An Egyptian government commission reviewing the Muslim Brotherhood recently concluded that the Brotherhood deserves most of the blame for the bloodshed that occurred during the overthrow of former President Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist and member of the Brotherhood of. The study also faulted the military and police.
In August, when protests began after Michael Brown was shot by a policeman in Ferguson, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement urging “restraint and respect for the right of assembly and peaceful expression of opinion.” The language was very similar to that of the White House when it repeatedly condemned Egypt and called for the release of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners.
Egyptian officials have continued in this same theme.
The former vice president of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Tahani al-Gebali, said that international human rights groups, including an Egyptian fact-finding group, should be allowed to monitor the situation in Ferguson. Again, the comment mirrors those used by the Obama Administration about the U.S. monitoring the Egyptian crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood protesters.
When Gebali was asked by Al-Monitor about the apparent comparison she was drawing between Egypt’s crackdown on the protesters and Ferguson, she explained that it was a response to the American position on Muslim Brotherhood.
“The situation was different in Egypt, as there was a revolution and a change of rules. As a result, the U.S.’ leaning toward the Brotherhood, which was toppled by the revolution, created doubts about the intentions of U.S. organizations,” she said.
Manal Al-Tibi of the National Council for Human Rights said her organization would not get involved in the Ferguson situation and that Egyptians calling for a fact-finding mission are just trying to make a point.
“[They are] definitely playing political games, to transmit a retaliatory message to the U.S. system and human rights organizations as a response to their repetitive criticism of the human rights situation in Egypt lately,” she said.
U.S.-Egyptian relations have been rocky since the U.S. opposed the popularly supported overthrow of Morsi and banned the Muslim Brotherhood. The new Egyptian government responded by embracing Russia.
In an August 2013 interview with the Washington Post, Egypt’s then military commander (and current President) El-Sisi said, “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.”
“The title of the article should be ‘Hey America: Where is your support for Egypt? Where is your support for free people?’…What I want the American reader to know is that this is a free people who rebelled against an unjust political rule, and this free people needs your support.”
El-Sisi said the Muslim Brotherhood ideology is “based on restoring the Islamic religious empire” and is an international organization in 60 countries. He explained that “Hamas is part of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Other Muslim partners in the Middle East have expressed disappointment with the U.S. on the issue of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamic State and Iran.
The United Arab Emirates recently banned the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group, along with some of its Western affiliates like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the Muslim American Society and Islamic Relief.
The UAE defended its decision amid criticism by powerful Islamist groups in the U.S. and Europe. In response, a senior UAE official said the outcry in the Western world shows the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood’s affiliates.
Similarly, over the summer, prominent Iraqi leaders criticized the U.S. Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, an enemy of both Sunni and Shiite Islamists, said U.S. policy “has been without a compass” and “in disarray,” especially by “siding with Iran.”
The Iraqi ambassador to the U.S., Lukman Faily, likewise said the impression of America as an unreliable ally would force his government to be “in an uncomfortable position in seeking support from whoever is available on the ground.”
“A lot of people in different positions in government, in addition to the people of Iraq are asking us, would the U.S. support a democratically elected government in this war on aggression by an international terrorist organization? That is a serious question for the U.S. to answer,” Faily said.
U.S. policy towards Iran is especially concerning for Sunni Arab partners.
The Crown Prince of Bahrain described U.S. policy towards Iran and Egypt as suffering from “schizophrenia” and warned that the countries in the region would see the Russians as more reliable partners.
The Saudis have likewise complained over these issues, with the intelligence shift envisioning a "major shift" away from the U.S. so the country is more independent. This could mean nuclear weapons construction, as senior Saudi officials have said they will do if Iran’s program progresses too far.
Nuclear experts said in February that they are seeing indications that Saudi Arabia is gathering the necessary technology and expertise. The Saudis are also widely believed to have financed the Pakistani nuclear weapons program so they can have access to the bombs if necessary.
The Egyptian use of Ferguson to needle the U.S. is a snapshot of a broader trend across the region where aspiring partners against Islamist terrorists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran view the U.S. as a naïve and unreliable friend without strategic sense.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio.