U.S. Tells Egypt to Stop Arrests of Muslim Brotherhood Members

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The Obama administration, using diplomatic and veiled language, issued a quiet warning to Egypt that it should stop “arbitrary” arrests of members of the Muslim Brotherhood, or the United States will freeze up aid.

The United States has not named the ousting of Mohamed Morsi as a coup d'état but has condemned the arrests and shooting of violent Muslim brotherhood protesters who support the overthrown leader.

Muslim-Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi was toppled from his presidency by Egypt’s military on July 3. Since then, Muslim Brotherhood members have been rallying in Cairo – oftentimes violently — calling for his return to office. As reported by the Clarion Project, Arab-language media has reported statements of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie who has threatened that Muslim brotherhood supporters will form a “Free Egyptian Army” to fight the Egyptian military and forcibly re-install Morsi as Egypt’s leader.

Twitter posts attributed to Badie say the Brotherhood 's leader has told has told his followers to suspend their Ramadan fasts since they are in a state of jihad and will soon retake Egypt by force (see video below). Badie has not been seen in public since a June 30 appearance. An arrest warrent was issued for him on July 10.

The United States, which backed Morsi’s presidency, is continuing to provide aid to the nation, but has been watching the chaos, trying to determine the best national security strategy.

Meanwhile, the new military powers have been detaining key members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the group’s spiritual leader and nine other leading Islamists, accusing them of inciting riots, among other charges.

The White House advised Egypt’s military to cease and desist.

Speaking to the Egyptian military, White House spokesman Jay Caney said.  "You're working against yourself if your effort is to be inclusive. The only way this is going to work successfully for the Egyptian people is if all parties are encouraged and allowed to participate and that’s why we’ve made clear that arbitrary arrests are not anything that we can support," he added.

At the State Department, Spokeswoman Jen Psaki went further, saying that the arrests contradicted assurances given to US officials by the Egyptian military and members of the interim government. She added that policy heads are considering the arrests as they make their funding decisions.

Psaki said that "The arrests we’ve seen, of course, over the past several days targeting specific groups are not in line with the national reconciliation that the interim government and military say they are pursuing. If politicized arrests and detentions continue, it is hard to see how Egypt will move beyond this crisis. We’re looking at what happened last week and how things are certainly handled moving forward. Those are all factors in our decision-making around our policy as it relates to Egypt."

By law, the US is required to suspend the $1.5-billion military aid to Egypt if the removal of Morsi from the government is officially defined as a coup.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican with presidential ambitions, has introduced a bill that would halt all aid to Egypt. Several other senators have urged the suspension of military and other funds for Egypt because of a U.S. law prohibiting foreign assistance after coups, but Paul is the first to propose legislation to cut it off.

"The overthrow of the Egyptian government was a coup d'etat, and the law is clear that when a coup takes place, foreign aid must stop," Paul said in a statement. He criticized President Barack Obama for refusing to label the government takeover a "coup" and for continuing to send Egypt assistance. The president, Paul said, "is forthrightly saying, ‘I am ignoring the rule of law.’"

The bill is unlikely to pass.

Despite criticism of the military from some American lawmakers, many believe Morsi’s government was taking Egypt down an undemocratic path and that the actions of the military were warranted.

It should be noted that although the Muslim Brotherhood has made a tactical decision to work towards the implemention of sharia in Egypt and globally through their own demographic growth and by growing their political power, the ideology driving the movement is definitely extremist. Its publicly stated credo states:  "Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader; Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations."

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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org