The military coup-style ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi led some U.S. leaders to consider pulling U.S. aid per laws that govern that aid in the event of military overthrows of legitimate governments.
But pulling aid right now to an Egyptian government in transition would be akin to throwing gasoline on a fire in the back yard of our closest Middle East allies.
U.S. economic interests as well as strategic alliances with Israel and the rest of the Middle East require that we move cautiously on Egypt encouraging power-sharing among the various political, ethnic and cultural groups in a country with growing importance as a U.S. ally in the Middle East.
There is plenty of evidence Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood was not acting in the interests of all Egyptians, but it was unfortunate the most efficient and maybe only means of changing this dynamic relied on military force.
We have to remember up until about a year ago, Egypt was as far from a democratic state as one can get in the Middle East. For 30 years it was ruled by a brutal dictator whose notions of democracy were non-existent.
All of this cannot be changed quickly, as we have seen in Iraq.
Experts say when the Brotherhood won the election after dictator Hosni Mubarek’s ouster, they showed no interest in a coalition government, showing any religious tolerance or coming up with a consensus constitution. Morsi seized key institutions and showed, as veteran journalist Fatemah Farag says, that they were “taking Egypt for themselves.”
The way forward for the U.S. should include condemnation of religious intolerance by any group, including current military leaders.
The U.S. must encourage power sharing in a new Egyptian democracy that is not yet ready for a democracy lead by a strong majority, argues Megan O’Sullivan, a former George W. Bush administration security advisor who worked with transition governments in Iraq.