Last week, the State Department secretly assembled US policy-makers concerned with Egypt and a group of American academics on whom the Obama administration counts for shedding light on the internal situation in Egypt.
They were asked to postulate the best possible scenario for Egypt through the end of 2011 and 2012. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Washington sources report that the “most optimistic” forecast put before the meeting was that the Muslim Brotherhood would win one-third of the vote in Egypt's parliamentary elections, the fundamentalist Salafis, which are closer to the more puritan Wahhabi stream of Islam, would gain another third and one-third only would be left for the various pro-democratic and liberal parties.
Egypt's post-revolution parliament was therefore "optimistically" predicted to end up with a two-thirds Islamic majority – half of that majority made up of extremists.
As for the ten candidates running in the presidential vote, two are posted by the Muslim Brotherhood: Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, 60, a member of the movement's Shura council, and Selim al-Awa. Both are “undeclared" Brotherhood nominees, allowing the movement to keep up the pretence that it is not participating in the presidential election.
While Aboul Fotouh, posing as an independent, talks volubly about building bridges between Islam and the West, Selim al-Awa wants Egypt to ally itself with Iran.
Because his chances of election as Egypt's future president are better than Fotouh's, Al-Awa's views are worth exploring:
Leading Islamic candidate wants to cut ties with the US, dissolve Israel
Our Cairo sources cite him as holding up the Iranian Islamic Revolution as a model for the Egyptian uprising to emulate. He wants Coptic Christian churches routinely inspected for arms and all Egyptian-US economic agreements revoked – even if Egyptians have to go hungry. "The entirety of Israel" must be dissolved and integrated in a Muslim-controlled waqf, and "the Jews" confined to Muslim-ruled settlements which they may not leave without permission.
Oddly enough, the parliamentary and presidential campaigns are going full blast although the Egyptian military rulers (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces – SCAF) have yet to set a date for either election. The only democratic process afoot in Egypt now is the opening of centers for voter registration, a prerequisite under the present constitution for all Egyptian voters.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources in Cairo, the SCAF does not intend setting either date any time soon in view of the following circumstances:
1. The Egyptian military junta is in no hurry to hand over power soon, if ever. Day by day, the economy and state of security sink ever deeper into chaos. Whether this is due to the generals' chronic dysfunction or deliberately engineered is hard to say, but the fact is that Egypt, the largest and most populous of Arab countries, is fast becoming a failed state.
Pro-American Magdi Hatata throws his hat in the ring
Just a month ago, the military junta appeared to have decided to run as its own candidate Gen. Magdi Hatata, former Army Chief of Staff until 2001 and later head of the Arab Organization for Industrialization, part of Egypt's military industries.
As Chief of Staff, he had excellent relations with the US. American military chiefs found him a lot more competent than Field Marshall Muhammad Tantawi, Mubarak's defense minister, who is now virtual transitional head of state.
Washington was quite bucked by Hatata coming to the fore as a potential future president. But the administration was disappointed when the junta, aside from private chitchat in Cairo, did nothing to promote his candidacy.
But then, Hatata took matters in his own hands and declared himself a candidate for president, even though there is no certainty there will be an election.
Sunday, Aug. 28, Hatata criticized the SCAF's performance during the transitional period.
Addressing supporters, he accused the junta of being too slow in all its actions and decisions.
“I reject guardianship over the people and the military acting as the protector of the civil state,” said Hatata. “The Egyptian people can protect themselves by themselves.” He went on to say: "I support a civil state with an Islamic reference and reject a secular or military state."
Hatata accused SCAF of “intervening in the cabinet’s affairs" and rejected what he called "supra-constitutional principles.”
2. Magdi Hatata is not the only critic of the military rulers.
The anti-American climate gains momentum
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report that all the presidential candidates and the heads of the Egyptian political parties got together secretly to launch anti-SCAF demonstrations in all of Egypt's main cities starting on Sept. 9. They will slam the military junta "for stealing the revolution'" and withholding the democracy promised the people in order to hang on to power indefinitely.
The military rulers, who are all veteran Mubarak appointees, and the political establishment he created look like heading for their first collision with the incipient political bodies formed since his downfall eight months ago.
3. The anti-American mood in Egypt is at the same time gaining gale-force.
The State Department recently announced this year's joint annual war games had been scrapped by mutual consent "in the light of ongoing transition events" and planning for the 2013 exercise was going forward.
The July edition of a state-run news magazine depicted US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson setting fire to dynamite with a burning wad of US dollar bills.
The caption in Arabic read: "Ambassador from Hell Sets Tahrir on Fire."
Monday, August 29, Ambassador Patterson called on Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf to try and repair the fraying relations.
His office's statement after the meeting was formal-to-frosty: “The ambassador sent Egypt and its nation appreciation and thanks from President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and expressed US eagerness to support Egypt politically and economically in this significant phase.”
There was no sign of any effort on the Egyptian prime minister's part to ease the tense climate between Cairo and Washington. The tone of his statement indicated that worse was to come.