Middle East expert Tawfik Hamid tells Newsmax.TV that the Obama administration is seen as supporting Egyptian Islamists even as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to soften U.S. rhetoric that the Egyptian military must turn over full power to the government of President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood.
Speaking in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, Hamid acknowledged that rumors are rampant in the Middle Eastern nation that the U.S. has been secretly funding the Muslim Brotherhood.
“It’s really very widely spread this feeling that America is supportive of the Islamists,” he said. “That’s why you have seen these demonstrations, again, as the United States and, again, as Hillary Clinton (visited Egypt). The belief is widespread everywhere.”
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The U.S. provides $1.3 billion a year in military aid as well as other assistance, which could prove vital as Egypt tries to stave off a balance of payments and budget crisis.
Clinton, who earlier this year certified sufficient Egyptian action toward democracy to allow the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to go through, urged the military chief to return the armed forces to a "purely national security role," during a visit on Sunday which was met by angry protesters hurling tomatoes and shoes at Clinton’s motorcade in a display of public disrespect.
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In contrast, President Richard Nixon received a tumultuous welcome when he visited more than 30 years ago during the regime of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, according to Hamid.
“You see now the opposite — Hillary Clinton going and people are against her after America gave Egypt billions of dollars of support,” Hamid explained. “This tells clearly that there is a major defect in the strategic communications and the ability of the U.S. to win the hearts and minds” of the Egyptian people.
Hamid noted, however, that Clinton appeared to soften U.S. support for the Morsi government as she commended the Egyptian military for defending lives during the February 2011 revolution and for the progress Egypt made under its interim leadership, which included free and fair elections.
He said that nuance may have been lost on the Egyptian people, who have been skeptical of the Obama administration on Facebook and other social media. “It’s pretty dangerous because they will always feel that if the country became like Iran it will be the fault of the United States for supporting the Islamists,” he said. “I can see a change of the tone, but unfortunately, Egyptians did not really recognize this and they still believe that the U.S. is fully behind the Islamists.”
Hamid noted that Clinton did not levy any economic threats against the Egyptian military during her remarks. “She didn’t say they have to deliver the power to civilians or otherwise they will not get aid,” he said. “She did not put any timeframe for delivering power to civilians. And also, she referred clearly to the fact that the military should return to a pure national security role.”
Since Morsi won the election by a slight 51 percent majority, Hamid said that the U.S. would be unwise to side with the Islamists over its once faithful partners in the Egyptian military.
“You have nearly equal parties here,” he explained. “Many people feel that there is no need that the U.S. shows any specific support to the Islamists over the military.”
Hamid, an Egyptian-born Muslim intellectual and one-time follower of radical Islam who now is a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies and a Newsmax contributor, also warned that embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would not hesitate to use chemical weapons to put down what is now being termed a civil war in his country.
“These dictators will not hesitate to use such devastating power to suppress their population. There is no doubt about this,” Hamid said. “If he uses these chemical weapons we should expect nothing less than a real civil war in the area, and big and major confrontations at different levels.”
If al-Assad were to release such devastating weapons on his own people, it is likely that China and Russia would no longer be able to continue to openly support the Syrian government.
“I think the Syrian situation is moving toward the threshold that will force international powers to move forcefully against what’s happening,” according to Hamid.
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While it is clear that al-Assad is already using “excessive force” in attempting to put down the rebel uprising, he is likely to be replaced by a Sunni Islamic regime, which could be even worse for the United States.
“Replacing al-Assad with the Sunni Islamic regime in power is really like replacing a form of cancer with another form of cancer,” added Hamid.
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