Egyptian President-elect Muhammed Morsi won the job by a wafer-thin 800,000 votes (as DEBKA-Net-Weekly 546 predicted June 24), which means he is short of the heft for making himself ruler of the nation in deed and not just in name. To give the job substance, he must tackle the herculean tasks of salvaging a sinking economy, feeding more than 90 million people and restoring the average Egyptian’s sense of security after 16 months of turmoil and uncertainty.
He is already being pinned to the wall by the Obama administration, the Supreme Military Council (SCAF) and his own Muslim Brotherhood movement, each angling to clip his wings and manipulate him.
With only a small team of aides at his side, Morsi understands he has little choice for now but to bend agilely in several directions at once and hope to survive.
Twenty-four hours after he was acclaimed president, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Washington report he was confronted with a list of 10 demands from the White House in Washington, which added up to an ultimatum.
He was informed that the US desires the democratic process to continue in Egypt. The administration used its influence to make the SCAF move the process along – witness US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s call to the Egyptian foreign minister to insist that there must be no delay in releasing election results.
Washington is waiting equally to see how the Egyptian president performs in the following areas:
US recognition of Morsi predicated on performance
1. Human rights, namely women’s’ status and minority rights, especially relating to the Christian Copts.
2. The formation of a broad national unity government representing the country’s active mainstream parties – not just the Muslim Brotherhood.
3. The new president must act to uphold the 1979 peace treaties between Egypt and Israel. His commitment to honor all treaties signed with foreign governments was not explicit enough.
4. The Obama administration expects Morsi to make a public gesture reaffirming peace relations with Israel.
5. A resolute effort to curb the terrorist elements running wild in Sinai and restore Egyptian control.
6. It is also expected to put a stop to the rabid anti-American and anti-Western rhetoric suffusing Egyptian media and give up persecuting Western NGOs operating in Egypt.
7. The crunch comes here: Not until all the above steps are taken, will President Morsi be welcomed in Washington as an official guest. Although President Barack Obama Sunday called him with congratulations Sunday, contrary to reports in the Cairo press, Secretary Clinton does not plan an early visit to Egypt.
"I think we need to let President-elect Morsi get himself inaugurated, pull his government together,” she said Thursday.
His first priority: Feed 90 million mouths
8. The $1.5 billion US military and economic aid package to Egypt may be tied to the incoming government’s respect for the peace treaty with Israel and respect for minority and religious rights, a White House source indicated Thursday.
9. Furthermore, not until the Egyptian president has satisfied Washington on all these scores will the Obama administration use its influence with the World Bank to ease Egypt’s dire liquidity problems and help find the cash to buy food on world markets. That must be the new ruler’s first priority. If Morsi can’t find the money to feed the population, hungry Egyptians will be out on the streets of their cities once again – clamoring this time for his and the Muslim Brotherhood’s removal.
10. And finally, a threat that would undermine the new president’s power to rule. Until the Obama administration is satisfied with his performance, the US will continue to do business on key matters and US-Egypt relations with the transitional rulers, the military council. And so, Morsi, to all intents and purposes, would continue to be denied US recognition as Egypt’s responsible ruler.
Morsi finds he is hassled from more than one quarter. Not only the Americans, but his own movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, is knocking at his door with even more pressing demands. He will have to stand up against the MB strongman Khairat al-Shater, who was disqualified as the Brotherhood’s candidate and whom he replaced, if he wants to save Egypt’s post-revolutionary regime from being swamped by Islamists.