U.S. Must Set Red Lines for Aid to Continue to New Islamist Egyptian Regime
The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt has made great strides since Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power last year. It surged in popularity, won handsomely legislative elections and now, its presidential candidate, Muhammad Mursi, appears to have won the presidential contest. The military regime that has been controlling Egypt since Mubarak’s ouster has said that it will transfer power to the the new president and not seek to impede him or deprive him of presidential powers. In short, we are looking at an extremist Islamist MB-controlled Egypt.
Because this result was readily predictable, the Zionist Organization of America, opposed U.S. efforts last year to push the regime off the stage and replace it with whatever emerged in new elections. Not because we’re opposed to democracy; quite the contrary: in a society like Egypt that has known only autocracy and Islamism, we fully expected that early elections would see anti-democratic, Islamist forces with no respect for basic human rights like the MB grow and in time gain power – as now appears to be the case.
Now the U.S. must decide how it deals with new situation. Although the Obama Administration has given the impression that one can do business with the MB, its history and aims are no secret. Before and during World War Two, it collaborated with Nazi Germany. Its leading intellectual figure, Sayyid Qutb, is the inspiration for Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist movements. The Palestinian branch of the MB, Hamas, is a blood-soaked terrorist organization which calls in its Charter for the destruction of Israel and the worldwide murder of Jews.
The MB platform, leaked in August 2007, calls for jihad, states that “Islam is the official state religion and Islamic sharia is the main source for legislation.” It stipulates that the president and legislative branch will be advised by clerics, who must approve decisions and that non-Muslims will be barred from the presidency, which is also held to be unsuitable for women.
As Jayshree Bajoria of the Council on Foreign Relations has written, “Establishing an Islamic state based on sharia is at the center of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology, both in Egypt and among the group’s many offshoots abroad.” Shadi Hamid, a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution’s Doha Center, has described it as “the mother of all Islamist movements.”
All of which increases the likelihood of the new Egyptian government abrogating the 1979 Egyptian/Israeli treaty. The MB deputy leader, Rashad al-Bayoumi has said that regarding the peace treaty that, “To me, it isn’t binding at all … On no condition will we recognize Israel. It is an enemy entity.” Bayoumi has emphasized the objective of abrogating the treaty. Last year, the Brotherhood leader, Muhammad Badi’, spoke enthusiastically of jihad and called for a state based on Islamic law. He also spoke optimistically about the U.S. heading for a collapse.
The U.S. has given some $60 billion to Egypt over thirty years. It now looks like it has an antagonist rather than any sort of ally in Cairo. The security situation in Sinai, which was never good, has deteriorated still further. There was a terrorist attack upon Israel from Sinai just this week. What should the U.S. do?
The U.S. must make clear that it will sever all financial and military aid to Cairo unless the new government commits publicly and in writing to specifically repudiating those parts of its platform that imperil peace, human rights and the alliance with America. The new government must enable further elections, commit to safeguard the rights of women and non-Muslims and uphold the Israeli/Egyptian peace treaty.
Obviously, words are cheap, even when put in writing. The MB has given verbal assurances to the Obama Administration about democracy, human rights and the peace treaty that run contrary to everything its officials have been saying in Arabic. After Osama bin Laden was killed, for example, it issued praise in English, but also statements in Arabic decrying his “martyrdom” and condemning his “assassination.”
Clearly, the new Egyptian government looks highly unlikely to keep any word it might give on these matters. But it is still vital that Washington demand these things in writing. Failure by Egypt to grant such written assurances or to abide by these commitments once given would lead to immediate termination of U.S. financial and military support.
The new Egyptian government might violate any promises it makes but at least the U.S. will have taken necessary steps to try and stop this occurring and to adjust to the new reality.
Morton A. Klein is National President of the Zionist Organization of America.