By Andrei Ilyashenko
“Arab spring” has come to Washington. Representatives of the US Council of National Security received in the White House a delegation of the “Party of Freedom and Justice”, representing the Egyptian movement of the “Muslim Brothers”. This is the first meeting of Egyptian Islamists, who are preparing to take power in the country, with the representatives of the Barack Obama administration. The obvious purpose of the visit is a presentation.
Commenting on the events of the “Arab spring”, Academician Yevgeny Primakov wrote that there was bewilderment in Washington in connection with the removal of President Mubarak. The most important US ally in the Middle East was removed. And only Islamists could replace him. All that reminded the scenario of 1978, when America had lost Iran and acquired an implacable enemy represented by the regime, led by Shiite religious leaders.
However, the “Muslim Brothers” are not moving to power on the shoulders of the crowd, but in a civilized way. In the course of the multi-stage elections to the Parliament they received almost half of the mandates, and if we add the more radical Salafis to them, it becomes clear that temporal circles have lost the legislative power. The “Brothers” also control the Constitutional Commission, which is to determine the prerogatives of the President and the type of power – either secular or clerical, based on Sharia. And in the end of May the presidential elections are going to take place, at which the candidate of the “Muslim brothers” has considerable chances.
Regardless of the results of the work of the Constitutional Commission the army will hand over the power in Egypt to a civilian governing body before June 30. General Mamdouh Shahin, the representative of the Supreme Council of the armed forces announced it on Wednesday.
It is clear that time has come for the new power to make oneself known in the world arena, and for Washington to take a closer look at the new faces in Cairo. Firstly there was a meeting between them and Republican senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain in Egypt. Now the Egyptian delegation arrived in Washington.
“We are here to start building bridges of understanding with the US, – said a member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs of the “Muslim brothers” party Sondos Asem. “We are aware of the crucial role of the US in the world, and we would like our relations with the United States to reach a new level”. In turn the representative of the National Security Council Tommy Vietor said: “We think that cooperation with all the parties adhering to democratic principles and avoiding violence is in the interests of the United States. During our conversations, we emphasized the necessity of respecting minorities in Egypt, and of the full emancipation of women, and also discussed the issues of strategic security in the region”.
In other words, Washington estimates the current course of Egyptian Islamists according to their attitude to Christians and Copts, the observance of human rights, and, most importantly, commitment to peaceful coexistence with Israel.
Representatives of the Coptic and Catholic churches, of the Islamic University of Al-Azhar, of the High Constitutional Court and of different liberal parties have quitted the Constitutional Commission in a sign of protest against the Islamists’ not taking their position into consideration. The “Muslim Brothers” also afford ground for assuming that the Camp David peace agreements between Cairo and Tel-Aviv might be revised. And this is a direct threat to Israel, the closest ally of the US in the Middle East.
It will be difficult for Islamists to achieve recognition by the USA without a loyal position on these problems. That will mean they won’t receive an “admission ticket” to the circle of the recognized governments.
There are also more prosaic reasons – economic.
The financial situation in Egypt is rapidly deteriorating. In March the raising of the budget deficit in 2011-2012 fiscal years was announced. It is expected that it will make up 24 billion dollars instead of the earlier planned 21.4 billion. At the same time the foreign exchange reserves of the country are being reduced. If in the beginning of 2011, they made up 36 billion dollars, at the end of February it was 15.7 billion.
Against this background, the IMF continues studying of the economic program of Egypt, the approval of which is associated with the provision of a credit in the amount of $ 3.2 billion.
The US financial aid is a daunting problem for Egypt. For example, as soon as the Congress started debating the freezing of the $ 1.3 billion military aid to Egypt, the scandal with impleading of the employees of the American scientific-industrial associations immediately ended.
At the same time, the President of the Institute of Middle East Yevgeny Satanovsky does not believe that the present talks in Washington are able to clarify the political course of Egypt under the “Muslim brothers” rule. Egyptian Islamists came to the US “to establish contacts and to answer questions about Israel, human rights, etc. The Egyptians – either the “Muslim brothers” or all the other groups – need economic, military, technological and any other assistance of the United States. And therefore, they will give the affirmative answers to all questions. But it means nothing”, – the expert emphasizes. “If Islamists come to a deadlock in their relations with the army, they destroy it after denouncing the Camp David agreements and attacking Israel. After that Islamists will get a carte blanche. Just like Khomeini”.