Pro-government columnists in Egypt have expressed outrage over the U.S. State Department hosting a Muslim Brotherhood delegation last week, and in its wake are questioning the Obama administration’s commitment to fighting terrorism.
Mohamed Salmawy wrote in Al-Masry Al-Youm that receiving a delegation aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood – which has been outlawed as a terrorist organization in Egypt – “confirms the double standards of the American policy in the Middle East. It also casts doubt on Washington's intention to tackle terrorism, which it has funded and encouraged under different pretexts.”
This, in particular, because the delegation visited Washington shortly before a White House counterterrorism conference is held later this month.
“The Washington conference will urge other nations to fight terror groups on behalf of the United States and bear the consequences of that, while Washington continues to extend them courtesy, as the U.S. State Department spokesperson described the meetings with the delegation,” Salmawy wrote.
Veteran Jerusalem Post Arab Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh surveyed other op-eds in the Egyptian press and posted his findings at the Gatestone Institute’s blog.
Abu Toameh quoted columnist Ezzat Ibrahim who wrote, "The U.S. Administration is continuing to jeopardize its relations with Egypt by appeasing Muslim Brotherhood.”
"The Muslim Brotherhood is seeking to return to the political arena through the American door and terrorist attacks. The U.S. policy appears to be devious and unreliable," Ibrahim wrote.
Egyptian international affairs analyst Said Lindawi went even further, suggesting that the State Department’s meeting with Brotherhood leaders signaled a green light for more terrorist attacks in Egypt.
"The U.S. Administration has refused to recognize the Muslim Brotherhood as a terror group," Lindawi argued. "The Americans continue to insist that the Muslim Brotherhood is not responsible for the terrorist attacks in Egypt."
Egypt has faced repeated deadly terrorist attacks which have intensified since Islamist President Mohammed Morsi was ousted from power in 2013. On Thursday morning, one person was killed in an attack on a KFC restaurant north of Cairo, Egypt’s MENA news agency reported.
Last week, 30 people, most of them Egyptian security personnel, were killed in a series of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian affiliate of the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Abu Toameh, the Gatestone Institute author, wrote that following the State Department meeting, the U.S. is now being perceived in the Arab world as sending mixed messages, on the one hand purporting to pursue anti-terrorism strategies and on the other “embracing” the group viewed by many Egyptians as a terrorist organization.
“Judging from the angry reactions of Egyptians, it has become obvious that most moderate Arabs and Muslims no longer see the U.S. as an ally in the war against Islamic terror groups. What is even more disturbing is that they view the U.S. as an ally and friend of the terrorists,” Abu Toameh wrote.
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki admitted on Monday that the State Department had initially misled reporters about the Muslim Brotherhood delegation’s visit, saying the visit had been organized by Georgetown University.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t have the accurate information on one small piece. The meeting was set up by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a nonprofit. So the visit was not funded, as you know, by us or the U.S. Government, but it was also not funded by Georgetown,” Psaki said.
The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that one member of the delegation, a Brotherhood-aligned judge, posed for a picture at the State Department in which he held up his hand in the controversial four-finger Rabia salute associated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry criticized the State Department for hosting the group.
"The Muslim Brotherhood is not a political party, but according to the Egyptian law, which must be respected, it is designated as a terrorist organization," Shoukry said.
A Muslim Brotherhood television channel broadcast a threat on Jan. 29 warning foreigners of terrorist attacks against them in Egypt.
The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that the threat read on Rabea TV told foreigners and foreign companies that if they don’t leave Egypt, "all their interests in the countries of the Middle East will be subject to harsh attacks with dire consequences."