Egypt’s Coup — Fragile Situation, but Good for U.S. Interests and Good for Israel

A simple and quick analysis of the coup in Egypt — the removal of the Islamic Brotherhood president, Muhammad Morsi — is that it’s good for the United States.  And it surely does seem to be good for Israel.

The U.S. and Israel, through all the tumult of the past 30 months, have maintained their close ties with the Egyptian military.

Morsi was Important, but he Failed

The rise of the Islamic Brotherhood – and indeed the downfall of Hosni Mubarak – was often explained by analysts who said the best organized political force inside Egypt was “the Brotherhood.”  Most Egyptians might not favor strict religious law in their daily lives – though many probably would – but in the search for leaders who seemed to be incorruptible, the Islamic Brotherhood seemed like a clean and shiny choice.

Incorruptible, perhaps – but also incompetent.

Among the secrets, in the background, is the extent of United States support for the Egyptian army as it reached its decision to seize power.

In 2011, when Mubarak fell and chaos seemed likely, Egypt’s army seemed to hold the country together – but with an apparently sincere refusal to stage an outright coup and control Egypt forever with tanks and martial law.

Once again, now, the army is portraying its dramatic move as temporary.

Who will be relieved, so far?  The Obama Administration would never say it publicly, but out of all the political elements in Egypt, Washington’s closest contacts are in the military.  Most of the U.S. aid to Egypt (lately around $1.5 billion per year, to an economy that’s been starved of tourism revenues) has gone to the military.

The American government managed to keep relations quite cordial – although not warm – with Morsi’s government. When then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wanted Egyptian help, in late 2012, in stopping Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, President Morsi came through and helped the Americans.

By extension, he was also helping the Israelis.  But his colleagues in the Islamic Brotherhood (closely allied with the Palestinian radicals of Hamas in Gaza) generally hate and resent the Jewish State.   There was no warmth in that relationship, but as a matter of security – for Morsi’s own stability, not to mention keeping the peace along Israel’s frontier with the volatile Sinai Peninsula – Egypt and Israel forged a measure of cooperation.

In truth, though, Israel’s main, agreeable contacts were with the traditional partners in Cairo – not with President Morsi. Egypt’s intelligence services maintained their quiet, but sometimes intense and useful liaisons with Israeli intelligence.  And Israel never broke off its cooperative contacts with Egypt’s military, including the very same generals and brigadiers who are now running the Arab world’s most populous and influential nation.

July 3, 2013

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