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The United States and the Rule of the Brotherhood

Published on 29 April 2013, by M. Tomazy.

by Muhammad Sallah
Some of the opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and enemies of President Mohammed Morsi are looking to the army to save them from their plight. They are looking to the army to save the country from the dilemma they think cannot be escaped by means of politicians, elites or even action in the streets, but rather only by way of a force greater than the Brotherhood in number, influence and strength. If there are some who think this, others are completely convinced that circumstances will remain as they are or may get much worse without affecting the Brotherhood’s rule of the country unless the Americans change their position.
These people are convinced that the army cannot intervene at all unless its leaders are certain that its actions will be met with U.S. acceptance and will lead to international satisfaction. Those people have kept an eye on the stance of the U.S. administration vis-à-vis Hosni Mubarak’s regime, the details of how it dealt with the Military Council in the period between Mubarak’s abdication and the election of President Morsi and U.S. reactions to the Brotherhood’s policies and actions. These people think that "change" can occur — popularly, militarily or by any other means — if the Americans become completely convinced that their interests have come to be threatened under the rule of the Brotherhood!

It is no secret that the Mubarak regime lost its ability to remain in power after the outset of the revolution as soon as the United States made open announcements that the time for change in Egypt had come and that Mubarak and his regime’s stock in governance had crashed. When the Americans took their hands away from Mubarak, the seat underneath him started shaking violently. He and his men got confused and the entire regime felt that it no longer had anyone to lean on while facing popular will, throngs assembled in the public squares and a revolutionary insistence on its departure developed ... so it departed. The matter of the U.S. administration’s dealings with non-jihadist Islamist groups in the Arab world, since the time of President George W. Bush, is credible and has been exhaustively studied.

This issue has come to be well known: Many details have been published about it and testimonies have been given about it by those who laid the groundwork for contact between the two sides or arranged meetings that brought together Brotherhood figures and U.S. experts or officials. Everyone has come to the conclusion that the Americans thought that after the end of the war on terror, dealing with Islamists was a necessary "evil." This was especially so in light of the deteriorating conditions in several Arab countries, with the rise of the popularity of the Islamists in general and the Brotherhood in particular, given their great ability to mobilize and bring together the masses in elections.

That does not mean the Americans’ calculations are always correct, but the U.S. administration’s fundamental principles are related to interests and not to the governing regimes themselves. Accordingly, just as the Americans changed their stance toward their ally Mubarak when they became certain that keeping him in power was detrimental to their interests, so too will they most certainly change their stance currently supporting, harmonizing with, being satisfied with or accepting the Brotherhood’s place in power in Egypt if they become certain that their interests are at risk and that the fundamental U.S. principles are liable to be shaken or threatened. There have been some indications of U.S. criticism of the way President Morsi is running the country, the Brotherhood’s style in handling matters of freedoms or their stances toward opposition. In spite of this, these indications in fact do not represent a change in U.S. stances toward the new rule in Egypt, but are rather less pointed than hints that were regularly being directed at the Mubarak regime whenever it made a decision that the Americans did not like or abstained from a decision that they demanded of it.

Washington’s fundamental principles toward the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood — or anyone else — clearly has to do with Egyptian-Israeli relations, continued action in accordance with the peace treaty and the Egyptian regime’s avoidance of creating a hotbed of tension in dealing with Tel Aviv. Then there is the situation of the Egyptian army, its armament and its being kept unified as a balancing power in regional conflicts in the face of Iran. The intelligence cooperation between Egypt and the United States is one of the important fundamentals that cannot be disregarded, as far as the Americans are concerned. Lastly, there are other, less important axes, like popular domestic acceptance and the stance toward freedoms and minorities, which are matters for whose violation no U.S. administration thinks well of the ruling regime in Egypt.

Nonetheless, these matters alone do not provide impetus for fundamental change in the U.S. stance toward rule in Egypt. Rather, such violations are probably good reasons sometimes to exert pressure in order to get benefits that in the end work in the interest of the United States, and therefore Israel.