Until now, the relatively moderate Islamist group had an uneasy alliance with the council of generals who took control of the country after Mubarak’s ouster on Feb. 11. But with the military leaders intent on protecting their political and economic interests as Egypt lurches toward democracy, some analysts say a clash between the two centers of power is inevitable.
The long-term interests of the military leaders and the Brotherhood “do not converge,” said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert at the Brookings Doha Center. “The military wants to effectively stay in power behind the scenes. That certainly is not what the Brotherhood wants.”
The powers of the incoming parliament remain unclear and are to be laid out in the as-yet-unwritten constitution, a document that the ruling generals have said they want military-appointed bodies to influence. But the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party is calling for real powers for the parliament, including the authority to appoint a prime minister and full control over the writing of the constitution.
A shift in U.S. policy
Under Mubarak, the Brotherhood was allowed to exist on a tight leash. Thousands of its members were arrested and tortured. Mubarak also pointed to the organization as the possible alternative to his autocratic rule and used that scenario to scare Western allies, who feared Islamist domination in the region and the unraveling of Egypt’s longtime peace treaty with Israel.
A senior legal adviser to the Freedom and Justice Party has said that elected officials from his party would reassess the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. aid to the Egyptian military.
In an interview on Egyptian television, the adviser, Ahmed Abu Bakar, said U.S. aid to Egypt, including to the military, does not help the economy or Egyptians and would be subject to debate by the new parliament. The statements come at a tense moment in U.S.-Egyptian relations, after security forces stormed the offices of 10 civil society organizations, including three American pro-democracy groups, over accusations of illicit foreign funding.
“Anything that affects Egyptian political decisions and anything that constitutes as intervention in internal Egyptian affairs is something we blatantly refuse,” Bakar said.
In recent months, U.S. diplomats and other officials have met with members of the Freedom and Justice Party. Those meetings mark a shift in policy for the United States, which has long regarded the Brotherhood as a threat to regional stability. But the willingness of Americans to engage the group is a nod to the reality that the Brotherhood will be a decision-maker in Egypt and a major player on the international stage.