Much of the hope is based on pragmatism: At least in the immediate future, any ideological objections to U.S. policy are likely to take a back seat to Morsi’s need to stabilize Egypt and improve its floundering economy — both of which will require help from Washington, analysts say.
“The U.S. will have leverage with the Brotherhood because the Brotherhood needs the U.S. and Europe for Egypt’s long-term economic recovery,” said Shadi Hamid, an Egypt expert at the Brookings Doha Center who has met with Morsi and several Brotherhood leaders in recent months. “They are going to need billions of dollars in loans and investments if they want to turn around their economy.”
Morsi spokesman and adviser Gehad Haddad said the incoming president, who earned a PhD in Southern California during the 1970s, has begun to build healthy relationships with U.S. officials.
“We expect and will work towards a strong strategic relationship” with Washington, Haddad said in an interview Monday. “It will help to bridge the gap between how both populations view each other.”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland echoed that sentiment, telling reporters Monday: “We look forward to working with the government on issues that it’s going to need to confront.”
Still, questions remain about Morsi’s long-term dependability as a U.S. ally.
Key among them are the extent of his powers — which Egypt’s ruling generals recently curbed — and the degree to which he will be beholden to the Brotherhood’s secretive leaders.
“Is Mohamed Morsi the president of Egypt, or does the Muslim Brotherhood hold the presidency,” asked Tarek Masoud, an assistant professor of public policy at Harvard University who has met Morsi several times.
Mohammed Habib, a former deputy chairman of the Brotherhood who has broken ranks with the group, said Morsi will probably try to establish a relationship of equals with Washington.
“Egyptian decisions will not be left up to the American administration, as the deposed president agreed to before,” Habib said, referring to ousted leader Hosni Mubarak.
U.S. officials hope to make a strong impression on Morsi, 60, during an upcoming visit by a senior American official to Cairo, said another senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak for the record.
U.S. officials say they hope to use hundreds of millions of dollars in unspent American aid earmarked for Egypt as a tool to boost their leverage and build trust with a Morsi administration by finding areas of common interest.