Source Washington Times
Muslim Brotherhood seeks U.S. alliance as it ascends in Egypt
Vows to honor treaty with Israel
By Ben Birnbaum
A lawmaker from Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday that there would be “no referendum at all” on the country’s peace treaty with Israel, hours after the Islamist group’s presidential candidate made his unexpected bid official.
“We respect international obligations, period,” Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, a lawmaker from the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told The Washington Times.
Mr. Dardery was on a good-will tour of Washington this week with three other Muslim Brotherhood representatives. Long shunned by Washington, the group has sought to soften its image in the West as it prepares to assume greater power in post-revolution Egypt.
On Thursday, the White House downplayed the significance of a meeting between administration officials and the Brotherhood’s envoys.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the FJP representatives met with “midlevel” officials from the National Security Council and that it was a reflection of the new politics in Egypt and the “prominent role” the group now plays in Cairo.
“We have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors,” Mr. Carney said.
“Because of the fact that Egypt’s political landscape has changed, the actors have become more diverse and our engagement reflects that,” he said. “The point is that we will judge Egypt’s political actors by how they act, not by their religious affiliation.”
The Muslim Brotherhood’s ascendancy to power in the aftermath of longtime President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster last year has raised concerns among secular Egyptians and Coptic Christians, as well as U.S. and Israeli officials, about how the fundamentalist group would rule Egypt’s 85 million people and conduct its foreign relations.
Asked whether a Brotherhood-led government would put the 1979 Camp David Accords to a referendum, as many of the group’s leaders have promised, Mr. Dardery said no.
“No referendum at all concerning international obligations,” he said. “All our international agreements are respected by the Freedom and Justice Party, including Camp David.”
Meanwhile, FJP presidential candidate Khairat al-Shater filed papers Thursday with Egypt’s High Presidential Elections Commission. Egyptians will vote in the presidential election’s first round May 23 and 24, with the top two vote-getters facing off in a June 16 runoff.
The Brotherhood had promised not to field a presidential candidate but changed course Saturday, citing threats to democracy from the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mr. Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.
In Washington, Mr. Dardery said the Brotherhood fielded a candidate “to make sure that [the] democracy road is protected by the people of Egypt,” arguing that the military council had refused to give the parliament sufficient authority.
Mr. Shater, a businessman with a reputation for cunning pragmatism, joins a crowded field that includes Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik and moderate Islamist Abdel Moneim Abdoul Futouh. Salafist preacher Hazem Abu Ismail was disqualified Thursday, increasing Mr. Shater’s chances for victory.
Doubts about democracy
A poll taken by Egypt’s Al Ahram newspaper found that 58 percent prefer an Islamist candidate.
With Mr. Shater’s entry, some analysts now doubt that Mr. Moussa – once considered the overwhelming favorite – will make the runoff.
“Egypt is not moving toward a democracy,” said Eric Trager, an Egypt analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “It is moving toward a competitive theocracy in which the Muslim Brotherhood is pitted against more fundamentalist Salafists.
“The question is only which interpretation of the Shariah will be legislated, not whether Egypt will be a theocratic state.”
The FJP and the hard-line Salafist Nour Party won two-thirds of the seats in recent parliamentary elections and now dominate the constituent assembly tasked with writing Egypt’s new constitution.
The prospect of unchecked Islamist control has frightened secular Egyptians as well as the country’s large Coptic Christian community, which has faced escalating violence over the past year.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said this week that U.S. officials “want to see Egypt move forward in a democratic transition, and what that means is you do not and cannot discriminate against religious minorities, women, political opponents.”
Egypt’s Islamist tide also has sparked concerns in Israel, which has maintained a cold but stable peace with its southern neighbor since 1979.
“The Muslim Brothers will not show mercy to us, they will not give way to us, but I hope they will keep the peace,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday. “It is important for us, but I think that it is also important for Egypt.”
Despite Mr. Dardery’s statements Thursday, many analysts remain skeptical about the Brotherhood’s true intentions.
Trouble in the Sinai
“Their discourse back at home about Israel being an enemy is consistent with where they have been all along, and I don’t think we should expect any change,” said Steven Cook, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “The Struggle for Egypt.”
“I think their hope is that they can put [the peace treaty] to the side at least for the moment, but the fact that they called for this referendum, the fact that they’ve used this issue makes it hard to believe that they wouldn’t bow to any political pressure [on Israel].”
Israel has had tense relations with Egypt’s military council, which the Jewish state says has not done enough to prevent terrorists from operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
Early Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu warned that the Sinai is becoming a “terror zone” after a rocket fired from the territory struck the southern Israeli resort city of Eilat. No injuries were reported.
The prospect of a further deterioration in relations between the two countries would raise difficult questions for Washington, which has given Egypt roughly $2 billion in aid annually since 1979.
“If they no longer respect agreements reached under previous governments, then they’re not a country worthy of our support,” said Rep. Gary L. Ackerman of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East and South Asia subcommittee.
But Mr. Ackerman, echoing a now-common school of thought in Washington, told The Times that Mr. Shater’s candidacy might be a positive development given the alternative.
“If I was writing the morning line on who can beat the Salafists, it’s the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said. “And if I have to choose between horrible and not that great, I’ll take not that great.”
• Susan Crabtree contributed to this report.
As a Side Note:
A 1991 document written by U.S. MB leader Mohammed Akram (a.k.a. Mohammed Adlouni)explains the goal of the Brotherhood in America, which he identifies as “settlement:”
The general strategic goal of the Brotherhood in America which was approved bythe Shura [Leadership] Council and the Organizational Conference for 1987 is“enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and sta-ble Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims’causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observantMuslim base; aims at unifying and directing Muslims’ efforts; presents Islam as acivilization alternative; and supports the global Islamic state, wherever it is.” …Thepriority that is approved by the Shura Council for the work of the Brotherhood inits current and former session is “Settlement.”
The document goes on to explain that “settlement” is a form of jihad aimed at destroying Westerncivilization from within and allowing for the victory of Islam over other religions:The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist process” with all that the wordmeans. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sab-otaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so thatit is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have notprepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim’s destiny to perform Jihad and workwherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes, and there is noescape from that destiny except for those who chose to slack. But, would the slack-ers and the Mujahidin be equal.
In another part of the document titled “The Process of Settlement,” the author explains that forthe Brotherhood’s goals to be accomplished, it is necessary to have a strong organizational base:In order for Islam and its Movement to become “a part of the homeland” in whichit lives, “stable” in its land, “rooted” in the spirits and minds of its people,“enabled” in the life of its society, [with] firmly established “organizations” onwhich the Islamic structure is built and with which the testimony of civilization isachieved, the Movement must plan and struggle to obtain “the keys” and the toolsof this process in carrying out this grand mission as a “Civilization-Jihadist”responsibility which lies on the shoulders of Muslims and—on top of them—theMuslim Brotherhood in this country….”
Read the entire PDF here Muslim Brotherhood of the United States