by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- While Egypt unravels and a civil war rages in Syria, the United States may be out of options to quell the bloodshed, U.S. analysts said.
Spiraling violence has engulfed Cairo and spread to additional areas nationwide after the recent military takeover of power from the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. Last week saw more than 500 deaths after Egypt's military steamrolled through a pro-Brotherhood protest. On Monday, alleged Islamic extremists attacked two police vehicles in Sinai, killing more than 25 officers and wounding three others.
Islamic militants are also accused of attacking churches nationwide and scapegoating Christians, underscored by the recent killing of a 10-year-old Christian girl in Cairo when she walked home from a bible class.
Despite U.S. President Barack Obama's condemnations, his decision to scrap upcoming joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises and Sunday's announcement to halt economic assistance, analysts said suspending the 1.3 billion dollars in U.S. military aid is unlikely.
Slashing aid would be of little use, as Egypt's military believes it is engaged in a life and death struggle for the soul of the country, analysts said.
"The stakes are just too stark for them to really take into account U.S. preferences here," Jeffrey Martini, a Middle East analyst with policy research group Rand Corp., told Xinhua.
"For the military, they are trying to create a narrative that .. . they're in a fight to protect the state from terrorism," he said.
In addition, U.S. influence on Egypt is waning, as aid has dropped 10-fold from its Cold War high nearly two decades ago, diminishing Washington's clout in the embattled country, Martini said.
"While the U.S. has influence, that influence can be brought to bear on issues that are of marginal importance to the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and the current conflict," he said.
Some experts argue the Gulf states would pick up the slack for any U.S. shortfall in aid, making mounting calls in Washington to pull the plug on Egypt's military seem moot.
The conflict shows no sign of abating, and experts said Muslim Brotherhood activists are ready to die for their cause and unwilling to give up until they achieve their goal of regaining power.
In the United States, critics accuse the Obama administration of engaging in semantic jujitsu by not referring to the ouster of the democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi as a coup, which would by law trigger a suspension of military assistance to strife-torn Egypt.
Supporters of the White House's position said the Muslim Brotherhood undertook a radical religious agenda that would have undermined the country's transition to democracy.
As to Syria, the United States has yet to deliver on its promise to send weapons to Syrian rebels after the White House in June concluded that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government used chemical weapons. Critics said the development underscores claims that Washington is wary of weapons falling into the hands of militants.
Wayne White, former deputy director of the U.S. State Department's Middle East Intelligence Office, said the most effective rebel groups in Syria are Islamic extremists, and in some cases openly affiliated with al-Qaida.
While pundits and politicians have discussed the idea of a NATO- enforced no-fly zone, White, now a scholar at the Middle East Institute, said Syria's air defenses are advanced enough to pose a major risk to NATO aircraft and crews.
Most targets in Syria are deep inland, increasing the exposure of U.S. or allied pilots to anti-aircraft defenses and increasing the possibility of a pilot crashing in hostile territory, he told Xinhua.
Syria's geographic layout stands in sharp contrast to Libya, where a NATO-enforced no-fly zone played a key role in ousting longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The bulk of Libya's population lies along the coast, providing an easier escape route for damaged aircraft to exit the country's airspace, he noted.
Moreover, a no-fly zone would not prevent Syrian ground troops from unleashing lethal attacks with chemical weapons, as the majority of Syria's chemical weapons delivery systems are ground- based, White said.
Also limiting Washington's options is the fact that Americans have no taste for overseas conflicts after a brutal war in Iraq and more than a decade in Afghanistan. While Americans may tolerate a quick-and-clean operation such as Libya, they do not want to get bogged down in a quagmire.
George Friedman, CEO of the global intelligence company Stratfor, contended U.S. intervention would simply amount to another force entering the fray, and would not stop the bloodshed in war-ravaged Syria.
"The United States, with its European allies, does not have the force needed to end Syria's bloodshed," Friedman said in an article on Stratfor's website. "If it tried, it would merely be held responsible for the bloodshed without achieving any strategic goal."
"Many things are beyond the military power of the United States, " Friedman said.
Halting civil war in Syria would mean the use of "overwhelming power," which also leads to overwhelming casualties, he said. "You cannot transform the political culture of a country from the outside unless you are prepared to devastate it as was done with Germany and Japan."