Egypt is celebrating the one-year anniversary of its revolution that resulted in the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak. One of the most impactful results of this has been a new Egyptian government dominated by Islamists, lead by the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Many Middle East pundits have warned of the grave threats the Brotherhood poses to U.S. foreign policy and its relations with Egypt, however, based on its previous behavior, it is more likely that the MB will simply comply with the leadership status quo in an effort to consolidate its power.
Domestically, the MB has been getting disturbingly close to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF). Over the summer and through the fall, the SCAF and the MB clashed over a number of policy issues, including violence at protests and “supra-constitutional” principles that could have limited the MB’s ability to apply Islamic Shariah in the constitution. Lately however, the MB’s rhetoric has softened considerably regarding the military council, most prominently manifested in their agreement that the new constitution must be written before presidential elections take place. The fundamental Salafi Al Nour Party (who many Western pundits in their analyses frequently lump together with the MB into one group of “Islamists”), along with almost every other major political group, opposes this plan and demands that the SCAF step down as soon as possible to be replaced by a civilian president. At one point, the Brotherhood held the same views. However, in what can be regarded as a blatant move to ally itself with the current power holders, the MB is happy to keep the SCAF in charge, while overseeing and applying undue influence on the drafting of a new constitution.
The main reason many U.S. government officials are wary of a Brotherhood takeover of the Egyptian government, however, is related to U.S.-Egyptian and Israeli-Egyptian relations. While it is still in principle opposed to Israel, the MB has softened rhetoric regarding the Jewish state, and plans to keep the Camp David Accords intact. It has also had a number of meetings with high-level U.S. officials regarding foreign policy. The U.S. government will consider these developments as positive, although they show a worrying tendency of the MB to sacrifice both its principles and the will of its constituents in favor of the influence of those in power. Almost every other party in the Egyptian parliament supports less friendly relations with both countries, who were complicit in supporting decades of oppressive dictatorship that has yet to come to an end.
The Muslim Brotherhood is at its core a pragmatic organization. It has been so since its inception and subsequent banning in the 50s, when it had to work mostly underground. Now that it is able to act in the open, it will do everything in its power to keep its influential position in Egyptian politics and society. Just like the past (and current) dictators of Egypt, the MB will continue along the path of appeasement to the U.S. and others in power at the expense of the Egyptian people. This, and not any other nebulous fear mongering regarding its Islamism or potential foreign policy, is why the Brotherhood should not be supported.
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