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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/7/12

U.S. Egypt Policy in Limbo

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Michael Hughes
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It's highly unlikely former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak would have pursued his repressive police-state policies for nearly 30 years without the full support of the American government, which was primarily interested in containing religious extremism, maintaining regional stability and protecting Israel. Now with the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi in power as president, U.S. policy is in a state of flux and, although the military still holds de facto power, the Brotherhood "long game" has the State Department on edge.

On July 14, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Egypt to express American support for the country's "democratic transition and economic development," according to Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokesperson. Clinton will be the first major diplomat to visit Morsi and will inaugurate the U.S. Consulate General in Alexandria.

The question looms as to whether or not she'll also meet with Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).

Meanwhile, according to the  Egypt Independent , U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns delivered a letter from President Barack Obama to Morsi on Saturday, contents still unknown. The US Embassy in Cairo said in a statement Saturday that Burns will meet with "a broad spectrum of Egyptian leaders, politicians, and civil society representatives."

Clinton's timing is impeccable, because she may get caught in a crossfire. The New York Times reported on Friday that President Morsi has appointed a committee to investigate the killing of protesters during and after last year's protests, in "what appeared to be a strong challenge to the authority of Egypt's powerful security services."

The U.S. was caught flat-footed by the outbreak of the Arab Spring and almost found itself on the wrong side of history -- especially in Egypt. On January 25, 2011, the first day of protests, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, "Our assessment is that the Egyptian government is stable and is looking for ways to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of the Egyptian people." 

Within weeks the United States experienced a 360 degree change of heart, an absurdity Steven Lee Myers captured in a March 16, 2011 headline in the New York Times which read: "Clinton, in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Embraces Revolt She Once Discouraged."

Meanwhile the West has entirely alienated the revolutionary coalition that was responsible for the toppling of Egypt's modern-day pharaoh. The Muslim Brothers are fortunate the moderates split the vote in the first round. It's a shame the progressive bloc is now voiceless including secularists, liberals, nationalists, moderate Muslims, union members, professionals, poets and minority groups.

The U.S. should resist the notion that the Islamists' electoral success means the people of Egypt are ready to embrace a caliphate. Morsi in round one of the election garnered only 24.8% of the vote and Mubarak ally Ahmed Shafiq won only 23.4%, with the remaining 51.8% divided amongst 11 candidates, many of whom were moderates untied to the old regime.

Not to mention, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most organized political force in Egypt -- a well-oiled voter turnout machine whose efficiency would impress a Chicago ward boss. But it took years for the Brotherhood to build such a robust political network which revolutionary candidates had little chance of overcoming.

Realpolitik is bound to carry the day, leaving many to wonder if the revolution was in vain. Can the spirit of Tahrir square ever be revived?
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Michael Hughes is a DC-based journalist and State Department correspondent whose work can be found in The Huffington Post, CNN.com, Asia Times Online, The Globe Post, Afghan Online Press, and Sputnik/RIA Novosti Newswire Service

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