Hoekstra: Mideast 'Ablaze' While US Has 'Little Credibility' in Region

Image: Hoekstra: Mideast 'Ablaze' While US Has 'Little Credibility' in Region

Thursday, 15 Aug 2013 09:33 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra told Newsmax on Thursday that "we have a Middle East that is ablaze" and that the situation reflects "a diminished U.S. influence" in the region.

"It's chaos, and the U.S. and this administration have very, very little — if any — leverage to help resolve the crisis in Egypt," the Michigan Republican told Newsmax amid news reports that as many as 638 people were killed in the country’s deadliest day since the Arab Spring began in 2011.

"We now have chaos throughout Libya, radical jihadists on the doorstep of getting into Western Europe," Hoekstra said. "That was not possible under [Moammar] Gadhafi.

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"You've got a dead American ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, and you've got Egypt ablaze," he added. "You've got total chaos in Syria, and I don't think that's it yet. Who knows what's going to happen in Jordan? Who knows what may happen in Turkey? And you've got chaos in Iraq.

"It's like: 'Wow! What a huge mess we have!' It's been a long time since we've had such little credibility in the Middle East as what we have today," Hoekstra said.

A crackdown by the Egyptian military that began on Wednesday against the mostly Islamic supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi has caused 638 deaths and more than 4,500 injuries throughout Egypt.

President Barack Obama was among the world leaders condemning the bloody crackdown. On Thursday, he canceled joint U.S.-Egyptian military maneuvers.

In Thursday's violence, government buildings were set afire near the pyramids, policemen were gunned down, and scores of Christian churches were attacked. As turmoil engulfed the country, the Interior Ministry authorized the use of deadly force against protesters targeting police and state institutions.

The Muslim Brotherhood, trying to regroup after the assault on their encampments and the arrest of many of their leaders, called for a mass rally on Friday to challenge the government's declaration of a monthlong nationwide state of emergency and a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

The violence marked Egypt's deadliest day since the 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocratic ruler Hosni Mubarak and plunged the country into more than two years of instability.

In the U.S. House of Representatives, Hoekstra served eight terms before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He chaired the Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, and currently serves on the Advisory Board for Lignet.com.

"The actions in Egypt are horrific," Hoekstra told Newsmax. "What appears now is the almost systemic slaughter of Coptic Christians.

"This administration is not speaking out about the slaughter of Christians in Egypt, and this has been going on for almost a year. The Muslim Brotherhood is now blaming Coptic Christians. They're the convenient scapegoat for this.

"The least we should be doing is speaking up for human rights and religious freedom and the protection of the Coptics in Egypt," he added. "There was always some persecution going on, but what's been going on since the brotherhood came into power has been bad.

"They’re running people of the Christian faith out of the country, or they're killing them."

At this point, the bloodshed in Egypt is not about restoring Morsi to power, but it never has been, Hoekstra said.

"It was never about one person. It was never about Mubarak. It was never about Morsi," he said. "This is about the Muslim Brotherhood and the kind of groups and ideology they represent versus the ideology and the kind of governance that people like Mubarak and the Egyptian military represent."

More broadly, however, Hoekstra said the Mideast turmoil reflected a "relatively naïve" foreign policy by the Obama administration.

"They really believed that with a new president and a new administration in Washington that the Middle East and the radical elements would be much more open to discussions with the U.S. and with the moderates in these countries to reach some kind of an accommodation.

"In reality, when the radical jihadists see an opening, they don't see it as an opportunity for accommodation, they see it as an opportunity to push their agenda — and they see weakness.

"We've seen that in Iran," Hoekstra continued. "We see that in Egypt. We've seen that in Libya — and, so what do we have now? All of that makes Israel much more vulnerable.

"You just have a lack of clarity in terms of U.S. message. What is our message?" he asked. "It was about getting rid of Mubarak and having elections. What we found out in Afghanistan and in Iraq is that elections don't give you democracy. Elections don't guarantee stability. They don't guarantee freedom.

"We need to decide what we want and what's important in the Middle East," Hoekstra added. "Is it elections? Is it stability? Security and stability for Israel? We've been all over the map as to what is important to the United States."

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