News / Middle East

US Adjusting to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, March 3, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, March 3, 2013.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
Almost a year after a Muslim Brotherhood candidate was elected president of Egypt, the United States is still trying to recalibrate its relations with a country that for decades has been one of Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East.
 
Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi won the presidency last June promising voters they would have more civil rights than under former president Hosni Mubarak, who was forced from office during the Arab Spring uprisings that shook the Middle East and North Africa.
 
But Morsi has not yet delivered on many of his promises and President Barack Obama’s administration is finding it increasingly difficult to stand by him while holding firm in its demands for freedom and human rights in Egypt. The result, say Middle East analysts, is an increasingly complicated relationship between Washington and Cairo.
 
Michael Wahid Hanna, a foreign policy expert with the New York-based Century Foundation, says the U.S. State Department is trying to adjust to Egypt’s new political reality.
 
Hanna says continued U.S. engagement in Egypt is essential, but that Washington must make clear to Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood that U.S. support is not a substitute for the support of Egypt’s own citizens.
 
Critical message
 
“This is a critical message for America’s undemocratic allies in the region, and this conditional engagement represents the only plausible path forward for the United States,” Hanna said.
 
Since the Muslim Brotherhood’s victory in Egypt’s first democratic elections in six decades, the once-banned Islamist group has been faced with the task of cleaning up the corruption and reversing the political repression that flourished under Mubarak.
 
Egyptian protesters chant anti-government slogans during a rally in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 1, 2013.Egyptian protesters chant anti-government slogans during a rally in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 1, 2013.
x
Egyptian protesters chant anti-government slogans during a rally in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 1, 2013.
Egyptian protesters chant anti-government slogans during a rally in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Feb. 1, 2013.
Progress has been slow, at best. The State Department’s annual report on human rights says Egypt’s transition to democracy is beset by political turmoil as well as the breakdown of law and order and established social norms.
 
“This breakdown has had the largest effect on society’s most vulnerable elements, including women and minorities, who often became the target of violent attacks,” the 2012 report said.
 
James Zogby, president of by the Arab American Institute in Washington, says the Obama administration may be considering a tougher approach toward Cairo, and if it does, would have solid public support.
 
A recent poll by the Arab American Institute indicates just 13 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Muslim Brotherhood, while 53 percent do not believe the Brotherhood is committed to democracy.
 
Most significantly, 51 percent of Americans believe the U.S. government “should insist that rights be guaranteed for all citizens as a condition for any U.S. support.”
 
The Brotherhood’s rejection of equal status for women and the Coptic Christians, as well as its repression of opposition, have damaged its image, Zogby said.
 
He suggests restructuring U.S. aid to Egypt to be more sensitive to the facts on the ground. Such a change, Zogby said, would give policymakers flexibility.
 
U.S. leverage in Egyptian politics

The State Department has been pressing Congress to approve $450 million in direct aid to Egypt since last fall, but Congress is seeking to apply pressure on Cairo rather than provide unconditional support.
 
“Our approach is rather a measured approach of tying tranches [of aid] to results as it pertains to the peace treaty with Israel, to cooperation with respect to smuggling to Gaza, and with respect to economic reforms to guarantee civil rights and the rule of law within Egypt,” said Republican Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
 
Both Republican and Democratic party members of Congress have proposed attaching conditions to the more than $1 billion in annual military assistance Washington gives Egypt.

During a recent visit to Cairo, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Egypt's Islamist-led government to press ahead with reforms to ensure continuing American support.
 
But Amr Darrag, Egypt’s newly appointed minister of planning, argues that putting conditions on U.S, aid is the wrong approach.
 
“The Egyptian-American relationship is a strategic one, but to sustain it, it has to be correct on equal footing and based on mutual interests, and the U.S. aid is an investment in U.S. interests,” he said. “If we start talking about conditionality, it would not be a healthy relationship.”
 
Naguib Sawiris, president of the “Free Egyptians” liberal party, recommends that Washington not interfere, but should remind Egypt now and then of its priorities.
 
“The U.S. should engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, show its support for the Egyptian people by constantly reminding whoever is governing Egypt to respect the rule of law, the judicial independence, civil rights of all citizens and maintain all basic freedoms,” Sawiris said.

And Hanna says the U.S. government should not assume that the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate Egyptian politics forever, and that it should reach out to the opposition because a new, viable leader may emerge from it.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sonya
May 10, 2013 8:27 AM
Why is the US giving money to a murder of Christians and subjugator of women? Realise that this just emboldens more of this type of behavior. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that Morsi says about civil rights is a lie. Just compare what he says in English to what he says in his native tongue for an eye opener. The daily protests against him speak volumes.


by: Incredulous
May 10, 2013 7:48 AM
Have we not learned anything from Afghanistan?! The State Department is sorely in need of new management. Amr Darrag has learned well from Karzai, "If we start talking about conditionality, it would not be a healthy relationship.” In other words, just keep giving us money and butt out.


by: Eady Bear from: Australia
May 10, 2013 3:01 AM
After visiting the Minister of interior in 2012, then seeing how senior police, fire and other government bodies(ministers) live one may understand some of the deeper issues of this deeply troubled country.
Centuries of deception and manipulation of regimes & international abuse has deeply scared the psyche of these people. Unfortunately after being protect by both Muslim & Coptic armed police personal (working wonderfully together), I saw the darker side of this troubled nation. The public bashing of a regional minister and his body guards just protecting us from the uncontrollable public rioting because they were hungry whilst we were treated as royalty.
It would be so interesting to see many of us westerners attempt to live as they have been thrown upon and into.


by: Martin from: USA
May 09, 2013 10:27 PM
this is the Obama's greatest mistake... its like saying "US Adjusting to the Nazi party..."

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid