On a recent trip to Egypt with a delegation of national security experts and journalists we had the opportunity to meet with senior-level Egyptian security officials, as well as several members of the country’s various religious and civil society movements. The message being disseminated in the Western press about Egypt is contrary to the reality on the ground.
A recent Los Angeles Times article repeats the accusation that Egypt’s response to terrorism is in fact the reason Egypt is in such trouble. This narrative has become entrenched in some circles of the US foreign policy establishment. To quote directly from the article, “…some U.S. officials warn that the Egyptian actions may alienate civilians and spur anti-American sentiment.”
The inference is that the al-Qaeda-affiliated political movement known as the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), ousted from government, continues to be the most important “civilian” political entity in the Arab world’s most populous nation and that the MB is a legitimate political actor. This is despite the Brotherhood being removed as a result of what may have been the largest popular democratic revolt in history, with tens of millions of anti-Brotherhood protesters flooding the streets in the summer of 2013 in rejection of the Brotherhood’s theocratic regime.
Having spent an extensive amount of time in Egypt since the removal of President Morsi last June, I can say with confidence that “anti-American sentiment” is currently at a dangerously high level, but not for the reasons many in the press cite. The animosity stems from America’s policies of not backing the Egyptian people and their war on terrorism.
On our recent trip, members of Egypt’s civil society, that very backbone which any future democratic polity must be built on, asked us why Washington is supporting terrorism and not supporting the Egyptian people and military in their fight against terrorism. Many everyday Egyptians simply don’t understand why the U.S. cannot perceive the political reality on the ground. Egyptians are facing a counterinsurgency war in their very backyard – on Friday, an Egyptian soldier was killed by a suicide bomber in the Sinai and a policeman was killed and four more wounded by an explosion in Cairo.
In the same Los Angeles Times article, an unnamed U.S. counter-terrorism official was quoted as saying, “We fear that the Egyptian government’s heavy-handed tactics may be fueling recruitment for ABM [Ansar Bayt al Maqdis] or other extremist groups in the region.” Would it have been better for the Egyptian people to have allowed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood to stay in power and embrace the fact that they were turning Egypt into a terrorist state? One of President Morsi’s first official acts was to release the brother of Ayman Al …read more