CNSNews is reporting that a top Muslim Brotherhood official has warned that any cuts in U.S. aid to Egypt could affect Cairo’s peace treaty with Israel.
The report, by Patrick Goodenough, outlines that this direct threat is only the latest sign that Egypt’s emerging political forces intend to call Washington’s bluff over the diplomatic dispute triggered by a crackdown on non-governmental organizations.
Egyptian judges have referred 16 Americans and 27 others linked to NGOs for trial, accusing them of using foreign funds to encourage disruptive protests. Among the targeted NGOs whose assets and funds have been seized are the U.S. government-funded International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute.
On Capitol Hill, the chorus of senior lawmakers calling for aid to Egypt to be suspended over the affair is growing, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned that the funds could be in jeopardy.
So far, the defiant response from Cairo has been attributed mostly to government figures with links to the deposed Mubarak regime, including the anti-Western minister for international cooperation, Fayza Abul-Naga. The military-appointed Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri – who also served during the Mubarak era – told reporters last Wednesday that the authorities “won’t change course because of some aid.”
But now the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), which won almost 50 percent of the seats in recent legislative elections and dominates parliamentary committees, is making its position clear, too.
Any U.S. aid cut to Egypt, top MB lawmaker Essam el-Erian told the pan-Arabic al-Hayat newspaper, would violate the U.S.-brokered 1979 peace agreement with Israel.
The Jerusalem Post quoted Erian as saying that if the U.S. cuts aid to Egypt, the MB would consider changing the terms of the peace treaty. He is warning that the U.S. should understand that “what was acceptable before the revolution is no longer.”
Erian chairs the parliamentary foreign affairs committee and is deputy leader of the MB’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
The FJP was an early critic of the crackdown on the NGOs (although it also said Egyptian NGOs should get their funding from Egyptians). But threats to cut U.S. aid appear to have rallied various factions behind the government, feeding into long-held suspicion of and hostility towards the West.
“This is only the beginning of the anti-American populism/nationalism/Islamism we are going to be seeing in Egypt from now on,” Mideast expert Barry Rubin, director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Israel, wrote in a column Sunday.
“What’s amazing is that nobody is pointing out that if an Egyptian government is willing to risk U.S. aid and have a confrontation on this small issue, what are they going to do regarding big issues?’ Rubin said. “What happens when the Egyptian government moves toward Islamism or helps Hamas fight Israel on some level? We have been told that fear of losing U.S. aid will constrain Egypt. But we are now seeing that this simply isn’t true.”