Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson of the U.S. State Department
On March 14, in a meeting with foreign journalists in Washington, D.C., deputy spokesperson of the U.S. State Department Marie Harf confirmed, once again, that the United States is in “communication” with the Muslim Brotherhood but denied that this means it supports the Islamist organization. The exchange follows:
QUESTION: Okay. The second question is: The State Department has recently said that it is in constant contact with the Muslim Brotherhood, as with the other political groups, you see?MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: So do you think that these contacts have any effect on the United States relations with Egypt? And are these just mere contacts or support? Because this is very important for the Egyptian public opinion. Thanks.
MS. HARF: Well, they’re contacts, and let’s just – I’ll put it in a little context here. We think it’s important to have contacts with all the parties in Egypt, because all the parties in Egypt ultimately are going to need to be a part of Egypt’s future, and that we want to help them be a part of that future and move Egypt out of the situation it’s in today. So we think this is important to do. Do we always agree, do they always agree with what we’re saying? Of course not. But we believe it’s important to have the dialogue.
We don’t support one party or one group or one person. So when we’re talking about elections, when – I know there’s a lot of conspiracy theories about us supporting the Muslim Brotherhood or supporting the military or – there’s a lot. They can’t all be true, right? Because they’re mutually exclusive. But we don’t support one group. We support the process. We support the people of Egypt who make up these parties – right – as they are trying to determine how to get Egypt back on a better path.
One wonders: if the Obama administration does not “support one party or one group or one person,” why did it try to urge the Egyptian people in general, the Christian Copts in particular, not to protest against former president Muhammad Morsi (“one person”) and his increasingly oppressive Muslim Brotherhood (“one party”)?
Conversely, if the Obama administration is supportive of “the people of Egypt” in general, where was it when the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters were terrorizing Egypt, and continue to do so—including by burning and destroying over 80 Christian churches? But when millions of Egyptians protested against the increasingly oppressive Morsi/Brotherhood government, leading to their ousting, it was then that the Obama administration reacted by reducing aid to Egypt.
Indeed, in regards to Harf’s claims that “We support the people of Egypt,” the other day an Egyptian TV commentator summed up mainstream Egyptian opinion as follows:
Harf yesterday confirmed that her nation is in communication with the Muslim Brotherhood but denied that this means it supports them. They’re just in contact—you know, “checking up” on each other. She said that the United States is in contact with all political parties in Egypt. In reality, they [Brotherhood] are no longer “political parties.” They are “terrorist parties.”
She stressed that they do not support any particular person or political party, adding “we support the people of Egypt.” Apparently that explains why they stopped their aid and support? They “support the people of Egypt,” even as the Egyptian people cannot stand the Muslim Brotherhood, has rejected them, and is rejoicing because the government finally designated them as a terrorist organization.
So this is the sort of “support” Mary Harf offers to the Egyptian people—that the United States is in contact with a terrorist organization.
Regarding a “conspiracy” between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, she said this cannot be true, adding that they only “support the people of Egypt as they are trying to determine how to get Egypt back on a better path.”
What’s it to you? If we want a democracy, a dictatorship, or just to stay as we are—we’re free to do so. I really don’t understand this idea whereby they [the Obama administration] always show up saying “we support democracy” in the Arab world, and yet here is the result of their support: Every nation they have put their nose in, they destroyed it.
(The following is a video of the press conference. Skip to 13:05 for the question to Harf on Egypt:)
Raymond Ibrahim is the author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War in Christians (published by Regnery in cooperation with Gatestone Institute, April 2013). He is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum. Mr. Ibrahim's dual-background—born and raised in the U.S. by Egyptian parents —has provided him with unique advantages to understanding of the Western and Middle Eastern mindsets.
Arrested women protesters in a courtroom in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood has continued daily protests agitating for the return of ousted President Morsi. Only now, those who are fighting the police and subsequently arrested are women, often students. With the Brotherhood’s men serving jail sentences or in hiding, women have largely taken over on the frontlines in Egypt.
The presence of women in street protests is a significant change in tactics from the traditional role of the “Sisterhood,” the female division of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood hopes that the police will end up using force against the girls. If women and girls are severely hurt, pictures and videos will be shared worldwide within hours, a huge PR benefit.
One good image of a battered 17-year old on the receiving end of police brutality would generate considerable sympathy worldwide.
Twenty-one women were arrested in October in Alexandria, receiving 11-year sentences each. After protests and appeals, their sentences were eventually reduced to one-year suspended sentences. One such protester was Souhidah Abdel Rahman, aged 13, who was released due to her young age, but older women, such as her mother were initially arrested and detained.
Photos of the girls wearing all white, handcuffed and holding flowers were displayed prominently on the Brotherhood’s website, never to miss a good photo opportunity. Interior Ministry spokesperson General Hani Abdel-Latif said the tactics switch showed the group was “using its last reserves.”
Interestingly, fights have broken out at Al-Azhar University between the newly formed “Al-Azhar Girls Ultras” (supporters of Morsi) and their opponents (supporters of the army), who hate the missed classes, police presence and intrusion into campus life caused by the protests.
The Brotherhood aims to keep up the pressure on the interim government. Even though men still protest (but in proportionally fewer numbers), many are lying low waiting for a change in the public mood, hoping for continued economic problems to work in their favor. Tensions still run very high and flare up into daily violence, clearly showing that the fight for Egypt is far from being over.