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Between Opportunism and Improvisation.

The ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has shown clear mishandling of both domestic and foreign issues. In many cases, the way it has handled these issues goes beyond merely seeking to "Islamize" the Egyptian administration. This is a dangerous and unacceptable matter in and of itself, and points to an internal dictatorial course, political opportunism at the expense of Egypt's national interests, or destructive improvisation and ignorance of Egypt's role and of the view it has historically held of its own role in the worst of cases.

The Brotherhood's improvisation, ignorance, and political opportunism have been exposed by the way its rule has dealt with three vital cases that are of concern to Egypt, both domestically and in terms of its foreign relations.

It is well known, traditionally, that appointing governors in Egypt by presidential decree is one of the most sensitive decisions to be made, nearly of equal importance to that of forming government cabinets. Thus, decision-makers usually make sure to match the capabilities of governors to the needs of the governorates in which they are appointed. President Mohamed Morsi has appointed a leading figure of the Building and Development Party, a party issued from Al-Gam Al-Islamiyya, Adel Al-Khayyat, as governor of Luxor.

No one from the president's entourage or from the Muslim Brotherhood's administration was able to explain why Morsi could find no one to fill this position in the Luxor governorate, a tourist governorate par excellence, and one in which the economy relies on providing all forms of infrastructure needed by tourists in general, but a leading figure of the group that perpetrated the tourist massacre of 1997 at an archaeological site in Luxor.

Appointing governors is the prerogative of the president, but for the exercise of this prerogative to drop to such a low point raises questions about what it means. Is the issue merely one of offering compensation to the Building and Development Party and drawing it in electorally? The president surely could have found a form of compensation that would have been less damaging for the country and for him personally. Or is the issue merely one of showing obstinacy and disdain for the feelings of the people of Luxor and of Egyptians in general? If that is the case, then the President has succeeded at achieving his goal.

In any case, the decision has been emblematic of political opportunism, if not improvisation and ignorance.

Egypt and the Nile share the same story. Indeed, the great river has defined Egypt's strategy towards Africa throughout history. Such a relationship has never been shaken, except under the Muslim Brotherhood's management of this issue - an issue that should lie beyond any desire for power, partisan interest or "Islamization" of Egypt's state administration. Disagreements between upstream, downstream and riparian countries rise and fall, according to the river's water level, and also according to the many newly-arisen needs, especially those connected to development. And for many long years, there have been talks regarding shares and the utilization of the Nile's water. The outcome of these talks has been the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which the Muslim Brotherhood's administration in Cairo only "discovered" a few weeks ago, leading the President to personally take charge to "compensate with his own blood every drop of water lost from the Nile", and the Brotherhood to sound the drums of war, threatening Ethiopia. This quickly revealed the Muslim Brotherhood's opportunism and its exploitation of the special relationship between Egypt and its river for patriotic outbidding. It also led Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir to reveal that what Morsi did at the dialogue conference on the Nile was tantamount to tilting at windmills, by asserting that the new Ethiopian dam would not affect the river's water level. Even before the statements made by Bashir, who, like Egypt, is concerned with the issue of the Nile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr visited Addis Ababa, returning with a statement that nearly amounts to an apology to the Ethiopians, after the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt threatened them with war.

In any case, where could one place Egypt's decision-making on the issue of the Nile? There can be no disagreement over the fact that such decision-making is emblematic of political opportunism, if not improvisation and ignorance.

In the Middle Eastern sphere, where Egyptian diplomacy has traditionally had extensive influence and a clear strategy, President Morsi has shifted Egypt's position on the Syrian crisis from one side to its opposite. Indeed, he suddenly announced the severance of all relations with Damascus and the withdrawal of diplomatic representation. This comes after he had wagered for months on the mediation of a quadripartite committee, which also includes Egypt and Iran, to find a political solution to the Syrian crisis, echoing a suggestion from Tehran, as well as after contacts between Egypt and Iran that had reached the extent of a summit. In other words, Morsi has moved from a position in which he was drawing closer to and coordinating with Tehran, which defends the Syrian regime, to severing all relations with the latter.

Thus, on the Syrian crisis, a highly sensitive and critical issue, improvisation and opportunism have dominated the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, as there is no excuse for its ignorance on this issue.

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Publication:Dar Al Hayat, International ed. (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7EGYP
Date:Jun 23, 2013
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