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Back to the Future for US Policy In Egypt and Syria

The Obama administration gives priority to containing Islamic extremism, not promoting democracy, in the Middle East.
U.S. President Barack Obama sits next to Qatar Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thaniat (not pictured) as he speaks in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 23, 2013.      REUTERS/Larry Downing  (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS) - RTXYXDL

For much of the past two years, no common thread seemed to run through developments in Egypt and Syria. The United States and its international allies could follow one set of policies to contend with a crumbling Islamist democracy on the banks of the Nile and quite another to manage a brutal sectarian war tearing through the Levant. The coup in Egypt has changed all that.

The overthrow of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has laid bare the truth hiding in plain sight — the struggle in the Middle East is no longer between dictatorship and democracy, but Islamism (especially Islamic extremism) and its detractors. If the international response to developments is Egypt is any indication, the United States and Europe have made the same realization and are inching their way toward a new, albeit unspoken strategy for the Middle East that is no longer rooted in being on the right side of history by promoting democracy, but in containing Islamism.

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