Obama Administration Draws Closer to Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood
The cozy relationship between the United States government and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood should be cause for concern both to Americans and to Israelis. U.S. lawmakers are calling for an investigation into President Barack Obama's administration to determine whether some associations with Islamists could be detrimental to the security of the United States.
U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann and several other lawmakers are asking federal officials to conclude whether there are potential Islamist infiltrators interacting with American agencies, including front groups for the Muslim Brotherhood. (See also: "'Gentlemen's Club' Gangs Up on Bachmann.")
The Obama administration has displayed considerable favor towards the Muslim Brotherhood, beginning with the rejection of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during the peak of the Egyptian revolution last year. Bachmann, along with U.S. Representatives Trent Franks, Lynn Westmoreland, Louie Gohmert, and Thomas Rooney, wants to know why this favor has increased since Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi took office.
They are questioning how Huma Abedin, deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, received a security clearance to work for the State Department. Some Middle East analysts conclude that Abedin, who has close family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (see also "Saleha Abedin and the Muslim Sisterhood"), could be influencing U.S. foreign policy, especially if she is privy to classified information. It has also been reported that Hani Nour Eldin, an Egyptian lawmaker with close ties to a U.S.-designated terrorist group, met with Obama administration officials in June 2012.
Just how much influence do sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood have in the formation of American foreign policy in the Middle East?
If U.S. foreign policy is driven by links to Islamists, this complicates the U.S. Strategic Cooperation Agreement with Israel. Israeli officials have put their trust in the Obama White House to keep Israel's interests in mind during this transitional period in Egyptian politics. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his great concern that the newly elected Egyptian president will keep the peace treaty intact, has depended on American diplomacy to deliver the right message to Morsi -- one that will benefit America's main ally in the Middle East...Israel.
Yet a recent meeting among Clinton, Morsi, and the latter's foreign minister has revealed a new and worrisome development. During a news conference in Cairo, Clinton stated:
More than three decades ago, Egypt and Israel signed a treaty that has allowed a generation to grow up without knowing war. And, on this foundation, we will work together to build a just, comprehensive, regional peace in the Middle East based on two states for two peoples with peace, security and dignity for all.
For the first time, the U.S. has publicly linked the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, as noted in Clinton's remarks. This is exactly what Morsi has stipulated in his public remarks, and it is a dangerous precedent set by the United States.
In the future, pressure on Israel to succumb to Palestinian aspirations may become an even greater demand of the Obama White House based on the influence of Islamists working within the American government. Obama could have the strong backing of not only the State Department, but also other government agencies as he insists that Israel comply with certain Palestinian ultimatums in order to move the peace process forward. Already, Israel is being asked, once again, to work on new concessions in order to bring the Palestinians back to the peace table.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is sticking to his declarations that Israel must halt construction in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and East Jerusalem, must accept a two-state solution based on the pre-1967 lines, and must release more than 100 Palestinians in Israeli jails.
A re-elected President Obama would have more leverage on Israel in his second term in office, because he would not have to depend on American Jewish support, as he does now leading up to the November 2012 election. If Obama's current Middle East policy continues, linking the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty to a comprehensive peace deal in the Middle East (foremost with the Palestinians), it will force Israel's hand to comply not only with Palestinian demands, but also with Egyptian demands. It will become a point of contention and increased friction between the Israeli and Egyptian governments.
At the recent news conference in Cairo, Egypt's Foreign Minister Kamel Amr proclaimed that President Morsi "has repeatedly reaffirmed, and on all occasions, that Egypt continues to respect all treaties signed as long as the other party to the treaty respects the treaty itself."
Does this mean that Morsi will look for an excuse to re-examine the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty because he feels that the Israeli government is not respecting the agreement in its refusal to meet Palestinian demands?
In his statement to the media, Foreign Minister Amr reiterated Morsi's remarks regarding Egypt's treaty with Israel and Egypt's understanding of peace, "that it should be comprehensive, exactly, as stipulated in the treaty itself. And, this also includes the Palestinians, of course, and... their right [to] have their own state on the land that was - the pre-June 4th, 1967 borders - with Jerusalem as its capital."
This statement strongly indicates that a newly formed Egyptian government can be expected to pressure Israel in order for peaceful relations with Egypt to continue. This linkage is a clear sign of trouble ahead for Israel. Morsi could accuse Israel of not adhering to the tenets of the Egyptian peace treaty because the Jewish state is unwilling to sign a comprehensive peace deal -- not only with the Palestinians, but with other countries in the region as well.
What is unconscionable is that Obama is already aligning his foreign policy with Morsi's, to the detriment of Israel.
Egypt has always been the leader of the Arab world and, until the country's recent upheaval, has demonstrated its diplomatic power throughout the Middle East.
The last time Israel seriously entered into comprehensive peace negotiations was with Syria, brokered by Turkey, during former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's reign. Now, diplomatic relations between Turkey and Israel have soured, and the Syrian government is about to fall. That leaves Egypt, and a much weaker Jordan, to pick up the mantle of brokering a Middle East comprehensive peace deal.
Meanwhile, Israeli leaders should be protesting to U.S. officials privately, even if they are keeping a low profile publicly, about Obama's foreign policy in regard to Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited Morsi in early July. He underscored America's commitment to building a new partnership with a new democratic Egypt. But there is serious doubt that Morsi's vision for Egypt includes the formation of a democratic state in the way that America understands democracy.
Morsi, whose first official state visit was to Saudi Arabia, is expected to get needed financial aid to help Egypt's ailing economy. He also welcomes U.S. aid, but not in a way that will interfere with his ideology. Obama seems to be ignoring this fact, hoping that U.S. influence will work in Egypt. He recently invited Morsi to visit him in September.
Morsi is currently in a political battle with the ruling Egyptian army, which is delaying efforts to write and complete a new Egyptian constitution. Secular Egyptians are not in agreement with Morsi's Islamic doctrine, which was revealed in his campaign speech before supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in May 2012.
At the time, Morsi proclaimed:
The Koran is our constitution. The Prophet Muhammad is our leader. Jihad is our path. And, death for the sake of Allah is our most holy aspiration. And, most of all, Allah is our goal. The Sharia; then the Sharia; and, finally the Sharia. This nation will enjoy blessing and revival only through the Islamic Sharia. I take an oath before Allah and before you all, that regardless of the actual text [of the constitution], Allah willing, the text will truly reflect [the Sharia], as will be agreed upon by the Egyptian people, by the Islamic scholars, and by legal and constitutional experts. Rejoice and rest assured that these people will not accept a text that does not reflect the true meaning of the Islamic Sharia as a text to be implemented and as a platform. The people will not agree to anything else." (MEMRI video translation, 5/2012)
Obama's Middle East policymakers have been misled in their appeasement of radical Islamists like Morsi, despite no guarantees that Egyptians will live in a free democratic society. For Obama administration officials to fully embrace Morsi, knowing that he is not fully committed to the peace treaty with Israel, is a White House slap in the face to Israeli leaders.
Another concern is the increased favor Hamas has with the new Egyptian president and the parliament, which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood -- the parent organization of Hamas. Morsi and his government can be expected to turn a blind eye to the increased smuggling into Gaza of advanced weapons systems, whether supplied by Libyan operatives or Iran. Recently, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal met with Morsi in Cairo and said that Morsi's presidency was the start of a new era for Egypt and the Palestinians. He confirmed Egypt's leadership role in the Arab world.
Now, it is up to Morsi to show respect for all Egyptian citizens, whether secular or religious; to keep the peace with Israel regardless of Israel's relationship with the Palestinians or neighboring Middle East countries; and to accept American economic aid in exchange for a peaceful transition to a free and democratic society. That scenario is unlikely as Islamists take control of the Arab Spring and exercise their power in the Middle East. It is time for American officials to stop their appeasement policies, wake up, and see the handwriting on the wall.
C. Hart is a news analyst reporting on political, diplomatic, and military issues as they relate to Israel, the Middle East, and the international community.