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News Analysis

U.S. at Crossroads in Response to Morsi

Tue, December 11, 2012

Dr. Tawfik Hamid

The protests that have erupted in Cairo ware an inevitable result of the recent illegal declaration by President Morsi. This declaration essentially concentrated all governmental powers (executive, legislative and judicial) in his own hands.  This dictatorial act, which is eerily reminiscent of the Nazi power grab in 1930s Germany, has created a new reality that needs to be addressed by US policy makers.

Many Egyptians now strongly believe that the U.S. is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood's (MB) attempt to enforce an Islamist agenda on the country.

Some people in Egypt also wonder why the US so quickly supported the removal of Mubarak while he was not against U.S. interests in the region.

The answer to this question in the mind of many Egyptians is either that the U.S. really wants democracy in the region, or that the U.S. believes that the MB will advance US interests more than Mubarak.

If democracy is the genuine aim of the U.S., Egyptian are wondering why the U.S. administration is not standing unequivocally against Morsi's tyrannical and anti-democratic decree. In fact, Egyptians are quite reasonably wondering just how the U.S. administration expects the MB to advance U.S. interests more than Mubarak, especially in light of their performance to date.

Some of the MB actions that appear to be rather incompatible with, if not injurious to U.S. interests include, for example, releasing the jihadists from prisons, allowing Hamas radicals into the Sinai and suppressing women rights, as evidenced in the released draft of the new Constitution.

The recent violence in Cairo poured more salt in the wound.

Not only did President Morsi do nothing to prevent his supporters from shutting the Egyptian Supreme Court and blocking the judges from entering it, he (or at least his supporters and the MB leadership) also encouraged a violent Islamist response to otherwise peaceful protests in front of the presidential palace. As a result, the Islamists actually declared jihad on the anti-Morsi camps-spreading their poisonous agenda through social media and comments on mainstream Arabic media.  Pro-Morsi Islamists thus justified waging holy war on the opposition.

Thousands of Islamists wielding makeshift weapons (and even guns) poured into the streets of Cairo to brutally attack the liberal groups who were peacefully demonstrating in front of the presidential palace. Several liberal demonstrators were killed and hundreds were seriously injured, while the few police on the scene did nothing.

Many moderate Egyptians believe that Morsi ought to join Mubarak in prison and for precisely the same crime: Failure to protect innocent demonstrators. Mubarak was guilty of this during the January 25 Revolution; Morsi is guilty of it now with the current jihad against his peaceful detractors.

It is also important to mention that following the vicious attack on the peaceful anti-Morsi demonstrators, at least seven of President Morsi's top advisors resigned in protest. They hold him responsible for this heinous crime against the liberal Egyptian opposition.

While most Egyptians regarded the U.S. as the champion of democracy and freedom during the initial stages of the January 25 revolution, most now regard the U.S. as a supporter of a bloodthirsty Islamo-fascist dictator. The U.S. needs to correct this image immediately, before the perception materializes into actions against U.S. interests in the region.

This is a serious issue, especially in light of the fact that 68% of Egyptians chose secular candidates in the first round of the presidential election, while Morsi only got 25% of the vote. This seems to suggest that the new Constitution of the country, prepared mainly by Islamists, does not in fact represent of the will of the masses in Egypt.

The U.S. needs to remind the Egyptians that they -- not the U.S. -- chose Morsi in the final round of the elections (which Morsi won with 51% of the votes, according to official government estimates). In other words, the U.S. needs to shift the blame to those Egyptians who boycotted the elections, or those who chose Morsi only to settle scores with Shafik. Failure to improve the tarnished U.S. image at this stage is deleterious to the already ineffective U.S. efforts to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world.

Any U.S. support for the Morsi government at this stage will not only allow an Islamist dictator to rule the country against the will of most of its people, but will also damage the U.S. image and will turn most of the Egyptians against its interests. Ironically, given popular resentment of U.S. intervention in Egypt, standing clearly against Morsi may actually improve his image in the country. The U.S. needs to go beyond individuals and simply stand strongly behind the principle of separation of powers as a basic
democratic value.

On this account, Morsi's dictatorial policies are as bad as, if not much worse than, Mubarak's. In fact, perhaps pointing to the parallels between Morsi and Mubarak policies is one of few ways that the U.S. can stand against Morsi while not improving his image in the country. The U.S. also needs to support a Constitution for the country that represents the secular opposition to Morsi--who are at least 68% of the population, as clearly seen in the first round of election results.

The U.S. is currently at a critical crossroad in the future of the region and the expansion of Islamist fascism. If the Islamists succeed in crushing the moderate opposition in Egypt, then the U.S. will be faced with the prospect of Egypt potentially becoming the equivalent of a Sunni Iran in the region. On the other hand, if the moderates gain the upper hand and succeed in toppling the Islamist regime and start building a better Egypt, then this will be a historical blow to Islamists everywhere.

Dr.Tawfik Hamid is an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one-time Islamic extremist from Egypt. He was a member of a terrorist Islamic organization JI with Dr. Ayman Al-Zawaherri who became later on the second in command of Al-Qaeda. Hamid recognized the threat of radical Islam and the need for a reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts. Dr. Hamid is currently a Senior Fellow and Chair of the study of Islamic Radicalism at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.