Speaking to Al Jazeera (click on video above or here) before the announcement of Mohamed Morsi’s indictment for espionage and collusion with HAMAS, Hillary Mann Leverett discussed the significance of and motives for the Obama administration’s decision that it is not going to determine whether Morsi’s removal as Egypt’s president constitutes a coup:
“The technical significance here is that, if the United States government does not label what has happened in Egypt as a coup, we can continue to fully fund the military, which has taken over from a democratically elected government in Egypt—which is the goal here. Strategically, the United States has always seen Egypt as a pillar of what we call ‘stability’—‘stability,’ here in Washington, means a pillar of a pro-American political and security order, even if it’s highly militarized, in the Middle East. Egypt has been a pillar of that for the United States for thirty years, and that is the core U.S. strategic interest here. (That’s not my personal opinion; that’s just our core interest.) So the United States supported this under Sadat, it supported it under Mubarak, and we’re going to support it under this current military government. The U.S. government, the Obama administration, is very reluctant to do anything that would jeopardize our ties to the military government in Egypt, this pillar of what we call ‘stability’—so-called ‘stability’—in the Middle East…
The United States, at its core, does not really have an interest in leveraging what’s going on inside Egypt. All the United States cares about is what Egypt does outside of Egypt, particularly vis-à-vis Israel. The entire debate here is motivated, I think, by what policymakers and the foreign policy elite here perceive to be Egypt’s stand toward Israel and the rest of the Middle East. If the military government in Egypt will continue to uphold the so-called ‘peace treaty’ with Israel and promote U.S. interests in the Middle East, that’s fine. The United States does not really care about what’s happening inside Egypt. We didn’t care what Mubarak was doing to Egypt’s citizens—not under Mubarak, or Sadat. I don’t think there’s really going to be very much interest, despite various pieces of rhetoric that may be coming out of various quarters, there’s will very little interest in terms of what’s going on, actually inside Egypt, under a Sisi government.”
Drawing on her long experience in Egypt, Hillary explains that the current situation confronts the Muslim Brotherhood with the most serious challenge it has ever faced:
Not only did I work for the U.S. government, work on Egypt at the White House, at the State Department, at the U.S. Embassy in Egypt, but I was a student in Egypt. It’s a country where I’ve been living and working for over twenty-five years. I think what’s happening in Egypt is very polarized, very disturbing. The idea of a military government continuing to have dictatorship over that country, over that people, is something that is a real possibility. The only real challenge to that, historically and today, has been the Muslim Brotherhood and various other Islamist groups in Egypt.
There’s a real test about whether [the Muslim Brotherhood] can pull it off. They didn’t actually start the revolution back in 2011, but the question today is, ‘Can they finish it?’ Can they fight for what they stand for? Can they fight for a really different system in Egypt, or are we going to be back to, essentially, ‘Mubaraksim’ without Mubarak? I think that’s really the question that is on the table, and I’m not sure the Muslim Brotherhood is actually up to a real revolution. We’ll see in coming days. But the consequence, I’m sure, is going to be a lot more bloodshed, a lot more instability, and some real chronic problems for Egypt for some time to come.”
–Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett