US faces dilemma over Egyptian military
2012-06-26 0:00

By Geoff Dyer | FinancialTimes.com




For three decades the US backed the Egyptian military, in part because of fear of an Islamist takeover. Yet now that the Muslim Brotherhood has actually won the Egyptian presidency, the Obama administration finds itself debating whether to punish the military for its efforts to hold on to power.

With the announcement on Sunday that Mohamed Morsi had won the presidential election, the initial reaction in Washington was one of relief that a prolonged dispute over the result would not lead to massive street protests and greater instability.

As the dust settles on the election result, however, the Obama administration is now faced with the dilemma of how to react to the ruling military council’s decision to dissolve parliament and curtail the powers of the presidency in what has been described by analysts as a “soft coup”.

Ever since US pressure helped ease Hosni Mubarak from power last year, the Obama administration has been sharply divided over how hard to push the military to engineer a smooth democratic transition. The $1.3bn in military aid that Egypt was due to receive this year was initially suspended, then reinstated in March.

The events of the past week have reignited that debate, forcing the administration to balance a commitment to democracy in Egypt with concerns about the country’s peace treaty with Israel.

“For the last year, they have had a deer-caught-in-headlights policy towards the military,” said Michele Dunne, a Middle East expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington. “Now is the time to start using the leverage that we have.” However, one former Obama administration official cautioned: “We have much less influence over events in Egypt than people realise. And we can also make things worse.”

Washington’s relatively relaxed stance over a Muslim Brotherhood president marks a big policy shift on Egypt. Over the past year the administration has pushed to build a working relationship with the Brotherhood, including hosting delegations of its parliamentarians in Washington.


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Read the full article at: ft.com
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