by Joseph Klein
President Obama’s misguided attempt to bend Egyptian political affairs in the Muslim Brotherhood’s favor is unravelling the carefully nurtured military and economic alliance between the United States and Egypt, which has served for decades to stabilize that vital part of the Middle East.
First, after throwing former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak under the bus, the Obama administration did everything it could to portray the Muslim Brotherhood as a worthy organization committed to democratic principles of governance. The United States was seen by many secular Egyptians, including those who spearheaded the original revolution that led to Mubarak’s overthrow, as helping to unfairly tip the scales in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidates.
A year later, millions of Egyptians filled the streets demanding an end to the Islamic theocracy that Mubarak’s elected Islamist successor, Mohamed Morsi, tried to impose on the country. U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson stirred up hostility against the United States when she said the protesters should stop wasting their time with street demonstrations and allow the Muslim Brotherhood-backed government to continue to govern. “Some say that street action will produce better results than elections,” she said. “To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical.”
After the Egyptian military heeded the wishes of the people and ended Morsi’s authoritarian rule, the Obama administration has continued to meddle by advocating for the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood while at the same time hedging its bets. It has so far avoided using the word “coup” to describe the military’s action, in order to forestall the automatic triggering of a statutory requirement to cut off non-humanitarian aid when a military coup overthrows a democratically elected government. Secretary of State John Kerry even went so far as to say earlier this month that Egypt’s army was “restoring democracy.” He added that “The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people. The military did not take over, to the best of our judgment — so far.”
Such mixed signals have ended up alienating both the Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents, but the Muslim Brotherhood need not worry. President Obama’s heart is with them.
In fact, Obama has reportedly agreed to meet with Muslim Brotherhood representatives at the White House. According to the Egypt Independent, “Obama would reportedly meet with Brotherhood officials to ‘hear their opinion’ on developments in Egypt, in the presence of Turkish diplomats.”
On July 30th, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel set the stage when he phoned Egypt’s defense minister and leader of Mohamed Morsi’s removal from power, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, and urged him to bring the Muslim Brotherhood back into the government. According to an exclusive report in the DEBKA File, al-Sisi told Hagel that “it was up to the Muslim Brotherhood to subscribe to his roadmap for the caretaker administration which is ruling the country until elections are held. He then floored the US defense secretary by announcing he was launching a lightning campaign for his own run for the presidency in an early election.”
General al-Sisi expressed his exasperation with the United States a few days later in an interview with the Washington Post. “You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won’t forget that,” said al-Sisi. “Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?”
General al-Sisi has a different vision for Egypt’s political future than does the Obama administration. He is trying to build a more unified Egypt based on a nationalist platform, not a religious one. Only after the large sit-ins of Morsi supporters are brought to an end, one way or the other, will the defense minister consider offering the Muslim Brotherhood an opportunity to engage in a limited amount of political activity on a relatively short leash. Understandably, al-Sisi does not trust the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly after Morsi looked the other way while he was president and allowed militants in the Sinai Peninsula to gather for attacks on Egyptian security personnel without any serious consequence. Having failed to successfully subvert the Egyptian political system from within after Morsi and his Islamist colleagues won their elections, because millions of Egyptians caught on to their deception and demanded their ouster, the Muslim Brotherhood is now helping to coordinate the jihadist operations in Sinai for the purpose of launching counterattacks.
The Obama administration would prefer that al-Sisi and the military he commands move to the sidelines and allow the Muslim Brotherhood to re-assume a central political role. The administration sees this as the best course to avoid another military dictatorship and a violent backlash that could deteriorate into a full-blown civil war, despite the Muslim Brotherhood’s own duplicitous track record.
The response of Egypt’s current President Mansour and his prime minister, Hazem Biblawi, was swift and contemptuous of the two senators. They described Senators McCain and Graham as “delusional” and “liars.” Egypt’s chief newspaper, Al Ahram, said the senators engaged in “foolish statements that are unacceptable.”
The Egyptian cabinet sent out a tweet calling Senator McCain “a persona non grata” for insulting Egypt’s sovereignty.
There is only so much leverage that the Obama administration can get out of a threat to cut off aid to Egypt. If the threat is not acted upon, it will only make the United States look even weaker. If it is carried out, we will be pushing Egypt into the arms of Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and other Arab States of the Persian Gulf to fill the gap.
Moreover, in continuing to advocate for the Muslim Brotherhood, the Obama administration is legitimizing a jihadist organization that spawned al Qaeda and Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood may put on the sheep’s clothing of faux moderation for tactical reasons when it can fool its opposition by doing so, but its ultimate objective is the same as al Qaeda’s – an Islamic caliphate governed by sharia law.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide and overall leader, Mohamed Badie, made his jihadist group’s agenda clear in a sermon he delivered in December 2011, as the Muslim Brotherhood was building up its political power following the toppling of the Mubarak regime. He said that the Muslim Brotherhood’s mission would start with the creation of a sound government and end with the establishment of an Islamic caliphate according to the plan laid out by the organization’s Egyptian founder, Hassan al-Banna, in 1928.
In a sermon Mohamed Badie delivered a little over a year earlier in September 2010 (as transcribed by The Middle East Media Research Institute), he made clear the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology of Islamic supremacy and resistance against the infidels, principally Israel and the United States:
According to the Islamic shari’a that Allah [has bequeathed] to mankind, the status of the Muslims, compared to that of the infidel nations that arrogantly [disdain] his shari’a, is measured in a kind of scale, in which, when one side is in a state of superiority, the other is in a state of inferiority…Resistance is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny… The U.S. is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise.This is the true face of the jihadist group that President Obama is shilling for. His wrong-headed policy of accommodating the Muslim Brotherhood will only serve to help Badie’s game plan come to pass and further de-stabilize the Middle East.
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