America’s failure in Egypt and Syria is a failure of Western intelligence
Abdul Bari Atwan – 3 September 2012
The widespread impression in the Arab world, and most of the Third World, is that Western intelligence agencies, America’s in particular, know everything about our countries, and pull all the strings. This is not so; quite the opposite, in fact.
There is no doubt that Western technology leads the way in espionage. There are also leading research centres with the best academic minds at work, along with ministers working with the agencies. Nevertheless, despite such capabilities, they have failed miserably in understanding the developments in the Middle East. The psychology, religious nature and patriotism of the Arabs are all too complicated for Western intelligence to comprehend. Gathering information is one thing but analysing it and reaching the right conclusions is another thing altogether.
Dozens of non-governmental organisations funded by outside parties have headquarters in Egypt and issue weekly or monthly studies and reports on the latest developments through research centres and “think tanks”. They are supported by the largest US embassy in the region, but still didn’t predict the revolution or the result.
Washington has invested about $36 billion over the past thirty years to equip the Egyptian army, just as it invested a lot of effort in developing close relations with senior officers only to see Dr. Mohamed Morsi come from nowhere to become president. The Americans have had to watch helplessly as he turned the tables on everyone, including army chief Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi and arguably America’s closest friend in Egypt, Chief of Staff Sami Annan.
The impression in Washington was that Tantawi was the real leader of Egypt, and that President Morsi was merely an employee providing a civilian public face to a military regime. Morsi had other ideas, and showed that no power is greater than that of the people, and no authority is higher than that of the ballot box.
The Camp David Accords are a sacred to the US; no one dares to touch or even talk about amending the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, despite the security agreements being offensive to the Egyptians, demeaning their national sovereignty and humiliating them. And yet we now see Eyptian tanks returning to the Sinai Peninsula without consultation with the Israeli “partner”.
National will is stronger than all agreements, especially those that have been imposed on weak, submissive and spineless leaders, as Camp David undoubtedly was. This will is the most capable of breaking the limitations set by oppression and slavery, one after the other; evidence for this is seen by the arrogant Israeli leadership begging Egypt to withdraw its tanks and planes from the Sinai.
In another example of Western intelligence failure, the fall of Syria was predicted to take place within days. Eighteen months down the line and the conflict has turned into a brutal civil war, with tens of thousands of innocent civilians killed and wounded, and hundreds of thousands fleeing to miserable refugee camps in neighbouring countries.
Did Western intelligence expect the flow of hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of supporters of radical Islamic groups to Syria, for example, to fight the Assad regime using weapons bought with money from Washington’s allies? Was it foreseen that those fighters would change the power equation on the ground, not only in Syria, but probably in the Middle East as a whole?
This week, the US administration issued a stern warning to its citizens not to visit Libya, for fear of being killed or kidnapped, or both, due to the chronic insecurity and rampant criminality, and the increasing influence of armed militias. Did the expensive research centres and think tanks expect this result when they recommended NATO intervention, or did they want anarchy to spread in Libya and beyond?
America and other Western countries are imposing a vicious economic and political blockade on Iran, which is supposed to isolate it internationally and force it to kneel before the US begging for forgiveness. Despite this, the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement has been held in Tehran, attended by delegates from a hundred countries, including thirty presidents, eight of whom are Arabs, with at least two from the Gulf states, if not more.
President Morsi, who was confidently expected to bow before the Americans to feed his ninety million citizens, went to China before America and stopped in Tehran for the summit on his way back to Egypt. He has avoided Tel Aviv, the more usual key port of call to obtain US aid.
The Arab world is rebelling against all forms of US hegemony because the people are regaining their national will and self-respect. This is clearly too much for all the research centres and intelligence agencies to comprehend, despite their experts and the latest technology at their disposal.
America will not be a friend to the Arabs no matter how much sweet talking takes place, especially with regards to democracy and human rights. Washington does not want genuine democracy in the Middle East; it wants the Arabs to hand over their wealth cheaply and be loyal and obedient to the state of Israel. For most of us, this is absolutely unacceptable.
The Middle East is changing, but America and the West never changes. That is why, in the long run, we will be successful and Western countries will lose out, but their “intelligence” agencies just can’t see it.
The author is editor in chief of al Quds Al Arabi. This is a translation by the Middle East Monitor from the Arabic published on 28 August 2012.