Analysis: Obama unlikely to support Cairo opposition
American expert says Egyptian President Morsi mimicking Turkey’s Erdogan by working to take over armed forces.
A vendor sells flags in Tahrir Square, January 25, 2013 of President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo Photo: MELANIE LIDMAN
Thousands of opposition activists protested across Egypt on Monday, the second
anniversary of former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, chanting against the
Muslim Brotherhood-led government of President Mohamed Morsi.
the rule of the [Muslim Brotherhood] supreme guide,” they shouted, according to
a report in Egyptian paper Al-Ahram. Protesters also disrupted traffic and
created disorder at various locations in Cairo, blocking the country’s largest
administrative center at Tahrir Square for the second day.
rise between the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition, US President Barack
Obama’s policy has been to not actively support the opposition.
Obama believes he is achieving regional stability by strengthening Morsi’s hold
Obama approved a recent delivery of over 20 F-16 fighter jets,
and has continued the annual military and economic aid. Furthermore, he has kept
relatively quiet over Morsi’s undemocratic maneuvers in consolidating his
However, this policy has risks. Almost every day, news
reports emerge from Egypt demonstrating that Morsi continues to act against US
national interests. Just last week, Morsi gave Iran’s President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad a glorious reception and kisses on the cheek. In addition,
anti-Semitic and anti-American statements that Morsi and other Brotherhood
leaders have issued over the years are being pushed under the
According to analysts, Obama’s objective is to manipulate Morsi,
using US aid, into following US interests, and he justifies this policy by
citing the moral imperative of respecting the results of Egyptian
However, Obama appears to be favoring a regime at odds with
American interests at the expense of supporting an opposition that has elements
more closely aligned with those interests.
David Schenker, a senior
fellow at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, tells The Jerusalem
Post that from the beginning, the Obama administration was not so concerned
about Islamists coming to power in Egypt.
He says the administration was
neutral about who would win the elections, though “on the ground the perception
is that the administration is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood 100 percent and
has been doing so since the revolution. This is the perception of non-Islamist
Egyptians who did not vote for Morsi.”
And non-Islamist forces in Egypt
seem to be paying attention. Last week, Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly posted an “Open
letter to President Obama,” written by Bahieddin Hassan, the director of the
Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
His position reflected that of
the anti-Islamist opposition, that Obama has abandoned Egyptians.
President, when I spoke with you in 2010, I asked why the US administration
condemns repressive practices in Iran while remaining silent when Arab regimes
engage in the same violations,” he wrote.
“Over recent months, statements
by your administration have similarly failed to address violations and have even
blamed protesters and victims for violence committed in the context of
Indeed, the stances of your administration have given
political cover to the current authoritarian regime in Egypt and allowed it to
fearlessly implement undemocratic policies and commit numerous acts of
The letter also said there was no real democratic process
and that statements coming from the US administration simply played into the
Daniel Pipes, president of the conservative Middle
East Forum, tells the Post that Obama’s tacit support for the Islamist regime in
Egypt “is a horrible policy.” Pipes thinks the US “should always oppose
Islamists and support the liberals.”
Echoing Hassan’s views, he points
out in a post on the National Review website the statement that Anne W.
Patterson, the US ambassador to Egypt, made at a joint ceremony in Cairo
celebrating the delivery of the new F-16 jets: “We look to Egypt to continue to
serve as a force for peace, security, and leadership... The United States has
long recognized Egypt as an indispensable [sic] partner.”
“Is not anyone in the Department of State aware that Egypt is now run by an
Islamist zealot from the bowels of the Muslim Brotherhood whose goals differ
profoundly from those of Americans?”
Schenker does not see a realistic
possibility of the administration or Congress managing to change US policy in
the near future by cutting aid to Egypt. The US cannot “end funding even if it
wanted to, because of the way the foreign aid is structured.”
financing that allows them to “fund weapons systems over a multi-year period,”
he says. “If congress freezes this, then US businesses get hit, which are
producing $1.3 billion in arms per year.”
In addition, he notes,
canceling the aid would lead the US to break its contractual agreements with
Egypt, and new legislation would be necessary.
Pipes notes in a recent
post on his blog that the US suffers from naïveté, believing that “training and
equipping foreign troops imbues them with American political and ethical values,
making them allies of the United States.” He mentions problems related to the
policies of training forces in Afghanistan, Mali and the Palestinian Authority.
In these cases and others, US military support has or likely will
According to Schenker, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is doing
what the Islamists did in Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. It
took Erdogan 10 years to take over the army in Turkey, and Morsi has already
started a similar process, dismissing the heads of the army and around 70
The moral of the story for Israel is that it will find it
difficult to directly counter Obama’s continued support for
Israel’s policy on this front continues to be paralyzed, and is
based on the hope that US economic leverage will keep Morsi in line.
problems will begin if Morsi starts throwing support behind proxy forces that
are acting against Israel.