A leading voice on terrorism in the Middle East called for the United States to suspend weapons sales to Egypt until the Egyptian government shows significant progress in transitioning the country to a democracy.
During an exclusive Newsmax interview, Walid Phares, author of "The Coming Revolution," said while the original agreement to sell F-16 fighter jets was made under former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the country’s instability and the fact that there’s no reliable way to tell how the new Muslim Brotherhood government under Mohammed Morsi will use those weapons, poses a big potential threat.
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“Although the agreement was done under the Mubarak regime, things have changed and the opposition in Egypt is advising the Obama administration to stop sending weapons until the Morsi regime changes course,” Phares told Newsmax TV.
“There is peace with Israel and you cannot use the weaponry against your own people. So it is advisable for now for the U.S. to freeze sending weapons.”
Speaking on the likelihood of the region’s unrest spreading, Phares is predicting the initial Muslim Brotherhood movements that began in Tunisia and Libya will be followed by a second wave in Egypt, spreading to Tunisia, Libya and eventually in Syria.
Phares, who advised Mitt Romney on foreign affairs during last year’s presidential campaign, said Egypt’s youth movement is joining with other forces dissatisfied with plans by the Morsi regime and others to create an Islamist state. He predicts the opposition will remain fierce, forcing an escalation in the conflict until there’s a clear winner.
“The current demonstrations are a second wave of the Arab Spring in Egypt. Unfortunately, President Morsi is not making enough concessions to create a pluralist state where all political parties and communities are involved,” Phares said. “I do project that this crisis will be stretching until there is a chance — until Mr. Morsi either accepts change or resigns.”
Turning to Syria, Phares, a Newsmax contributor, believes the best chance for the Obama administration to force change was back in 2011 when the United States still had a major military presence in Iraq, which was stopping the flow of aid to Syria from Iran.
“We had the Turks, Jordanians and other members of the international community ready to move with us and we missed that opportunity. With the presidential elections in 2012, it was impossible to wage a significant peace campaign in the Middle East. In 2013, the Obama administration really needs to strategically change direction with regard to whom we partner inside Syria because Jihadists and al-Qaida are making progress,” he said. “We cannot just support the opposition and end up with an Islamist state.”
He believes the French and African countries who supported France’s moves to assist the Mali government were right to take those steps. However, he believes the U.S. should be firm in allying itself with an African country and moderate Arab allies to ensure that al-Qaida’s foothold eventually reverses.
Phares also believes Iran may now find it harder to combine with allies in the region to strike against Israel.
“The Iranian regime and their allies in the region, including Hezbollah and also some factions inside Iraq in addition to Hamas, have been preparing for confrontations with Israel for many years. Every time they find an opportunity, they do so. But that could be counter productive for this alliance, because the people in the region are not as eager as they were before to support Iran in its adventures in the region,” he said.
“Even the Arabs of the Gulf are not very hot for Iranian intervention against Israel.”
Phares also sees ample evidence to suggest that Egypt is no longer aligned with the United States in the war on terror.
“We’ve heard [Morsi] a few weeks ago blocking, opposing and criticizing the French, which are backed by the United States, in their move in Mali against al-Qaida. So the question now is how can this regime be with the United States against al-Qaida when it criticizes France — an ally of the United States — and many African countries with whom we have relationships that are fighting for their own security and international security?” Phares asked.
“The question is really what is the position of the Morsi regime with respect to our fight against al-Quaida.”
Israel officials have told Newsmax that 2013 is the “end game” for Iran and its nuclear weapons program. Phares believes that before a strike occurs, Israel will be forced to carefully consider potential consequences.
“This is a decision that only the Israelis will have to consider and make. They will have to consider their relationship with the United States and at what stage are the Iranians preparing their missiles to strike back if they are attacked."
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