Rumsfeld to Newsmax: Obama's Botched Handling of Egyptian Crisis Threatens Region

Thursday, 15 Aug 2013 06:08 AM

By Cathy Burke and Kathleen Walter

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Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Newsmax Wednesday the Obama administration's botched handling of the situation in Egypt has now jeopardized the ability of the Egyptian military to keep order in the strife-torn nation.

As a result, the most populous country in the Middle East is now at risk of a civil war that could plunge the entire region into turmoil.

"The new secretary of state, Mr. Kerry, has been dealt a difficult hand," Rumsfeld, who served under Presidents Ford and George W. Bush, told Newsmax in an exclusive interview. He said the way the situation in the country has been handled by the Obama administration and, earlier, by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "it seems to me was not terribly skillful."

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On Thursday, security forces struggled to clamp a lid on Egypt after hundreds of people were killed when authorities forcibly broke up camps of supporters protesting the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, in the worst nationwide bloodshed in decades.

Islamists clashed with police and troops who used bulldozers, teargas, and live fire on Wednesday to clear out two Cairo sit-ins that had become a hub of Muslim Brotherhood resistance to the military after it deposed Morsi on July 3.

The clashes spread quickly, and a health ministry official said about 400 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured in fighting in Cairo, Alexandria, and numerous towns and cities around the mostly Muslim nation of 84 million.

Rumsfeld said the administration misread the effect of early elections that voted in Morsi as president.

"The Muslim Brotherhood … is not secular as someone in the Obama administration has suggested, the director of national intelligence; it's not secular," Rumsfeld said. "It's Islamic and because they're the best organized and the toughest and the most ruthless, they won the election and control of the parliament and the effect has been that they've tried to impose a rule over the Egyptian people which is not what the people who have demonstrated in Tahrir Square wanted."

He also decried the deadly situation the Egyptian military must now manage, jeopardizing its "critical relationship" with the United States and its ability to remain an "anchor of stability in the country and in the region."

"The military has a tough relationship now to manage this situation because the country's in turmoil," Rumsfeld said. "The people that we've sent there to deal with the problem have not done a particularly skillful job in my view. It's unfortunate."

Still, Rumsfeld said it would be disastrous to cut off aid to a nation teetering on the brink of civil war.

"Egypt is an enormously important country," he said. "We can't determine the outcome there but we can play at the margins, so to speak, and we can be helpful and try to encourage a freer political system and a freer economic system and greater opportunity for the people there. Cutting off aid would be like severing our relationships with them and would be kind of a mindless act."

Rumsfeld said one only has to look at Syria to see what could ultimately happen in Egypt.

"There have been something between 80,000 and 100,000 people dead in Syria in opposition to the Assad regime," he said. "It's conceivable that could happen in Egypt," warning that the United States should not expect Egypt to mirror our own aspirations — and to not tie those aspirations to aid, saying it would be "an unrealistic, juvenile attitude."

Rumsfeld also blasted the Obama administration's head-in-the-sand anti-terrorism strategy, calling relations with terrorists "much more like the Cold War."

"The administration has been uniformly desirous of de-emphasizing the threat from Islamists and suggesting that it is something that they can prevail … with bullets and drone strikes, which is not the case," he said. "This is much more like the Cold War. It's going to last decades, not years, and it's going to take perseverance and persistence on the part of the United States and we have to be realistic. And the administration is not realistic about it. They're unwilling to even identify what the enemy is. They won't even use the word Islamist.

"They don't even acknowledge the fact that there are people being trained in a number of countries to go out and kill innocent men, women, and children who are American. And unless you're willing to do that, you're not likely to prevail over the long term."

Regarding Israel, Rumsfeld said our ally could do nothing but defend its people in the face of continuing threats from Iran.

"If you were an Israeli prime minister or ... you had a country that's very small with a population that's very small and you heard every week what the Iranians say about eradicating and incinerating and eliminating the state of Israel, and then you watch their progress toward a nuclear weapon, I don't see how leadership in that country has any choice other than to defend the people of Israel," he said.

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