Author Walid Phares was on the Clay and Marty radio show discussing the book The Lost Spring. He argued: “The U.S. was not prepared to project the Arab Spring and did not take the appropriate actions to partner with the right democratic forces in the region.”
Listen to Part 1 and Part 2
Tuesday, 25 Mar 2014 03:51 PM
By Lisa Barron
U.S. policymakers were wrong in the way they dealt with the Arab Spring and the events that preceded it, says American scholar Walid Phares, an expert on the Middle East and global terrorism.
“First of all, before the Arab Spring, all the waves that indicated that an Arab Spring is about to happen, we mishandled them. In June of 2009, at a time when 1.5 to 2 million Iranians, 60 percent of whom were under the age of 20 … were demonstrating in Iran against the regime … the president made a statement whereby the regime in Iran understood that we would not stand by the Iranian people. We lost a huge opportunity to bring down, to change that regime,” he told Newsmax TV’s John Bachman and J.D. Hayworth on “America’s Forum” Tuesday.
“And imagine, that would have basically created a win for half the war on terror. Then, when the Arab Spring began, the first wave was remarkable — youth, women, minorities in Egypt, Indonesia and Syria … but instead of giving visibility to the seculars and reformers, we began partnering up with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Ennahda in Tunisia, and Salafi militias in Libya, one of which attacked us on September of 2012. So all of these grave mistakes have led to cataclysmic changes in the Middle East.”
Phares’s latest book is “The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid.” He argued that while Obama may have appeared to be advocating change in the Arab world in his June 2009 speech in Cairo, it was more form than substance.
“The American president was addressing an audience in Egypt, but the substance was different. The substance was addressed to the Muslim Brotherhood at the time. Yes, the administration was saying we need to change, but the forces of change were not the democratic ones. We were looking at partnering with the Muslim Brotherhood, their delegations were in Washington, they were paraded in many cities in the West. We ignored completely the real forces of change, of democracy, those who actually did the Arab Spring and those who again came back on the streets of Cairo on June 30, 2013,” Phares said.
“Thirty-three million Egyptians rose not just against Mubarak but again against Morsi, and this is telling us that civil societies in the region do want what we want, but our policy is not connecting with them, it’s connecting, in this case, with the brotherhood in northern Africa.”
He maintained that the United States is making a similar mistake in its approach to Iran.
“There is a hope in Washington, at least political Washington, that the ayatollahs are going to reform. So we are cutting deals with them, and we are unfreezing money and sending billions of dollars to them. These are mistakes that need to be addressed and changed,” he said.
As for what’s happening in Egypt now in light of a court on Monday sentencing to death more than 500 supporters of the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood, Phares said the Morsi regime had been turning Egypt into an Islamic state, contrary to what the protesters in Tahrir Square fought for.
“The Morsi regime has armed a militia, and the militia, even after the fall of his regime, is still fighting. Fighting the army, fighting the police, fighting the judges, and also trying to destabilize the country. Now, many of these militia have been arrested by the government of Egypt, and these trials basically are going to be long trials. Definitely these sentences, these death sentences will be dealt with at the appeal level. This is just the process of an interim government trying to struggle to get to the other side of stability,” he explained.
“There will be elections in Egypt for a president, for the parliament, and I would say the parliamentary elections would be more important because it’s going to create, to give Egypt an opportunity to have a Congress-like institution where they can do debate, open debate. At least that’s the path that we are seeing for now.”
Asked what needs to be done now to see a change for the better in the Middle East, the Lebanese-born Phares responded, “We need to do a lot of things, and a change of direction in Washington has to take place first, as we all know.
“Second, in Syria, we need to find the right partner on the ground. Assad is linked to Iran, part of the opposition is al-Qaida, and we need to find that third party, and it exists. Those demonstrators who began the opposition in Syria, where are they? Who’s in charge of them? We need to connect with them. There are minorities in Syria that we need to work with.”
He continued, “In Iran, we need to send the money actually to the Iranian opposition. We need to organize them. They are very strong. The youngest in Iran are ready to move. In Egypt, in Libya, and Tunisia, we need to side with civil society, not with the Islamists and not with the authoritarian regime.”
Watch the interview at the Newsmax site.
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|Walid Phares, a Middle East and terrorism expert, and Fox News commentator, talks about his new book at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. (Photo/David A. Schwartz / March 24, 2014)
Author criticizes U.S. response to Arab Spring
By David A. Schwartz, Staff Writer
3:48 p.m. EDT, March 24, 2014
In his new book “The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid,” Walid Phares, a Middle East and terrorism expert, and Fox News commentator, takes the United States to task for not seeing the rise of civil societies that was evident as early as 2009.
Phares also criticizes the U.S. for intervening too late and siding not with the revolutionaries but with the new authoritarian powers.
The result, he says, was the Arab Spring becoming the “Islamist Winter.”
The Jewish Journal sat down with Phares last week after he spoke at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Jewish Journal: Why do you blame the Obama administration for what you call the failure of U.S. policy in the Middle East?
Walid Phares: It’s not just about the Obama Administration. It’s also about the Bush bureaucracy. My cause to partner with moderate, democratic, civil society forces in the Middle East has been there since at least 2004.
But with the Obama Administration, something has changed. [Advisers] felt that, and with good intentions, if we partner with already organized forces on the ground, and cut then cut a deal with them, we can bring the region to stability and after stability, we can move later on, on democracy.
Dialogue, but partner with the democrats. Unfortunately, what was happening was we were partnering with the Islamists and not dialoguing with the secular liberals. They did not buy that there is a social force in the Arab world that they could actually partner with.
[In Iran, Obama] was advised not to make a speech and push the youth to revolt and crumble the regime because his advisers told him it’s not going to work. When he said ‘We don’t want to meddle,’ then the regime crushed them.
Now, the good news is those youth are still around. So there is another spring coming. The cycle will be back.
JJ: What do you think of the recent “deal” with Iran?
WP: The deal said the Iranians would lower the production of uranium and they’ll start to get cash from their frozen money. The Iranians are getting that cash. They’re reusing it to support their people in the Middle East. And they are investing it here in America with companies and PR and media so that they would say that the deal is working. The deal is not working. I’m very concerned about that.
I think now we are in a much more dangerous situation than ever before because Iran got much stronger. Iran is still developing its missile fleet. We in America, in the west, have been focusing on the production of the nuclear bomb in Iran.
The Iranians, that’s my view, are not going very fast in the production of the nuclear bomb because if they produce one, it’s going to be hit. So what is it that they’re doing? They’re going very slow in the production and meanwhile, they’re developing all the defenses around that bomb — long-range missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, more bases outside Iran — in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in Eritrea, in eastern Arabia.
So what the Iranians are doing is like Israel has this dome, they’re creating a dome over Iraq. And once the dome is solid and they know that it’s going to be costly for us, then we are going to be surprised. Like China, like India, like Pakistan.
JJ: Could Israel and the United States take out Iran’s nuclear arsenal?
WP: Combined, from the air. Of course, they could take it out. But they cannot reverse it forever. If you don’t bring down the regime, the regime will be back in.
The Israelis may strike if they feel the red line has been crossed. That’s they’re own clock.
But for the international community and the United States, I would have recommended a strong support of a position that showed the youth, the younger people in the country that are against the regime.
We were so close in June of ’09 [when there were mass protests of Iran's presidential election results]. We would have won half of the war on terror by Iran. Imagine just Iran going down. You would have Iraq changing. Assad go down. Hezbollah gone. Peace between Israel and every country around it. And Hamas gone. With one mistake we’re done in June ’09.
JJ: What is the likelihood of a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis?
WP: I don’t see it happening. The PA is afraid of Hamas. That’s the secret why Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas], the president of the Palestinian Authority, [is] not making those concessions and moving closer than those strong statements. I don’t think he really believes that being tough is the solution. He’s afraid of Hamas.
Now, Israel and Netanyahu [are] not going to accept the concession to a tough Palestinian position. They are deadlocked. But both could reach a solution if the generators of radicalism, Hamas, would be disarmed.
Now, something may happen to change everything. Egypt may be the one to pressure new forces in Gaza to rise against Hamas.
Mark my words. Nine months, a year from now, you’re going to see Palestinian moderates starting to rise against Hamas, backed by this whole group of moderates — Egypt, Saudi [Arabia].
And I’m not surprised to learn that in the Sinai there is a discrete cooperation between Egypt, Israel, the Saudis and the other Arabs. So that has changed. All because of Iran and their frustration with us.
“The Lost Spring: U.S. Policy in the Middle East and Catastrophes to Avoid” by Walid Phares is published by Palgrave Macmillan.
Copyright © 2014, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
See it on the list here.
You can view a one-minute interview with Walid Phares as a prelude to the discussion of the Lost Spring: “The good and bad news of the Arab Spring”
A prelude to C-Span discussion of the Lost Spring: “The good and bad news of the Arab Spring” can be viewed here.