At the Gatestone Institute, a group of journalists with diverse backgrounds and outlooks reviews world events with a view to American security, with special emphasis on the Middle East. Our focus this week: What does Israel do in the context of a debacle in U.S. foreign policy under the Obama administration? Our conclusion is that Israel’s reasons to strike Iran have multiplied with the emergence of a Muslim Brotherhood threat on its southern border and the possibility of an Egyptian-Iranian rapprochement.The problem is that American foreign policy faces catastrophic failure, or rather a comprehensive set of failures, bearing directly on Israeli security. Not only have sanctions failed to deter Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapons program, but the Islamic Republic has broken out of diplomatic isolation.Turkey, supposedly America’s partner in regional diplomacy, has reached out to Russia and China.And Egypt has reached out to Iran while threatening Israel in the Sinai. China is hosting a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement at which Iran will assume the organization’s three-year rotating chairmanship. Egyptian President Morsi will visit Tehran on Aug. 25 on his way back from the summit.The shift towards a new equilibrium “much less favorable for Israel and more favorable for Iran” was already in progress as we wrote, with the purge of the Egyptian military’s old guard and its replacement by officers allied to the Muslim Brotherhood.If Israel does nothing, it is likely to confront
1) A major Egyptian military presence in the Sinai in contravention of the Camp David treaty. An Egyptian build-up is already in progress.
2) An open alliance between Cairo and the Hamas government in Gaza, allowing Hamas to acquire new offensive capacities. As Amos Harel observed in yesterday’s roundtable of Gatestone analysts, Israel already faces rocket attacks in parts of the country previously considered immune.
3) An alliance between Sunni Muslim Brotherhood elements in Syria and Iranian-sponsored Shi’ite irregulars, and Hizbollah in Lebanon.
Threats to Israel from the Sinai, Gaza, Lebanon and Syrian borders are likely to worsen as the Egyptian rapprochement with Iran proceeds. Iran’s capacity to retaliate against any prospective Israeli strike will be enhanced and may include threats from Egypt.
Egyptian President Morsi’s announcement that he will visit Tehran on Aug. 30 occurs a week after Morsi purged the military leadership. Qatar’s $2 billion loan to Egypt announced the morning of Aug. 12 preceded Morsi’s purge by hours. The Obama administration sought to portray Morsi’s new army chief, General el-Sissi, as an “an ideal compromise between the secular-minded military old guard and Mr. Morsi’s Brotherhood ,” as the Wall Street Journalwrote.People with knowledge of the Egyptian military said Gen. Sissi has a broad reputation within military circles as a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, a rare trait in a military culture inured against Islamism. “Sissi is known inside the military for being a Muslim Brother in the closet,” said Zeinab Abul Magd, a professor at the American University in Cairo and an expert on Egypt’s military.Severe economic distress benefits the Muslim Brotherhood. I wrote in the Asia Times April 11 under the headline “Muslim Brotherhood Chooses Chaos,” that the Brotherhood would use shortages of food and fuel to consolidate its power in the street:The Brotherhood believes that widespread hunger will strengthen its political position, and is probably correct to believe this. As the central government’s corrupt and rickety system of subsidies collapses, local Islamist organizations will take control of food distribution and establish a virtual dictatorship on the streets. American analysts mistook the protestors of Tahrir Square for revolutionaries. The Muslim Brotherhood now reveals itself to be a revolutionary organization on the Leninist or Nazi model.