from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

American Policy and the New Egypt

September 05, 2012

Presidential candidate Mohamed Morsy of the Muslim Brotherhood greets a crowd outside a mosque after attending Friday Prayers in Cairo, June 15, 2012. (Courtesy REUTERS/Steve Crisp)
Blog Post

American policy toward Egypt is the subject of two important articles from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy today.

First, Eric Trager recounts his unhappy interview with Mohamed Morsi in 2010. From it, Trager draws some conclusions:

Morsi cannot be viewed as a typical head of state. He remains a cog within a much larger -- and quite secretive -- organization, and his presidency will likely be a vehicle for advancing the Brotherhood’s organizational goals, rather than a platform through which Morsi comes into his own. This would accord with the man I encountered two years ago: a Muslim Brother first, Mohamed Morsi second. This will create a host of challenges for Washington.

Some of those challenges relate to Egypt’s regional role and its foreign policy. Others relate to how the Brotherhood runs Egypt—and what place in Egypt non-Brotherhood citizens will have, whether they are Copts or are liberals, moderates, or secularists. After all, Morsi’s opponent in the recent presidential election, former general Ahmed Shafik, got 48.27 percent of the vote, demonstrating that there are many Egyptians who do not support transformation of their society to meet Brotherhood goals.

In the second article, the Egyptian intellectual and author Amin Makram Ebeid, pleads for American support of those Egyptians who seek a different, more liberal Egypt. He denounces in the strongest terms what he calls our abandonment of such Egyptians and our cozying up to the Brotherhood:

Today, liberals and religious minorities of Egypt are forced to helplessly face a U.S. administration that is prepared to sell the well-being of peace-hungry minorities such as the Christians, the liberal Muslims and the Baha’is to the Islamists and their oil rich Arabian financiers the well-being of peace-hungry minorities such as the Christians, the liberal Muslims and the Baha’is, all for thirty barrels of oil.

Ebeid’s views are not his alone. When Secretary Clinton visited Egypt in July, she faced a partial boycott by liberals and Copts:

A number of liberal and Christian politicians and public figures have condemned US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Egypt, accusing the United States of harbouring bias towards Egypt’s Islamist parties, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. This has coincided with several popular demonstrations against Clinton’s visit outside the US embassy in Cairo, the presidential palace and the Four Seasons hotel in which Clinton is staying. Liberal parties and movements, including the Free Egyptians party and the Front for Peaceful Change, have participated in the protests against Clinton’s visit.

No doubt the Obama administration would reply to all of these complaints by saying they are a very wrong reading of American policy. That is an inadequate answer, for we have a problem if liberals and moderates and Copts in Egypt believe they are getting no support from Washington. They, and not the Brotherhood, stand for the values in which we believe: separation of church and state, full equality for all citizens including women and non-Muslims, and a fully democratic political system.