First Posted: 8/19/2013
The enemy of my enemy is my friend, goes the old saying. Thus we have Arabs and Jews agreeing to support the military regime that has toppled Egypt’s democratically elected government, which was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. So what should the United States do?
Pragmatists say it’s probably best to follow Saudi Arabia and Israel in supporting Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, because his purportedly interim military government offers the best hope to restore stability to yet another Mideast nation torn by civil war.
But it is unsettling to consider taking any position that would seem to condone the mass killings that have occurred since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed. A thousand Brotherhood members and other Morsi supporters have been killed, including three dozen who died in police custody over the weekend.
The $1.5 billion in aid the United States gives Egypt annually might have given it some leverage in the situation. But not after Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged $12 billion for Sisi’s regime. Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official praised Egypt’s three benefactors as an “axis of reason.”
Uniting the strange bedfellows is their mutual distrust of the Brotherhood, which has ties to Islamist terrorist groups. On Tuesday, Egyptian police arrested Mohamed Badie, the Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, who was charged with inciting antimilitary protesters to commit murder. The arrest came only hours after a court acquitted Morsi’s predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, of corruption charges.
The turn of events has U.S. diplomats scratching their heads over what position to take. Secretary of State John Kerry said three weeks ago that the military was “restoring democracy” after being “asked to intervene by millions” of Egyptians alarmed by Morsi’s pushing through a constitution with elements of Islamic sharia law. Kerry also warned that a violent crackdown by the military would be unacceptable, but that is exactly what has happened.
So how should the U.S. respond? “Our ability to influence the outcome in Egypt is very limited,” admitted U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who tried to talk Sisi out of ousting Morsi. But that doesn’t mean this country has no role to play. Any cut in U.S. aid to Egypt may be supplanted by funds from its Arab benefactors. But relationships are built on more than money, and the United States and Egypt have had a long and successful relationship.