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Egypt Unrest -- Will Obama Manage to Avoid Jimmy Carter's Middle East Mistakes?

When Jimmy Carter became the president of the United States in 1977, it did not take long for our adversaries to realize that his foreign policies were weak. This created the opportunity for budding Islamists and the Soviet Union to take advantage and change the world in ways that still impact our national security and interests in the Middle East.

Leftist, Marxists, Nationalists and Islamists united to initiate an uprising in Iran, a country that had been the best ally to America for over three decades, which provided stability in one the most important regions of the world, the Persian Gulf. Iran was filled with American goods; American companies were involved in projects helping Iran transform itself into a modern country.

However that ended in 1979 with the Iranian Revolution, which was backed by Carter, who called Ayatollah Khomeini a Gandhi like figure and a man of God. Promoting human rights, President Carter’s representatives held meetings with Khomeini in France and were reassured by Khomeini and the many moderate figures who supported him.

Shortly after the Revolution in Iran, which was founded on the basis of freedom and democracy for all, the moderates and their leaders were either sidelined through threat or execution along with tens of thousands of the leftist, Marxists and nationalists. Khomeini called America the Great Satan leading to the American Embassy take over and cutting off relations with the U.S. Iranians were subjected to the strict Sharia laws destroying any hope for freedom and democracy.

This was the beginning of the vicious cycle of radical Islam and Jihadism in the Middle East. Hezbollah was formed with the purpose of driving Israel and the U.S. out of Lebanon and expanding the Iranian influence in the region. Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and many other terrorist groups were the beneficiaries of the Iranian agenda in its terrorist activities against Israel, America and its allies.
The consequence of Carter’s failure to understand the realities of the Middle East has had us engaged in confrontations with Islamic forces for more than thirty years.

The similarities between President Carter and President Obama are many. President Obama started his presidency by showing a different America to the Islamists thinking that it must have been America’s fault for the animosity of the radicals.

Once again our adversaries see a weakness in America’s foreign policies and are moving aggressively to advance their agenda of changing the Middle East to one of Islamic rule.

President Obama, who ignored the demonstrations of millions of Iranians against their barbaric regime, continues on with his mistaken policy of negotiation and appeasement of the Iranian leaders. In doing so, he underscores his reputation of being weak, unwilling to take any serious measures, and unable to understand the true nature of the radicals ruling Iran.

What is happening today in Egypt is the direct result of an understanding by the radical Islamists that the U.S. is too weak and confused to take any action. Senior Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami, during a recent Friday prayer service in Tehran, proclaimed that, “To those [Western leaders] who do not see the realities, I clarify that an Islamic Middle East is being created based on Islam, religion, and democracy with prevailing religious principles.” Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, further emphasized, calling the Egyptian uprising an “Islamic Awakening” in the region and that it represented an “irreversible defeat” for the United States.

Ever since the Revolution, it has been Iran’s strategy to expand their Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East by overthrowing U.S.-backed governments. They’ve succeeded in their control of Lebanon using Hezbollah and they control events in Iraq through various groups, intimidation, and bribes.

Iranian leaders also have close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood advocating an alliance between Shiite and Sunnis to confront their common enemies — Israel and the U.S. The Muslim Brotherhood supported Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution and have maintained close ties ever since. They’ve benefited financially from the Iranians and participated in a common goal to overthrow Mubarak’s regime. In recent remarks, a senior member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Kamal al-Halbavi, praised Iran’s Supreme leader for his support of the revolution in Egypt and expressed hope that Egypt would have “a good government, like the Iranian government, and a good president like Mr. Ahmadinejad, who is very brave.”

The Iranian connections to Islamic radicals in Egypt are not limited to the Muslim Brotherhood. They expand to militant groups, Gama’at Islamiya (Egyptian Islamist movement) and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad run by Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s second in command. The Iranians also benefit from their relationship with Mohammad El Baradi, the former IAEA director, who for years purposefully delayed any strong reaction to the Iranian nuclear program. El Baradi now portrays himself as one of the leaders of the opposition in Egypt who are demanding the resignation of Mubarak. He is promoting free elections be returned to Egypt and is running for the presidency with the support of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Iranians. In October of 2009, in a meeting with the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, El Baradi called Israel the “number one threat to the Middle East” because of its nuclear capabilities.

It is reported that the Obama administration removed the U.S. ban on the Muslim Brotherhood leader, Tariq Ramadan, in an effort to open a dialog, clearly not understanding that the events in Egypt today could be another catalyst for the radical Islamists to further threaten the free world in ways similar to the Iranian Revolution thirty years ago.

The question remains: Has Obama learned from Jimmy Carter’s mistakes or will we witness the expansion of jihadists and the fall of other U.S. allies in the region?

Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who requires anonymity for safety reason. “A Time to Betray,” his book about his double life as a CIA agent in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, was published by Simon & Schuster in April.