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US government officials have had a meeting with members of the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, according to several recent reports in the media.
The website Bikyamasr reports that high ranking US diplomats — including the First Secretary of the US embassy in Cairo and a member of the National Security Council — attended a meeting at the Freedom and Justice party headquarters in Cairo with the Secretary General of the FJP. The FJP is the political party formed by the Muslim Brotherhood in the aftermath of President Hosni Mubarak’s removal from power.
The Brotherhood is preparing for parliamentary elections to be held in late November and is widely expected to emerge as the largest bloc, although far short of a majority. And in a major development, the liberal Wafd party has parted company with the Islamists, supposedly because they want to run more candidates than they could if they allied themselves with the Brotherhood. However, it is possible the Wafd party realized they would be the junior partner in any alliance with the MB and decided they would be better off without them.
Why would high ranking officials of the US government sit down with an organization that created a terrorist group like Hamas? Was it simply a matter of real politik – a realization that since the MB was going to come out on top in the coming elections anyway that it was better to have contact with them than give them the diplomatic cold shoulder?
That could be one reason. But there may be another, simpler reason; the administration of President Barack Obama doesn’t believe that the Muslim Brotherhood is a threat to anyone and that their disavowal of terrorism can be trusted.
Recall the testimony of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper last February when, appearing before House Intelligence Committee he startled onlookers and Members of Congress by saying the the MB was “largely secular” and that they had pursued “social ends,” and “a betterment of the political order in Egypt.”
“In other countries, there are also chapters or franchises of the Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no overarching agenda, particularly in pursuit of violence, at least internationally,” he told the committee.
Flash forward to a mass rally in Tahrir Square held at the end of July where tens of thousands of Salafists demonstrated, including masses of Brotherhood members, chanting Islamist slogans calling for the implementation of Sharia law, and warning that the constitution that will be written must be based on Koranic law.
Even in the clarification Clapper’s media office released a few hours after those shocking statements, he made it clear that he didn’t think there was much to worry about when it came to the Muslim Brotherhood. “To clarify Director Clapper’s point – in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation,” the statement said. Mubarak’s regime literally arrested MB members on sight. How that translates into working “through a political system” Clapper didn’t elaborate on.
What could have possessed the DNI — a man with the most sophisticated intelligence analyses at his fingertips — to make such a ridiculous statement? It is apparent that the administration has made a decision to treat the Brotherhood as a political party rather than an Islamist organization hell bent on the destruction of Israel, and the establishment of a Sharia-compliant Egyptian government.
In an interview with Egypt’s Al-Hayat TV last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made it plain exactly how the administration will be dealing with the Islamists in Egypt:
We will be willing to and open to working with a government that has representatives who are committed to non-violence, who are committed to human rights, who are committed to the democracy that I think was hoped for in Tahrir Square.
Since the MB and their Islamist allies will almost certainly come out on top in the elections next month, it seems clear that Clinton believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is “committed to non-violence,” and “democracy.”
This also appeared to be the attitude of our diplomats who met with the FJP. They included Prem G. Kumar, the National Security Council Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs and Amy Destefano, the First Secretary of the US Embassy in Cairo. Their host was Dr. Mohamed Saad Katatni, the Secretary General of the FJP. Katatni apparently lectured our diplomats on the new state of affairs in Egypt, reportedly telling them,“If America wants to build balanced relations with the countries of the region after the Arab Spring, it should re-read the new scenario in accordance to the will of the peoples of the region.”
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