A senior politician from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, currently visiting the United States, has publicly pledged that the Brothers can learn to live with Egypt’s peace accord with Israel. He told Washington Times newspaper, “We respect international obligations. Period.” Asked specifically whether the MB proposed to hold a referendum on the 1979 Camp David Accord, he replied in a firm negative and then went on to explain, “No referendum at all concerning international obligations. All our [Egypt's] international obligations are respected by the Freedom and Justice Party, including Camp David.”
The Barack Obama administration has promised to give 1.5 billion dollars to help the MB-run government in Cairo. The largesse seems actually a deal
. The MB wants money to acquit itself in power as the Egyptian people are watching its performance in government. In essence, Washington is lending the money so that Brothers can ‘deliver’ on their campaign pledges to the people, while as quid pro quo, the Brothers learn to live with Israel — or at least, do not precipitate just at this time yet another front in Sinai while US has pots boiling in Iran, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
A bonus is that Israel heaves a sigh of relief and the political dividend accrues to Obama in the election year. Besides, the MB’s Syrian offshoot is also the ally
of Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, with which the US partners in the enterprise to overthrow the regime in Damascus. There have been reports that Syria’s Brothers have sat down secretly with Israel’s operatives. Thus, it is in many ways a small world indeed.
All this makes Egypt’s forthcoming presidential election (May 23-24) infinitely interesting
. The MB changed its mind and decided to put up the candidature of its number 2, Khairat El-Shater, to contest the election. His opponents include three identifiable establishment figures of the Hosni Mubarak era — former foreign minister and Arab League chief Abu Moussa, former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman (affectionately called the ‘butcher of Cairo’) and former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
The tactical compact between the Brothers and the military
has probably broken down. Meanwhile, MB also has to contend with the ultra-conservative Salafis funded by Saudi Arabia and the centrist Islamist platform of Al-Azhar. The Islamist platform is badly fragmented with the MB more equal than the others in the US’ estimation.
In sum, Obama hopes to be the winner — head he wins, tail he doesn’t lose. The US has strong links with the Egyptian military and it bonds with the Saudis and Qataris (who are the mentors of the Salafis), while it is now openly stringing the Brothers. The big losers are, of course, the Egyptian liberals and secularists who ought to be the US’ ‘natural allies’ in the democratic revolution. But then, US wants to be on the ‘right side of history’