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US Strategy for Islamist Engagement

Published: 08/07/2012 04:19:18 PM GMT
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CAIRO - The rise of Islamists to the helm of power in Egypt and other Arab countries is leaving the United States with no other option but to create a strategy to engage with the new emerging force, analysts believe. From (more)

CAIRO - The rise of Islamists to the helm of power in Egypt and other Arab countries is leaving the United States with no other option but to create a strategy to engage with the new emerging force, analysts believe.

"From a US perspective, we have no choice but to deal with the Muslim Brotherhood,” Shadi Hamid, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center, told USA Today on Sunday, July 8.

"I don't see what the alternative is."

Islamists have emerged the dominant force in several Arab countries after the Arab Spring that swept several dictators from power.New Egypt: Rebirth of a Nation

In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood rose to the helm of power after its candidate Mohamed Morsi was elected as the country's new president.

The Brotherhood also won most seats in parliament but it was later dissolved by court over flaws in the election law.

Islamists also formed governments in Tunisia and Morocco.

Under the previous policy, US diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents -- a diplomatic fiction that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.

But after Islamist electoral victories, Washington has found no other way but to craft a new strategy to engage with the rising forces in the Arab world.

"There's been a sea change in US policy toward the Brotherhood," said James Philips, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

White House spokesman Jay Carney has said the Obama administration has "broadened our engagement" with emerging parties in Egypt.

Administration officials have met with Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and Carney said the White House will judge such leaders on how they act, not on their religious affiliation.

U-turn

Analysts say that the Obama administration, unlike previous governments, sees engagement with Islamists would better serve US interests.

The Bush administration viewed it as a "hostile ideological force," Phillips said.

But the Obama administration now believes it can work with the Brotherhood as a political force.

"It certainly has become more accepting of the Brotherhood," said Daniel Serwer, a professor at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a scholar at the Middle East Institute.

On Sunday, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns held talks with the new Egyptian president Morsi.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also expected to visit Egypt and Israeli this week.

Established in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood is a group working to promote Islamic values among people. It has affiliates in several countries.

The Brotherhood has an overwhelmingly lay leadership of professionals with modern educations -- engineers, doctors, lawyers, academics and teachers. The core membership is middle-class or lower middle-class.

The Muslim Brotherhood opposes Israel and the United States's policy in the Middle East.

It has historic links with the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas and shares its belief in armed struggle against Israel.

But analysts believe that the United States would not have the same status it used to have under former regimes.

"It's not going to be business as usual," Hamid said."They're not going to go along with U.S. objectives and interests as Mubarak did."

Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net




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