Egyptians Shift Views of U.S. (WSJ) WALL STREET JOURNAL) By MATT BRADLEY CAIRO, EGYPT 06/29/12)
WALL STREET JOURNAL
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CAIRO—As Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Morsi prepares to become
Egypt´s first freely elected president on Saturday, his unlikely rise
has upended Egyptians´ perceptions of America´s place in their
The regime of former President Hosni Mubarak received strong support
from the U.S. government for decades, and his military received $1.3
billion of U.S. aid each year. The Muslim Brotherhood viewed the U.S.
with suspicion, and the U.S. long reciprocated by limiting its
interactions with the then-banned organization.
These days, though, some jilted supporters of former regime stalwart
Ahmed Shafiq, who lost to Mr. Morsi in the election, are peddling the
accusation that U.S. officials backed the Muslim Brotherhood´s
candidate, an assertion denied by the U.S. government, which insists
it supported only a fair and transparent election process.
The Brotherhood, meanwhile, has publicly warmed up to the superpower
that for decades looked on it with deep concern.
U.S. policy makers and Egyptian politicians say they can´t predict
how the changing perceptions of the U.S. will play out. But the
abrupt change—with Islamists courting U.S. favor while military and
old-regime loyalists assail their erstwhile U.S. backers—offers a
rare opportunity for U.S. diplomats to recalibrate their relationship
"Things are definitely, definitely in play," said Elijah Zarwan, a
senior fellow at the London-based European Council on Foreign
Relations. "The Brotherhood and the military will be, after July 1,
kind of roommates in the presidential palace, if you will. I think
U.S. policy has to find a way to support them both."
For the time being, emotions among some liberals and supporters of
the military and the former regime are raw. Before official election
results were announced on Sunday, several politicians from liberal
and leftist parties held a news conference to denounce the
Brotherhood and, in the next breath, accused the U.S. of interfering
in Egypt´s internal affairs.
They pointed to comments by U.S. officials that they said showed new
U.S. support for the Brotherhood. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
for example, after unofficial election results suggested Mr. Morsi
had won, urged Egypt´s military rulers to "turn over power to the
To some secularists and former regime officials, the U.S. messages
sounded like endorsements of the Brotherhood.
"Now we see the U.S. encouraging the military to hand over power in
Egypt to the Muslim Brotherhood," said Osama Al Ghazali Harb, a
former member of Egypt´s U.S.-backed former ruling party and now the
head of the secular-minded Democratic Front Party. "We refuse that
the Muslim Brotherhood should come to power leaning on American
U.S. officials say they didn´t take sides. "There was a perception
among many groups who supported Shafiq that we actively backed
Morsi," said a U.S. Embassy official in Cairo. "It´s wrong. We
didn´t. We supported a process."
Relations between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, however, have
improved dramatically since the uprising against Mr. Mubarak in early
During the past 16 months, the Brotherhood has sent dozens of
goodwill delegations to meet with officials in Washington to assure
policy makers of their commitment to democracy, economic liberalism
and civil rights. State Department officials and some prominent
American lawmakers have held meetings with senior Brotherhood leaders
While many secular-minded politicians only met with U.S. officials in
secret, the Brotherhood trumpeted their meetings in media reports.
Meanwhile, the Egyptian military and U.S. have tested the limits of
each other´s patience, and Egypt´s ruling generals have spent much of
the past year publicly accusing the U.S. of meddling in its internal
affairs in order to undermine its shift toward democracy.
In the most notable case last winter, the son of American cabinet
secretary and six other American non-governmental employees were
barred from leaving Egypt and charged with violating a highly
restrictive law on foreign funding for civil society groups. A judge
eventually allowed the Americans to return home, but not before
military-appointed cabinet officials publicly accused them of stoking
unrest in the service of nebulous political ends.
As the NGO episode brought Washington dangerously close to breaking
off its relationship with the Egyptian military, the Brotherhood
quietly reassured U.S. officials that it wanted to see the NGO law
revised to allow American organizations to work freely.
Allegations the U.S. played favorite in the election come against the
background of a potentially bruising fight between Mr. Morsi and the
military, which has ruled over the democratic transition and taken
steps to maintain significant powers over policy.
The next few days could give an indication of Mr. Morsi´s willingness
to compromise with military leaders. An Egyptian state media report
on Thursday said the president-elect would take the oath of office on
Saturday in front of the same Supreme Constitutional Court that moved
to dissolve the elected, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament two
weeks ago. Mr. Morsi´s campaign had pledged to take the oath of
office in front of the dissolved assembly.
Yet another state media report said Mr. Morsi would deliver a speech
at a protest Friday demanding that the military reinstate the
dissolved parliament and withdraw a constitutional declaration that
limits presidential powers.
The military, meanwhile, promoted the view that Mr. Morsi would be
conciliatory. Maj.-Gen. Mohamed Assar, a member of the ruling Supreme
Council of armed Forces, said in a televised statement on Wednesday
evening that Mr. Morsi would keep Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi,
Egypt´s acting president, as minister of defense.
Representatives of Mr. Morsi couldn´t be reached to confirm the
statement or media reports.
Write to Matt Bradley at email@example.com (Copyright © Dow
Jones & Company, Inc.) 06/29/12)
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