The US’ attempts to push the military-led government in Egypt into quick elections isn’t exactly paying dividends, and neither is the effort from other Western nations. Despite efforts to assure all sides that the US and its allies want nothing more than a peaceful transition to elections in the future, the spokesman for the current interim president ripped into the envoys for “exceeding international standards” in domestic affairs:
The spokesman for Egypt’s interim president is decrying “foreign pressure” in a strongly worded message that appears to indicate Cairo’s uneasiness toward a flurry of visits by American, European and Gulf envoys aimed at mediating a standoff with supporters of the ousted president.
Ahmed el-Musalamani, a spokesman for interim president Adly Mansour, told reporters on Tuesday that “foreign pressure has exceeded international standards.”
If anything, military leader General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi put it even more bluntly. Having backed the Muslim Brotherhood once and then saying nothing about its abuses, the US has little influence on events now in Cairo:
We really wonder: where is the role of the United States and the European Union and all of the other international forces that are interested in the security, safety and well-being of Egypt? Are the values of freedom and democracy exclusively exercised in your countries but other countries do not have the right to exercise the same values and enjoy the same environment? Have you seen the scores of millions of Egyptians calling for change in Tahrir? What is your response to that?
You left the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they won’t forget that. Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians? The U.S. interest and the popular will of the Egyptians don’t have to conflict. We always asked the U.S. officials to provide advice to the former president to overcome his problems.
Perhaps ironically, one of the missions of the American diplomatic effort in Egypt this week is to tell the Muslim Brotherhood to forget about putting Mohamed Morsi back in office. Belatedly, after weeks of vacillation, the Obama administration is implicitly accepting the coup d’etat as a fait accompli, and advising the Brotherhood to do the same and prepare for the future:
The Obama administration sought to defuse tensions with the interim Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood on Monday, deploying a senior diplomat to quietly press the case that street protests and political deadlock will not return Mohamed Morsi to the presidency.
Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, together with envoys from the European Union and two key Arab nations, met late Sunday with the detained deputy chief of the Muslim Brotherhood. But U.S. officials said separately that one of Burns’s goals has been to smooth relations with Egypt’s military-backed interim government and make clear that the United States is distancing itself from Morsi. …
The White House has refused to call the military’s ouster of Morsi a coup, because doing so would automatically bar the United States from dispensing more than $1 billion in annual aid to Egypt. The money represents much of the leverage that Washington holds over a key Middle East partner that was the first Arab state to make peace with Israel.
At the same time, weeks of muddled messages have left Egypt’s interim government angry and dissatisfied.
If the results of that diplomatic effort is only to produce even more angry public retorts from the interim government, I’d say that we’re not succeeding so far in toning down the distrust. Part of that comes from the pressure to hold quick elections, which was precisely the poor strategy after the fall of Mubarak that produced the inept and abusive Morsi government.
Egypt needs time for its moderate and secular political forces to organize and compete with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamists, who spent decades organizing as a sometimes-tolerated opposition to the dictatorships that ruled Egypt. Sissi has apparently learned the lesson from that misstep, but so far the West has not — or at least they care less about getting that right on the second chance than they do about having to answer for the double standard of supporting a coup over an elected government. Sissi and his interim government see through the pressure and are signaling that they won’t make the same mistake twice.