital prospective ally into a potential foe of considerable significance. Even without a strong hand to play, diplomacy would go much further for both the West and the people of Egypt, if it was used to engage the Egyptian authorities sensitively and judiciously. However, leading Western bodies have contented themselves with playing the role of self-righteous ideologue, heckling at the sidelines.

Also published at Crethi Plethi.

Thursday 15 August 2013

The United Nations and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People

Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People,
 a meeting on the 30/7/13 - photo JC McIlwaine

Recently a United Nations entity, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP), awarded official UN accreditation to an NGO called the Perdana Global Peace Foundation. The NGO is led by its founder, Mahathir Mohamad, a former Malaysian prime-minister known for his overtly anti-Semitic views. CEIRPP Chairman Abdu Salam Diallo wished to “thank him and congratulate him for everything he has done in his political career and for the Palestinian people”.

In 2003 Mahathir Mohamad became rather infamous for his anti-Semitic views, after he attacked Israel and the Jewish People in an Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) speech, which was criticised internationally. He stated:
…today the Jews rule the world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them… They invented socialism, communism, human rights and democracy, so that persecuting them would appear to be wrong, so that they can enjoy equal rights with others.
His OIC speech is one of numerous examples through the years. At an al Quds pro-Palestinian rally in 2010 Mohamad effectively justified the Holocaust:
Jews had always been a problem in European countries. They had been confined in ghettos and periodically massacred… Even after their massacre by the Nazis in Germany, they survived to be a source of even greater problems to the world.
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, wearing a keffiyeh scarf in support of the Palestinian cause.

Media slippage

Unfortunately the media rarely challenge the CEIRPP’s activities. Slanted coverage of the Mohamad story by the Times of Israel gives credence to the CEIRPP’s claim that they seek a lasting two-state solution:
The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, whose objective is “two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side within secure and recognized borders,”…
The assertion is presented as fact, which is only countered by the quoted opinions of others, without the citation of opposing factual claims. However, it is quite evident that the CEIRPP seeks the nullification of Israel’s Jewish status by proposed demographic methods. To quote an annex of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 35/169:
69. The second phase deals with the return to their homes of the Palestinians displaced between 1948 and 1967. The Committee recommends that:
(a) While the first phase is being implemented, the United Nations in co-operation with the States directly involved, and the Palestine Liberation Organization as the interim representative of the Palestinian entity, should proceed to make the necessary arrangements to enable Palestinians displaced between 1948 and 1967 to exercise their right to return to their homes and property…
Thus, if there is any truth to the CEIRPP’s assertions, the only two-state solution they advocate would be two Palestine’s, where one is Israel in name only, its populace subsumed by Muslim-Arab migration. Such a stance has long been advocated by Arab-Palestinian leaders, and many groups hostile to Israel.

The CEIRPP has for many years organised conferences devoted to Israeli occupation “from 1948 onward” — 1948 being the very point of Israel’s creation. Clearly they do not recognise Israel’s right to exist in any meaningful sense.

An instrument of the UN’s belligerence against Israel

The United Nation’s decades-long animosity toward Israel has become the stuff of legend. Indeed, Kofi Annan admitted in 2006:
On one side, supporters of Israel feel that it is harshly judged by standards that are not applied to its enemies, and too often this is true, particularly in some UN bodies.
Unfortunately such admissions have done nothing to alter the UN’s prejudicial policy toward Israel, a cruel irony given the fact that the UN’s creation was given some impetus as a consequence of the Holocaust.

There are numerous examples of direct and indirect UN agency involvement in Israel’s demonisation, e.g. in 2012 Palestinian Media Watch discovered that a UN funded Arab-Palestinian community centre was putting on a puppet show in Jerusalem that suggested children shouldn’t smoke cigarettes. Instead they should clutch machine guns to kill Jews.

The UN’s Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) is a principle source of anti-Israel NGO funding, although for the most part the organisation has not issued details of its funding network publicly.

An ADL report in 2009 noted that substantial annual funds allocated to the CEIRPP by the UN have enabled it to become “a primary vehicle for Israeli demonization” and represents “the only committee in the UN devoted to a speciļ¬c people.”

The CEIRPP is a central element of the UN’s policy toward Israel. Its unique status, dedicated to a specific people is redolent of the UNHRC’s permanent anti-Israel agenda at its meetings, treatment that is not afforded to other states. UNRWA is the only UN refugee agency dedicated to a specific people, the Palestinians. In contrast to UNHCR, the general UN refugee agency, UNRWA has been shown to systematically radicalise those in its care, perpetuating their refugee status instead of resolving it through integration and resettlement.

There are eleven primary committees that serve the United Nations General Assembly. The CEIRPP is one of these eleven, oddly placed among other committees performing very generalised roles within the UN or dealing with generalised subject areas, such as outer space and atomic energy. There is a separate category of seven explicitly specific “ad-hoc” committees, of which the UNRWA is one. Again it is the only entity of this group dedicated to a specific people. Finally there are four “special” and three “advisory” committees, where again only one is dedicated to a specific people, the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories (SCIIHRP)!

Of the other working groups assisting the UN General Assembly, only one is specific to a distinct group of people, the Working Group on the Finance of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Another UN entity, the Division for Palestinian Rights (DPR), has a quasi-symbiotic role in assisting the CEIRPP with its many international conferences and reports. In 2005 Anne Patterson, Deputy US Representative to the UN, stated:
The U.S. seeks the abolition of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian and of the Division of Palestinian Rights because both are inimical to the aim of ensuring that UN monies are directed to our highest priorities and in achieving a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict… The United States strongly opposes the use of scarce UN resources to support the biased and one-sided political activities carried out by the Committee.

Defamation under the dovish guise of peace

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People has been a core international component of Israel’s demonisation since 1975. Fittingly, it was created when the United Nations Arab and Islamic blocs managed passage of General Assembly Resolution 3379, an infamous text that declared Zionism to be “a form of racism and racial discrimination.”

UN Resolution 3379 was repealed in 1991 but the CEIRPP succeeded in reintroducing the same meme that self-determination of the Jewish People equals racism, at the equally infamous United Nations 2001 Durban “anti-racism” Conference. Durban I is seen by many as a crucial catalytic event that has greatly advanced Israel’s demonisation.

The CEIRPP would continue to spread this message with a succession of major conferences through the first decade of the New Millennium. One of their conferences in Paris became the international platform for launching the BDS Movement which aims to destroy Israel.

The CEIRPP’s concerns about racism can be viewed with genuine scepticism, not only because the organisation is a driving force at anti-Semitic events. Its commitment to prejudice against Arabs, of which the Palestinians are comprised, can also be questioned because Mahathir Mohamad’s statements about Arab stupidity were of little concern to them.

The Committee’s successes are notable. In 2007, the CEIRPP hosted a conference at the European Parliament in Brussels. The event was called “International Conference of Civil Society in Support of Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” The title is yet another example of Orwellian propaganda since speakers uniformly demonised the Jewish State.

A number of European Parliamentary members aptly described the CEIRPP’s corrosive influence:
Despite the neutrally sounding title of its conference, CEIRPP has a proven record of anti-Israel bias, spreading propaganda that presents only the Palestinian narrative, including the delegitimization of Israel — a UN member state. The CEIRPP casts a shadow on the UN role in the Middle East conflict and is first and foremost harmful to the UN.
Similarly, in 2011 the CEIRPP was an important tool in galvanising support for a unilateral bid for Palestinian statehood at the UN, a move which went against the spirit of a negotiated peace as enshrined in the Oslo Accords.

In 2012 the Simon Wiesenthal Centre sought to bring the CEIRPP’s activities to the attention of Ban Ki-moon, the United Nation’s Secretary General, in the aftermath of a CEIRPP sponsored UNESCO meeting in Paris. The Centre requested an investigation into the Committee’s activities, deeming them to be in violation of the principles of the UN Charter, and a threat to world peace.

Also published at Crethi Plethi.