USA Dot Com is a blog covering politics and government from a conservative Christian perspective. Verne Strickland is a 50-year veteran of investigative journalism. This blog offers a take-no-prisoners style with a modicum of biting satire. Verne and his wife of 55 years, Durrene, live in Wilmington, NC.
Sunday, November 25, 2012
US, Obama choose stability over democracy in Egypt. We will get neither.
Verne Strickland Blogmaster / November 26, 2012
On Thursday, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president Mohammed Morsi passed
an extraordinary presidential decree. This unilaterally fired the
country’s prosecutor-general, banned the judiciary from dissolving the
country’s constituent assembly and, conveniently, also declared all the
president’s decisions to be irrevocable and immune from any form of
judicial challenge or overturn.
Morsi said this would allow him to achieve
‘political and economic stability’ in Egypt and to ‘defend the
revolution’: an ominous phrase beloved by every
revolutionary-turned-despot from Robespierre to Lenin and Mao.
This momentous step – which one Egyptian legal expert described as ’absolute fascism’
- was almost certainly given the nod by the Obama administration,
either implicitly or explicitly. Only a few hours before his
announcement, Hillary Clinton had told a press conference in Cairo that:
“Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership
that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and
After Morsi’s announcement, the US State Department merely observed
that Morsi’s moves “raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the
international community”, hardly a resounding US denunciation.
The ‘stability and peace’ trade-off that was reached between Clinton
and Morsi in Cairo is clear; in return for Morsi persuading Hamas to
agree to a ceasefire with Israel, the US would allow him to seize new
‘temporary’ political powers under the guise of ensuring ‘stability’,
both in Egypt and in the region.
This move – the latest instance of the Obama Whitehouse dressing up
naivety for hard-nosed realism -- is short-sighted for two main reasons:
Firstly, it grants the Muslim Brotherhood the power to act with minimal
checks and balances from Egypt’s judiciary. Now that Egypt’s
non-ideological military has realised that it can prosper under an
Islamist regime, the judiciary was the last branch of government still
acting as a significant brake on Brotherhood ambitions.
For all its faults, this institution is now likely to be purged and
silenced, with knock-on effects for Egyptian politics: opposition
protesters will face tougher sentences, Brotherhood members – already
widely accused of attacks on rival demonstrators and of using sexual
assault to intimidate liberal female oppositionists - will be able to
act with greater impunity.
Ongoing, politically motivated prosecutions of opposition leaders, on
charges from blasphemy to corruption, will also likely increase.
Weakening Egypt’s judges will also enable the Brotherhood to move
against other sources of opposition formerly protected by the judiciary.
On Friday, Gehad al-Haddad,
a senior Brotherhood adviser, tweeted ominously that after the
Brotherhood had dealt with the judiciary, ‘the police needs its own
cleansing project, which this declaration enabled. Let’s hope it’s
Secondly, Hillary Clinton’s ‘peace and stability’ trade-off has only
granted Israel a short-term reprieve and has in the longer-term stacked
the odds against the survival of the Jewish homeland.
Following Clinton’s visit, Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood’s real
leader who was prevented from standing for the presidency on a
technicality, publicly reiterated
the group’s view on Israel that “jihad was obligatory” on Muslims, his
sole proviso being that an armed attack on Israel by Arab states should
only be “the last stage”, once the Muslim world had achieved “unity”--
incidentally a word used by Morsi to justify his power-grab.
As will become clear, in the longer-term Clinton’s deal with Morsi has
weakened Israel by linking its security to the Muslim Brotherhood’s
political ambitions: if the US does not give a free hand to the
Brotherhood in Egypt, the Egyptians will cease to rein in Hamas.
Clearly, this new dynamic works actively against Israel; the more Hamas
threatens Israel, the more the US will have to concede to the
Brotherhood in Cairo; a formula that only motivates the Brotherhood to
allow Hamas’ military capabilities strengthen further, all while the
Brotherhood uses its control of Egypt to advance towards its planned
‘last stage’, namely the eventual liquidation of Israel.
It is of course possible that Morsi will keep his promise to relinquish
his powers once a constitution is in place. However, Morsi and his
followers believe their party acts on earth on behalf of God; how then
can they reduce God’s earthly powers and remain devout?
It is also possible that Morsi’s unseemly lunge for the levers of power
will galvanise the group’s much-hyped ‘liberal’ wing. Certainly it has
unnerved overseas supporters. Osama Saeed, the Scottish Brotherhood
activist now working for al-Jazeera, described Morsi’s defence of the move ‘as reminiscent of Gaddafi’.
Dali Mogahed, a long-time US-based defender of the Brotherhood, described
the move as ‘a disaster’. It is also possible that effective domestic
opposition to the Brotherhood will now finally coalesce: Mohamed
ElBaradei’s powerful denunciation on Friday of Morsi as a ‘pharaoh’, the
Brotherhood’s preferred term for Mubarak, clearly struck a nerve.
Yet these developments may be too little, too late. With the
Brotherhood seizing dictatorial powers and silencing opposition voices,
while simultaneously re-writing the country’s constitution in order to
hardwire Islamism into the country’s governmental DNA, all apparently
with the tacit support of Obama’s White House, it may be too late to
save Egypt from despotism.
James Brandon, author of this article, is an associate fellow at the International
Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ISCR) at Kings College London
and is the former Director of Research and Communications at the
Quilliam Foundation, the counter-extremism thinktank. He is currently
working as a political risk and security analyst.