Is the US Falling into the Trap of Sticking to Mubarak Again?
By Haifae Zouaitar
Translated By Mouhsine Abdellaoui
9 December 2012
Edited by Jane Lee
Lebanon - As-Safir - Original Article (Arabic)
The U.S. is in a very awkward position today. No sooner had they succeeded in polishing their image vis-à-vis the first Egyptian revolution after having been a staunch supporter of former dictator Hosni Mubarak than the signs of a second revolution loom on the horizon, threatening that the U.S. will commit the same mistake again.
The first time, the U.S., along with their Western allies, was unable to foresee the revolution at the moment of its birth. Will they fall into the same trap this time, taking into consideration the fact that the consequences will be more dangerous and complicated?
Observers agree that Morsi is valuable for Americans; he enjoys a popular legitimacy that his Islamic religion affords him to a large extent while he also seems keen to secure America's interests and maintain friendly relations with Israel. Hence, the U.S. has adopted a partly silent position in regard to the amount of shameful mockery he voiced about his opponents in the street.
However understandable this position is, it is unacceptable, and could cost the West dearly. This is the opinion The Guardian’s Simon Tisdall tried to express when he stated, “Assuming he weathers the storm, Morsi's authority and prestige have been severely damaged. The honeymoon that followed last June's elections is definitively over.” He also said, “The prospect of ongoing, chronic political weakness in Egypt is bad news for the west and for the neighbourhood… Morsi's speech in Tehran in August, when he demanded the Syrian regime stand down, enraged his Iranian hosts and delighted Washington. Morsi's value as the leader of a resurgent Egypt reassuming its traditional Arab leadership role, as a counter to Iran and its spreading influence in the region, as a friend and ally to NATO member Turkey, as an upholder of the peace treaty with Israel and as a conduit for western political influence and business rose as the months passed… And last month he proved himself again, helping Hillary Clinton broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.” However, according to Tisdall, “Unless they stand up and denounce Morsi's power grab, the U.S. and its allies risk repeating their old mistake of effectively endorsing dictatorship, analysts say. And this time their dilemma could be even worse. Mubarak was America's dictator; Morsi is beyond control.”
Military Support to Morsi Is Still in Effect
Not only is the U.S. position limited to tolerating Morsi’s acts, but it goes beyond that to continuing to support his government militarily, despite his repeated attacks on his opponents who have outnumbered those who took to the streets to topple Mubarak.
What confirms this are revelations made by The Washington Times that “more battle tanks and jet fighters are on their way from the United States.” Thus, despite what is happening, the Washington-Cairo military relations are tightly cemented, in spite of all the attempts Morsi demonstrated to monopolize full power.
Washington seems to be indifferent to what analysts are saying about the risks of the Muslim Brotherhood’s control on the security forces and their attempt to impose Islamic law, which will topple over the heads of the United States and Israel.
So far, according to The Washington Times, Egypt is supposed to receive 200 Abrams M1A1 tanks as well as F-16 fighter jets after the Egyptian government had concluded a contract with Lockheed Martin in 2010 to obtain 20 fourth-generation Falcon F-16 fighter jets produced by the company and equipped to fight in violent wars, which increases their number in Egypt to 240.
The U.S. military aid to Egypt ($1.3 billion annually) has made the Egyptian Air Force rank the fourth-largest force to possess F-16 fighters among 25 countries. Also, it has become the seventh-largest country in the world equipped with tanks.
In the meantime, a defense policymaker from the Reagan administration, analyst Frank Gaffney, warned of the current U.S. position toward Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. “It is alarming that [the Obama administration is] continuing to arm Egypt,” he said, while a spokesperson from the Pentagon expressed his “total ignorance or inability to provide any guarantee as to the future of these weapons in the hands of Morsi’s government.”* It is worth mentioning that in 2011, the Pentagon made a deal worth $395 million to provide Egypt with 125 M1A1 tanks in addition to more than 30 Apache helicopters.
Morsi Suppresses, U.S. Provides the Cover
When talking about the U.S.’s position toward Morsi, we cannot overlook what happened during the U.S.-Egypt coordination of a truce in Gaza. Washington introduced the Egyptian president dressed up as a “peacemaker,” whereas much was related about the U.S.’s broad warrants allowing Morsi to unleash more attacks against his opponents domestically.
This has been highlighted by U.S. analysts, who talked about Morsi’s resorting to repression after receiving full support from the U.S. government and its European allies.
This has also been emphasized by The New York Times, which pointed out that Barack Obama has “invested” in the relationship with Morsi after Americans have found out that Islamists are the best of the ruling class that can suppress the revolutionary optimism of the working class and can support America's war against Syria and Iran.
The New York Times had closely followed the visit paid by Morsi’s assistants to Washington yesterday, which took place in order to prepare for the latter’s visit to his U.S. counterpart early next year, as well as to promote Egypt’s “democratic model” of government in the Arab world.
So did Foreign Policy magazine, which talked about the meetings assistants Essam al-Haddad and Khaled Kazzaz had with both National Security Advisor Tom Donilon and Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, as well as members of Congress such as John Kerry, John McCain and Joe Lieberman.
At the time, al-Haddad and Kazzaz reviewed Egypt’s “great” role in maintaining peace in the Middle East, using the Gaza Strip as an example. While they were keen to talk about how to expand strategic relations between Egypt and the United States, the magazine pointed to Washington’s high uncertainty about the commitment of the Morsi government to democratic principles, especially after Morsi’s constitutional declaration.
Al-Haddad and Kazzaz claimed that Morsi’s government was doing all it could to prevent violence and that it was the protesters who ignited violence, throwing Molotov cocktails at the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party, and at the time the protesters spoke in a kind of clear cynicism. Al-Haddad and Kazzazz said, “Protests in the streets are something normal and accepted. It's a good sign of our democratic changes.”
However, according to the magazine, “[the delegation’s] message may not resonate on Capitol Hill.” Hence, the position of the U.S. administration toward Morsi may yet be unsettled, which is why some people are talking about a real gap within the U.S. administration between those who are willing to bear the good intentions of Morsi and those who are fully convinced that his recent decisions prove his non-intention to implement a full democratic transition process.
In the end, no matter what the position of America is today, the first experiment proved that the voice of the street was stronger than any strategic interest of America with Mubarak, which prompted it to withdraw, albeit late. This time, though the U.S. did not stand by Morsi until the end, each day of delay in their support of him will count against them, and the rebels may not be forgiving this time.
*Editor’s note: This quote, accurately translated, could not be verified.
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