Clinton seeks to ease power struggle in Egypt
HILLARY CLINTON, the US secretary of state, held talks in Cairo with Egypt’s top military commander yesterday in an attempt to ease the escalating power struggle between the country’s powerful military and Mohamed Morsi, the newly elected Islamist president.
The meeting with Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the defence minister, came hours after Mrs Clinton emerged on Saturday night from discussions with Mr Morsi to announce that her country supported a “full transition to civilian rule with all it entails”.
She spoke of the “military’s return to a purely national security role”, hinting it was time the generals went back to their barracks and handed over power to the president and elected institutions. Few details have emerged of Mrs Clinton’s hour-long meeting with Field Marshal Tantawi, but a US official was cited as saying that they discussed Egypt’s political transition and that the general brought up US aid and the country’s economic needs.
“Tantawi stressed that this is what Egyptians need most now – help getting the economy back on track,” said a US official cited by Reuters news agency.
Mrs Clinton has been treading carefully, analysts say, as the US recalibrates policy towards a strategic ally undergoing seismic political shifts. Though her words on the need for a full transition to civilian rule will provide comfort to Mr Morsi, she has been careful to mute any criticism of the generals, nor are there any signs that Washington is prepared to use its annual $1.3 billion (€1 billion) in military aid to Cairo as leverage.
Shadi Hamid, director of research at Brookings Doha, said US circumspection was partly driven by Washington’s “lack of a vision for dealing with the Arab spring”.
Another reason, he said, was wariness of unleashing a backlash in a tense environment where state media, loyal to the military rulers, and liberals fearful of the rise of the Islamists stand ready to fire back with accusations of interference.
Already critics are casting the Islamists, who are struggling to surmount their long-standing suspicions of the US, as Washington’s new darlings and part of a nefarious plot to serve Israeli interests.
Field Marshal Tantawi did not comment on his meeting with Mrs Clinton but made his sentiments known in remarks yesterday at a military ceremony. He stressed that the armed forces would “not allow anybody, particularly those who are pushed by external [sides], to prevent them from carrying out their role in protecting Egypt and its people”.
Egypt, he said, was “for all Egyptians, not for a certain group”– an apparent reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr Morsi’s group, which also won the parliamentary election.
In a swift succession of measures last month, the generals had dissolved the elected parliament after a court ruling found it unconstitutional. – (Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012)