By Seth Mandel
The fact that the latest installment of WikiLeaks coincided with the Egyptian parliamentary elections is unfortunate timing for the U.S. It provides an unflattering portrait of a White House that sides with Islamists both in and out of power around the world.
Though it was to be expected — in the spirit of “free and fair” elections — that the White House would say it was “disappointed” that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak shut out the Muslim Brotherhood from the electoral process, how will President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton explain their purposeful strengthening of ties with other Islamists who fund terrorism and undermine U.S. policy in the Middle East and Southeast Asia?
Take, for example, the Obama administration’s infusion of goodwill into our relationship with Turkey. Here is how EurasiaNet reported Secretary Clinton’s visit to Turkey early on in the administration:
Combining statecraft with stagecraft, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appears to have turned around US-Turkish relations. For most of the Bush administration’s tenure, Washington had a strained relationship with Ankara, but Clinton’s first visit to Turkey as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state has Turkish officials feeling more optimistic about the future of bilateral relations.
Obama followed up a month later in an address to the Turkish parliament that local media called “historic.” In that speech, Obama called for Turkey’s accession to the EU.
Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports Turkey’s bid to become a member of the European Union,” the president said, adding that “Turkish membership would broaden and strengthen Europe’s foundation once more.
And more recently, Turkey was publicly assured that the White House would oppose any resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide. The administration continued to reaffirm the friendship between the two countries even in the face of Turkey’s involvement in the terror flotilla and the country’s blocking of increased sanctions on Iran.
All along, the administration could attribute these actions to the pitfalls of multilateral diplomacy and not a deliberate ideological pursuit on the part of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoÄŸan to usher in a new age of Islamist regional power. Until now.
Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know that American diplomats were well aware of the direction ErdoÄŸan intended to take his country. GlobalPost quotes one leaked cable offering a pretty clear assessment: “Does all this mean that the country is becoming more focused on the Islamist world and its Muslim tradition in its foreign policy? Absolutely.”
“Shrugging off diplomatic-speak, American diplomats describe Turkish Prime Minister Teyyip Erdogan as an outspoken Islamist and ‘perfectionist workaholic’ who may be seeking the creation of an Islamic state,” GlobalPost’s Iason Athanasiadis reports.
And what of Turkey’s claims that part of its value to the West lies in its ability to act as a productive intermediary between the U.S. and Iran? Nonsense, as American diplomats found out. Athanasiadis once more:
Reports allege that, contrary to their claims, Turkish politicians cannot [e]ffect changes in Iranian attitudes and that their country is being used as a transit zone to smuggle dual-use materials into Iran for its controversial nuclear program.
It would be one thing if our support for the Turkish Islamists were only verbal. But that’s not the case. We are prepared to sell the Turks the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. According to Michael Rubin, this decision was made “without even reviewing the potential for technology transfer.” He added that Obama was also considering putting an early-warning missile radar — intended mainly as protection from Iranian missiles — in Turkey.
And ErdoÄŸan is not an isolated case. His network of Islamists includes Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim, former deputy prime minister and current leader of the opposition. Ibrahim is currently on trial for what his supporters say are trumped-up charges of sodomy, and his powerful friends in the U.S., such as Al Gore and Paul Wolfowitz, have stridently defended him as a persecuted moderate Muslim who should serve as an example of the kind of Islam the U.S. has been — and should be — promoting. Hillary Clinton, in her role as secretary of state, requested a face-to-face meeting with Anwar last month, and when it didn’t happen, she pressed the Malaysian leadership privately and publicly on Anwar’s behalf.
But Anwar is also an anti-Semite, complaining of Zionist infiltration of state agencies and Israeli proxy control of police units. And Anwar is a co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, a Muslim Brotherhood think-tank in Virginia that has called for violence against Israel and has been under investigation by the FBI for the better part of a decade for its ties to terrorist organizations.
Anwar also helped finance oil projects for Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi, who is the leader of the National Islamic Front, a partner organization to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turabi calls Anwar a “fellow-student of his.” Anwar also serves on the board of the Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG). ABG’s chairman is Shaikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel, who, in the wake of 9/11, was sued for having “lent material support to Al Qaeda and OBL (Osama bin Laden), aided and abetted others who lent material support to Al Qaeda and OBL, and otherwise engaged in racketeering activity in violation of the law,” according to the complaint.
So perhaps we can give Obama the benefit of the doubt that he is not really “disappointed” that the Muslim Brotherhood lost influence in Egypt. But we should also note that such benefit of the doubt is getting to be increasingly generous, for the president’s record of supporting Islamists is consistent and troublesome, to say the least.
Seth Mandel is a freelance foreign affairs writer based in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @SethAMandel