Monday, April 23, 2012

The Calculus of Egypt’s Presidential Race

The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood


"....For almost a year since the SCAF took power in February 2011, a tacit honeymoon between the two strongest centers of power in the country evolved for different reasons. On the one hand, the MB did not want to experience a repeat of their 1954 showdown with the military that ended in their ban and imprisonment. Confident in their ability to win contested democratic elections, they overlooked all the attempts by SCAF to frustrate fulfilling the objectives of the revolution, particularly with regard to holding corruption investigations and trials, or banishment of former regime loyalists in the government.....

The U.S. and the Muslim Brotherhood

Mustafa Al-Fiqi was one of the most important political thinkers of the Mubarak regime. During the intense debate in 2009 and 2010 regarding the candidacy of Gamal Mubarak to succeed his father, Al-Fiqi said that the most crucial criteria for the next president was acquiring the blessing of America and avoiding a veto by Israel. This idea was not lost on the MB. When they announced in Feb. 2011 that they would not contest the presidential elections, their justification was that they did not want to cause anxiety in secular circles or concern in Western capitals.

As Western officials flocked to Egypt throughout the year, the MB headquarters was always one of the most important places visited by these officials. When Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited Egypt in January, he met with top MB leaders Badie’ and El-Shater. During the meeting the MB leadership gauged America’s red lines. Assuming power by the MB was not one of them. Burns’ main concern was the fate of the peace treaty with Israel. According to a person familiar with the meeting with the U.S. official, Burns offered that “the good offices of the U.S. would help Egypt secure as much as $20 Billion” from the Arab Gulf states as well as from other international organizations such as the IMF if the MB would maintain the peace treaty with Israel. Although the MB leaders were non-committal, they indicated that their main concern was the shattered economy and the rebuilding of Egypt. In mid-February Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham met with El-Shater and other FJP leaders and essentially delivered the same message....

Ultimately the real questions awaiting this process are: Would SCAF honor its pledge not to interfere in the elections and hand over power to a newly elected president? Would the new president of Egypt be the independent Abol Fotouh, thus starting a new dawn for a new Egypt? Or would it be Mursi, the MB candidate, consolidating the ascendance of power of the Brotherhood with possible political polarization in the country? Or would it be Mubarak-era loyalists Amr Mousa or even Ahmad Shafiq, thus returning Egypt back to square one, and unleashing a second revolution?

The answer to these questions by the Egyptian electorate in the next few weeks will certainly determine the future of post-revolutionary Egypt."

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