RECOMMENDED READING: “The MB’s Relations With The U.S.”


Eman Ragab, a researcher at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Egypt, has published an article titled “The MB’s relations with the US” that reviews the relations between the new Muslim Brotherhood government and the U.S. The article begins:

On key issues the relationship between the ascendant Muslim Brotherhood and Washington is unclear, in part because the group itself is in a moment of transformation, writes Eman Ragab Now that the Muslim Brothers have put one of their own in the president’s office it is more important than ever to consider how they will manage their relations with Washington. To what extent will this major development alter the decades-long strategic relationship between Egypt and the US? Several US officials have issued statements signalling Washington’s acceptance of Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s first post-revolutionary president. Undoubtedly, this is an extension of the ‘cautious’ rapprochement that the US has taken towards the Muslim Brotherhood since the opening days of the revolution. As the best organised political force and the most powerful exponent of ‘moderate’ Islamism in Egypt, the Muslim Brothers seemed best poised to ensure a ‘peaceful’ transitional phase. At the same time, the US realised that, if the Muslim Brotherhood came to power, it did not have the ‘luxury’ to boycott Egypt, as it did Hamas-governed Gaza. Therefore, Washington was prepared to be pragmatic and to take the steps necessary to show this. The Muslim Brotherhood’s position towards the US remains ambiguous. Throughout the presidential campaign it avoided discussion of the Egyptian-US relationship as it did most other ‘sensitive’ issues since the revolution. Of course, an explicitly stated Muslim Brotherhood vision for restructuring the long-established Egyptian-US strategic relationship could have exacted an enormous political toll. At the very least, it would have compelled Washington to reassess the acceptance that the Muslim Brotherhood was banking on. However, there are no grounds for assuming that such a vision was even on the cards. Some observers have gone so far as to suggest that a ‘special’ relationship has been evolving between Washington and the Muslim Brotherhood and that this relationship has been growing closer as the Muslim Brothers have gained political ground in Egypt. As Nathan Brown observed, ‘[The Muslim Brothers] have quarrelled with everyone apart from the US and Senator John McCain.’ The Muslim Brothers appear to have been equally willing to court and be courted by the US. Muslim Brotherhood leaders have met with US officials during the past year or so. These meetings included one between Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie and the US ambassador to Egypt in the context of the ‘limited contacts’ that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of in June 2011. Nor do these contacts date from after the revolution alone. They are an extension of the ‘background talks’ that the US has had with Brotherhood members since forming the largest ever opposition bloc in parliament in 2005, at which time the Muslim Brotherhood was still an officially banned organisation.

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