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Dispatches From Cairo: Of Presidents and Pharaohs

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Posted on Jun 18, 2012
AP/Pete Muller

Egyptians gather to protest ongoing military rule in Tahrir Square in Cairo.

By Lauren Unger-Geoffroy

(Page 2)

That Morsi would be as equitable, fair and open-minded as he claimed in his passionate victory speeches cannot be ruled out. But he will have to compromise with the SCAF, as he is already accused of doing, in order not to be eliminated in one way or another. He will also have to combat most of the world’s deep distrust of the tentacular and historically aggressive Muslim Brotherhood, from which he had promised to resign immediately if elected. (Since the voting he has yet to refer to the vow.)

Alarm over the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood makes some observers of the “Arab Spring” tremble, from the United States to Pakistan. Reports of international offers from Muslim Brotherhood powers in other countries to back up a Morsi presidency may or may not be true. Social networks are abuzz with fear-producing but possibly irrelevant assertions, including that some terrorist groups such as al-Qaida have historical and ideological affiliations with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and that Osama bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was once a member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

But such considerations aside, the giant, unwieldy Arab Republic of Egypt, the “Mother of the Nile,” the “heart of the Arab world,” remains the example for the entire Arab and Islamic world. The U.S. administration must be very careful about pushing Egypt one way or the other.

When U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced renewed funding of Egypt’s military in March, there was an outcry on Capitol Hill that this decision removed pressure on Egypt’s military rulers to follow through on their promise to relinquish power to a democratically elected civilian government.

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Money is only part of the agreement between Washington and Cairo to guarantee Egypt’s peace with Israel. There is a history of militaristic cooperation between the U.S. and Egypt, with arms being supplied by Washington and Egyptian military officers going to the U.S. to train, and that has created a strong attachment between the leaderships of the two countries.

Over the weekend there were numerous, unconfirmed reports in Egyptian media of increased activity among Palestinian terrorists in the Sinai Peninsula and of Israeli tanks nearing the border in defiance of Jerusalem’s peace treaty with Cairo. To many observers, the reports were seen as evidence that heating up the fear of military threat was in someone’s interest.

Egypt’s security forces are likely to be busy quelling protests in coming days, while stumped and dismissed legislators try to untangle the creative legal mechanisms invented to justify the generals’ authority. The outcome will be a face-off between the two huge camps of power. Neither one of these camps represents the will of Egypt’s majority, which originally voted for candidates other than Shafiq and Morsi.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Sameh Ashour, the head of the advising council for the SCAF, said, “The upcoming president will occupy the office for a short period of time, whether or not he agrees. His office term will be short despite the huge efforts exerted in the election campaigns because a new constitution will be drafted, followed by new parliamentary elections to take on the legislative power; and therefore it is not possible in any event for the president to remain in office after a new constitution comes to the light.”

Mohamed Abou-Treika, Egypt’s most prominent football star and a Brotherhood supporter, refused to have his photo taken with a Shafiq delegate in a polling station and chose instead to be photographed alone wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the words: “The day I give up your rights, I’ll surely be dead.”

Coincidentally, Monday was the anniversary of the declaration of the Egyptian republic, on June 18, 1953.


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