Obama pushes to give Muslim Brotherhood another chance in elections

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The White House Wednesday pushed multiple statements calling for elections in Egypt, as the country’s military-backed government cracked down on violent Islamist protesters in Cairo.

“When the interim government took power [in July], we expressed our concern about the need for a prompt transition back to a democratically elected civilian government,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said Aug. 14.

“We made clear to them that the [financial] aid we offer to Egyptians is something we review regularly, and that is something that continues to be true today,” he emphasized, at the press briefing in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., where Obama is taking a vacation.

Earnest repeated the “democratically elected civilian government” line 15 times during the briefing.

The statement was backed up by Secretary of State John Kerry, who declared that “the U.S. strongly supports the Egyptian people’s hope for a prompt and sustainable transition to an inclusive, tolerant, civilian-led democracy.”

Egypt’s military has a “unique responsibility” to ensure elections, he declared.

Those statements pressure the government to schedule elections soon, despite the risk that radical, America-hating Islamic groups could regain power via another round of elections.

The statements follow Obama’s Aug. 7 effort to support the priorities of Turkey’s Islamist government, which is trying to promote Islamist parties throughout the Arab region.

Both statements were produced shortly after Egypt’s military government violently cleared Islamic radicals from two squares in downtown Cairo. The radicals had been occupying the squares, and attacking supporters of the military government.

During the clearance, the Islamists shot government soldiers and destroyed army vehicles. More than 100 Islamists were killed during the clearance.

The radicals are part of the Muslim Brotherhood, whose Islamic candidates swept parliamentary elections in 2011 and 2012, and also won a narrow majority in the 2012 presidential election. The Brotherhood’s policies call for a regional Islamic dictatorship, a subordinate apartheid-like status for non-Muslims and undying hostility to any majority-Jewish jurisdictions, such as Israel.

The Brotherhood received roughly half the nation’s vote in the parliamentary elections. Another quarter of the votes went to an even more radical Islamic party, dubbed the Salafist party.

Much of the radicals’ support came from poor rural voters, many of whom are illiterate and reliant on Islamic imams for political guidance.

“Ultimately, what we would like to see is a government in Egypt that is chosen by the people … [and] that reflects the will of the people of Egypt,” Earnest said.

“That’s what we’re focused on. … That is what we think is in the best interests of the Egyptian people, and in the best interests of U.S. national security,” he said.

Earnest suggested that Obama is not backing Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. “We’re not putting our support behind any individual person or party,” he said.

The interim military-led government seized power in July amid protests by a large slice of Egypt’s 80-million population.

The mostly urban protesters objected to Egypt’s shrinking economy, and to the hardline Islamic policies being pushed by the Brotherhood-backed government that have damaged the country’s tourist industry and frightened the nation’s population of roughly 8 million Christians.

During the Brotherhood rule, the police and military took little action while radicals attacked Christian churches.

Last September, the Salafists staged a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy. Morsi’s government didn’t intervene for 24 hours.

Egypt’s military government is working to restore the country’s shattered economy, and is getting aid from Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich Arab countries.

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