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 Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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