Opinion

Op-Ed: Muslim Brotherhood locusts are swarming in Egypt

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Opinion,Op-Eds

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood government reminds one not of the golden eagle, that country's national symbol, but the locust.

Like the locust, swarms of the Brotherhood eat away at every progressive development on the land, destroy the economy and turn sprouts of reform into scorching oppression.

A lack of reform has held up a negotiated International Monetary Fund bailout of $4.8 billion. Egypt nonetheless refused an emergency bridge loan of $750 million, which the IMF offered while discussing the larger loan package.

Finance Minister Al-Morsi Hegazy insisted that Egypt has initiated enough reforms and therefore entitled to the entire $4.8 billion. A recent Moody's rating indicates the economy is close to faltering.

While the IMF is back in Egypt this week, there are no plans for substantial cuts in subsidies that are necessary to securing the loan -- the energy subsidy alone amounts to one-fifth of the state's budget -- although shortages in fuel, cooking oil, wheat and other products have led to price hikes.

Apparently, President Mohamed Morsi et al. assume that most of the Brotherhood's pressing needs will eventually be met. This assumption is supported by Secretary of State John Kerry's gift of $250 million in U.S. economic aid, delivered during a visit to Cairo in March, in addition to a $250 million investment from the World Bank for "climate projects."

At first, Kerry's gift seemed to contradict President Obama's public stand that Egypt would get $1 billion in aid on the condition that it meets the IMF's loan requirements.

But it turns out Kerry also signed an additional $190 million aid agreement, "the first payment of two totaling $450 million," for 2013. In turn, Morsi promised to make the IMF happy but subsequently turned down the bridge loan.

After the Brotherhood took over, many wondered when the Egyptian military would intervene and put an end to the Brotherhood's shenanigans.

But the army is unwilling to take on the Brotherhood as the majority of its soldiers support it, and members and other radical Islamists can now openly join the military.

In addition, the generals fear the suspension of $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid, which constitutes one-fifth of the defense budget.

However, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper does not seemed worried. He sees a Brotherhood-dominated Egypt as no particular threat to American or Israeli interests.

Clapper's annual Worldwide Threat Assessment, delivered to the Senate on March 12, attributed the wide protests in Egypt to Morsi's "decree in November 2012 that temporarily increased his authorities at the expense of the judiciary."

Yet, the Muslim Brotherhood's oppression is anything but temporary. On April 2, the Shura Council (the parliament's upper house) passed a new law to curtail political rights; active military and police officers can no longer cast their ballots, while other sectors have been stripped of their political rights altogether. Elections were postponed to October, and violence goes on.

None of these actions seem to discourage the IMF. Its officials are back in Egypt, despite the lack in economic reforms and growing civil and human rights violations.

During a February ceremony for delivering four F-16 fighter planes to Egypt, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta "urged ... not to use the U.S.-financed Egyptian military against protesters."

However, Morsi's locust policies are leading to more violent confrontations. Islamist militias, including the radical group, Gamaa Islamiya, now "police" the streets.

To hush the restive crowds, Morsi imposed martial law in some provinces and considers extending it. Next could be the use of the new American fighter planes against the protesters.

Despite all this and more, don't expect Obama's support of the Brotherhood to ebb anytime soon.

Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld is director of the American Center of Democracy and of the Economic Warfare Institute in New York.

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