Lally Weymouth is a senior associate editor of The Washington Post.
Mohamed ElBaradei, a former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and one of Egypt’s best-known international figures, became vice president for external affairs in the new government after the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi early last month. ElBaradei sat down with The Washington Post’s Lally Weymouth in his Cairo office this past week to discuss the Muslim Brotherhood, violence and the chances for lasting democracy in Egypt.
What should happen to the Muslim Brotherhood members camped out at the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque? U.S. officials are concerned that the army will crack down and there will be more bloodshed.
That’s exactly what we want to avoid. Being harsh is not a solution. Understanding what we need to do and how you achieve social inclusion and political stability is more important. There’s a lot of high emotions here and a lot of anger. That’s not where we want to go. We want to go into more acceptance of diversity of different views. That’s the only way to achieve stability. What we need to do right now number one, of course, is to make sure that we stop the violence. And there is a lot of violence.
Once we do that, we immediately have to go into a dialogue to ensure that the Brotherhood understand that Mr. Morsi failed. But that doesn’t mean that the Brotherhood should be excluded in any way. They should continue to be part of the political process, they should continue to participate in the rewriting of the constitution, in running for parliamentary elections and presidential elections. You have the tea party, and you have the American Civil Liberties Union. There is a big, wide gap, but they are able to live together under the Constitution.
So members of the Muslim Brotherhood have to understand that Morsi failed but they should be able to run for office?
Morsi failed not because he is a member of the Brotherhood but because he failed to deliver. In a democracy, when you get 20 million people in the street, you resign. Unfortunately, we don’t have a process of recall or impeachment like you have. It was a popular uprising rejecting Mr. Morsi’s continuing in power. Unfortunately, people had to call on the army to intervene. The army had to intervene because short of that, we would have ended up in a civil war. People went to the street on the 30th of June and were not psychologically ready to go home until Morsi left office. Either it would have continued, with all the bloodshed that would have come with it, or Mr. Morsi had to leave. It would have been ideal for Mr. Morsi to resign, but he didn’t.
So you have this esoteric discussion, whether this is a coup d’état. When you have 20 million people calling on Mr. Morsi to leave, and the army had to step in to avoid a civil war, does that make it a coup d’état? Of course not. It’s not your classical army intervention. It’s really the army providing support to a popular uprising. It was no different than what happened under [former president Hosni] Mubarak, except this time you had the Brotherhood and the Salafis — you had a country much more divided than during Mubarak’s time, when he didn’t have much support other than his apparatchiks. So they had to come in. But nobody wants to see the army back. The army itself understands that they cannot govern, they are unable to govern, and people don’t want them to govern.