Saturday, 27 October 2012

Mursi’s Foreign Policy: The Inverted Pyramid

Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at the U.N. Headquarters in New York, 26 September 2012. (Photo: Reuters -Lucas Jackson)
Published Thursday, October 25, 2012
An analysis of Egyptian foreign policy under Mursi’s presidency at this early moment aims to uncover its future and strategic direction, as this direction will influence the entire region, as every country is related to Egypt, the heart of the Arab world.
In order to make the analysis it is necessary to determine the variables that hold priority and control this foreign policy, is it security, religion, economy, regional role, engagement with the West, or Arab-Israeli conflict?
Revolutionary systems usually tend toward revolutionary foreign policies as a result of many factors: the struggle for legitimacy between revolutionary groups, enthusiasm and lack of political experience, the need to commit to the revolutionary discourse which the revolutionaries claimed during the struggle against the old system, the power of extremists within revolutionary movements during the first period as they hold legitimacy of achieving the victory, the attempt to divert public attention from internal challenges by magnifying external threats, and finally the ideology of revolutionary groups, their world view and role conception , which motivate the other factors.
It is worth noting that the foreign policy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is not revolutionary at all, except in its discourse. They are presenting a positive position toward the US and international institutions, engaging with Turkey and Gulf states, dealing cautiously with Hamas, ignoring Israeli violations and recognizing the Camp David peace treaty, adopting a “cold” policy toward Iran and an aggressive one toward the Syrian regime. This early pragmatism can be explained by many factors:

The Muslim Brotherhood separates its vision for internal policies from external ones; at the national level it uses ideological and religious discourse while using pragmatism in foreign policies. This separation is also at the organizational level after the formation of a political party – Freedom and Justice Party – which is separated from the religious institution of Muslim Brotherhood.

The Muslim Brotherhood is concerned primary with the challenges of the economy and development, as it considers that these issue will determine its legitimacy in public opinion which is crucial for the next elections.

It tends to methodologically address social and political challenges step by step and not in a revolutionary way. It believes first in founding the Muslim individual then the Muslim family, then the Muslim society, then Islamic government, and finally mastering the world. This way of thinking is expressed by talking about priorities, “jurisdiction of priorities” in a way that allows the group to ignore issues that it cannot deal with at a certain moment.

Finally, all Islamic actors in the region are testing a “political adaptation” process. They are becoming more realistic and aware of the limits of ideology in politics.

However, even with this pragmatism, the Muslim Brotherhood needs to preserve its religious image, which is necessary in order to legitimatize its leadership role, nationally and regionally. For that, it is aiming to build Egypt’s regional role by claiming leadership of the Sunni Arabs, as was apparent in Mursi’s speech in Tehran, the emotional position about the Syrian Crisis, delaying the normalization of relations with Iran, and claiming that it represents moderate Islam.
  • What about the Gaza seize?
  • What about its relations with Saudi Arabia and its sectarian role?
  • What about Turkey and its strategic partnership with NATO and the US?
  • What about its position toward Israel?
  • Will Mursi ask for certain measures in these cases as he did for the Syrian crisis? 

Religion and defending Sunnis, for the Muslim Brotherhood, stop at the Palestinian borders.

The Muslim Brotherhood is claiming its intention to regain Egypt’s regional leadership after years of retreat under Mubarak’s rule. But is this possible through begging for loans, donations and investments from states that do not have an interest in an independent Egyptian regional role?

These states – such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the US – will offer some economic benefits, but that will be the price for reproducing Mubarak’s foreign policy with a religious cover.

Does the Muslim Brotherhood think it can achieve political independence by economic dependence?

On the contrary, Egypt’s economic opportunities must be dependent on its political vision, and this vision must be based on Egypt’s ability to be the core of a regional integration process. Egypt can play a neutral and balanced role between Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkey in order to enhance this regional integration process.

Also, the Muslim Brotherhood must realize that the solution for Egypt’s economic problems is based primarily on an independent national decision and internal policies such as a stable and legitimate political system, efficiency of government, quality of the educational system and public facilities. For example, the reformation of Suez Channel could increase its profits by tens of billions of dollars.

Egyptian foreign policy should be based on a clear definition of national security and interests, and not the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood’s regime, as Mubarak used to do.

This is not to underestimate the economic challenges in Egypt, especially as a country that lacks natural resources (in contrast to Saudi Arabia and Iran) and is governed by an Islamic group, but it is wrong to give primacy to economy over politics, it is like putting an Egyptian pyramid upside down. All the countries in the Middle East need a multi-layered regional integration process, especially Egypt as a non–oil state. 

The Muslim Brotherhood has to realize that emotional discourse and Islamic symbols without clear and productive actions and a clear position toward Israel and US regional role, will lose their power and influence soon, especially with the end of the Syrian crisis. May be it is appropriate to finish with a famous quote from Imam Khomeini: “This revolution is not about the price of watermelon.”

Hosam Matar is a Lebanese researcher of International Relations.

The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect Al-Akhbar's editorial policy.


Silvan Shalom: "I can tell you that Morsi's actions against the Palestinians are much harsher than it was under Mubarak!"

[JPost] "... Defying expectations, the current regime in Egypt has acted more harshly against Hamas than the previous one, Vice Premier Silvan Shalom told Israel Radio on Thursday. 
"It's good for the public to know that the current leadership is acting against Hamas in a very tough way," Shalom said, specifying that it is destroying tunnels "one after the other," limiting movement and blocking it from carrying out terrorist activity from Egyptian territory.


"I can tell you that Egypt's actions against Hamas are much harsher than it was under the previous regime," Shalom said.

According to Shalom, Hamas thought it would have more freedom to operate from Egypt under the leadership of President Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood movement that spawned Hamas. Instead, Shalom said, Hamas "finds itself exactly in the opposite situation."

"The security cooperation between us and Egypt is excellent, and is continuing as normal,"..."

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
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Ahmed Soliman said...

You're so GOOD :) keep it up

Ahmed Soliman said...

keep it up ;) you're so RIGHT