The establishment press in Egypt, al-Ahram (“The Pyramids”), reported cautiously on the meeting between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi (from the Muslim Brotherhood party).
1. It noted that Clinton affirmed the US desire that the Egyptian military go to its barracks and leave elected civilians in charge.
2. It said that she likened Egypt’s transition from authoritarian governance to democracy to earlier such transitions in East Asia and Latin America.
3. Clinton reaffirmed the US intention to forgive $1 billion of Egyptian debt.
4. She also spoke of $250 million in aid.
5. She promised to send American businessmen to explore new investments in the Egyptian economy.
6. She said that the current constitutional crisis over the Supreme Administrative Court’s and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces’s dismissals of the elected parliament, and Morsi’s attempt to reinstate it, was a matter of internal Egyptian politics in which the US would not interfere.
The interim Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Muhammad Kamil Amr, said that President Morsi had affirmed to him a commitment to the peace treaty with Israel, as well as to an on-going peace process that should end with a two-state solution with 1967 borders and East Jerusalem as the capital, and statehood for the Palestinians. This statement from Amr is the first explicit delineation of Morsi’s exact position on the Camp David accords with Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood, from which he springs, has been scathingly critical of Camp David for decades, seeing it as a means of neutralizing Egypt and allowing the Israelis to expropriate the Palestinians at will.
Unfortunately, this position would have been reasonable in the 1990s. Now, rapid Israeli colonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem has probably made a two-state solution impossible, and Israel’s far rightwing leadership will see Morsi’s position as “radical” and unacceptable. The Likud government is firmly committed to expanding the number of Israeli squatters on Palestinian land, which Morsi opposes.
Meanwhile, there were two demonstrations against Clinton’s visit. Some Coptic Christians demonstrated at the Presidential Palace, complaining of US intervention in Egypt and of Western attempts to use Coptic Chrisitans as a pretext to interfere in Egyptian affairs. I presume that these are Christian leftists.
There was also a demonstration in front of the US embassy, which demanded the release of prisoners held at Guantanamo. I presume these demonstrators included member of the Gama’a al-Islamiya or Islamic Grouping, and perhaps Salafis.
Clinton said that in a democracy we are used to people exercising their right to demonstration.
On Sunday, Sec. Clinton meets with Gen. Hussein Tantawi, the chairman of SCAF and the ultimate power in Egypt. The US says it is pressuring Tantawi to leave the political domain to the politicians.
Ironically, some Egyptians, and perhaps including the officer corps, have a strange conspiracy theory that the US wanted to install the Muslim Brotherhood in power in Egypt. I can’t tell you how wrong this theory is. The US had no leverage in Egypt, and largely let things take their course, though they may have strong-armed the Egyptian army into not shooting civilians down in the streets. The US would have prefered that Mubarak’s gang remain in power, but can work with a moderate fundamentalist.
The US just wants a few things from Egypt: Keeping trade flowing through the Red Sea and Suez Canal; the security of Israel; the security of Saudi Arabia and other Arab Gulf States… (Did I say, ‘the security of Israel?)
The problem for the US will not be that Morsi wants to abrogate Camp David. It will be that he wants to implement it, along with the framework President Jimmy Carter thought essential to it, of peace with the Palestinians. The far rightwing Israeli government has abandoned Camp David and Oslo in favor of exuberant expansionism and the permanent denial of statehood to the Palestinians. The US secretly supports Israel’s most outrageous stances, which will make trouble for relations with Cairo if the Brotherhood manages to get real power.