The Muslim Brotherhood as Partners

CAIRO/BERLIN (Own report) – Mass protests with numerous casualties are casting a shadow over Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi’s visit to Berlin, which begins tomorrow. Already last week, while preparations for the upcoming talks were being made in the German capital, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in Egypt, against Mursi’s Islamist government. The Egyptian president’s Berlin visit seeks particularly to promote German business in this North African country. Egypt’s economy is, at the moment, in ruins, but, according to assessments by German business circles, holds long term lucrative opportunities. Cooperation with Mursi – and, behind him, the Muslim Brotherhood – was initiated by the German government in the early aftermath of the revolts at the beginning of 2011. This cooperation draws on concepts developed by German think tanks along with US organizations in the aftermath of the Muslim Brotherhood’s 2005 electoral success. Experts are explicitly warning against a “positive assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood.” “Authoritarian tendencies” within their ranks “are evident.”

Dialogue Rather than Isolation

However, after many years of the so-called war on terror, it is quite surprising that Berlin – and the West in general – is siding with Islamist forces in the current battle between Mursi and his various rivals. Considerations leading to this alliance date back to the last decade. Following the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood’s 2005 electoral success, western think tanks began discussing whether it would be feasible to permanently exclude Islamists, or if it should not be seriously considered to keep the option open for an arrangement of power with them. This, for example, was discussed by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) in their “Transatlantic Foreign Policy Discourse” 2006 and 2007. An SWP study, which was published in 2007, concluded, “isolating the Muslim Brotherhood” is “no option.” Instead, “communication” should be initiated and the Egyptian Islamists’ “mistrust” towards the West could be “dissipated in forums through dialogue.”[6] In a series of publications, German government advisors pleaded, at the time, for closer cooperation with Islamist forces. They suggested that it would be possible to stabilize together the situation in the Arab world without loss of power. The US think tanks’ considerations were identical.

Authoritarian Tendencies at the Nile

Mursi’s visit to Berlin over the next few days is the intermediate result of this cooperation. While the masses in Cairo are demonstrating against his Islamist course, the German government will negotiate the enhancement of economic relations and political cooperation with Mursi. In a current analysis, experts warn, for example, “the positive assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood and other non-military Islamists” could “clearly be premature.” According to the author – Middle East expert Guido Steinberg from the Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) – it cannot yet be predicted “whether the Muslim Brotherhood can be integrated into a stable democratic system in Egypt” or if they would rather try to “eliminate their rivals.” Steinberg writes, “authoritarian tendencies are just as evident in the country at the Nile, as in Turkey, so often praised as a model.”[11] However, such tendencies have never prevented Berlin from cooperation – if the respective authoritarian regime was willing to comply with the most important German demands. Why should Egypt be an exception?

Background information on Germany’s cooperation with the Islamists forces can be found here: Not the More Liberal Order.

Full article: The Muslim Brotherhood as Partners (German Foreign Policy)

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