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 Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More