Opposite to what is currently said about him in the Arab media, republican senator John McCain is one of the American politicians who are most worthy of respect. He has honorable stances that distinguish him from others when it comes to issues such as Syria, the occupied Palestinian territories, among others. He was almost the sole voice who set alarm bells ringing two years ago, warning of the threat of ignoring the Syrian revolution. He fought in Washington while attempting to convince the president and congress of the importance of militarily confronting the Assad regime and not just supporting the refugees. Everything he warned of has currently happened.
Egypt’s General Abdelfattah al-Sissi is not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Egyptian army does not represent a minority either and the Brotherhood in Egypt is not the opposition.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
But when McCain went to Egypt, he upset the majority. He was accused of interfering and of taking the Muslim Brotherhood's side. Some even went as far as saying that he was spearheading an American project to impose the Brotherhood over the Egyptian people. There's no doubt that McCain added fuel to fire at a time when emotions were raging and when political disputes were at their peak.
The Brotherhood had been negotiating to achieve a state of calm through local religious and political leaders. But they altered their stances and became sterner after the American mediators arrived. They considered McCain's visit a message in support of their cause! The senator, however, said his visit did not aim to pressure any sides, but to express their country's concern over Egypt and to encourage all parties to achieve a solution to overcome the crisis.
Darting between Syria and Egypt
I think McCain's mistake is that he's darting between Syria and Egypt and mixing the two. Egypt’s General Abdelfattah al-Sissi is not Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Egyptian army does not represent a minority either and the Brotherhood in Egypt is not the opposition. Despite the similarity of time and space, it's not possible at all to make comparisons between Egypt and Syria.
The Brotherhood foreign propaganda machine claims it represents Islam and the Muslims. It concentrates on three points. The first is to say that ousting President Mursi is tantamount to toppling an elected legitimacy. The second is to say that the June 30 revolution is a mere military coup. And the third is linked to terrorism, as they claim that the presence of an Islamic group in governance prevents terrorism!
Egypt’s bigger picture
Truth is, the Egyptian scene may be confusing for those outside Cairo. All three reasons are partially true. The picture as a whole is however different. It’s true that Mursi was chosen in elections but his group attempted to seize the state and take the country on a path towards the Iranian model – a fascist, extremist and dangerous regime to the world. Second of all, the military did not intervene until the dispute reached a dangerous state in the country. The third allegation that the Brotherhood's seizure of Egypt's or Tunisia's presidency, or another presidency, obstructs the path of extremist parties that adopt violence to reach power is shallow. Extremist Islamist groups do not recognize moderate ones. They accuse others opposing them of apostasy and fight everyone in governance. They previously targeted moderate Islamist groups, and they are currently to blame for the security deterioration in Tunisia. Jihadi groups criticized Ennahda Party, and they are behind the toppling of Ennahda's parliament and cabinet. They killed two opposition figures leading the people to mobilize against Ennahda.
I, like many others, am convinced of one aspect in McCain's vision, and that is the importance of involving the Brotherhood in governance. This is what almost everyone in the second camp, Mohamed ElBardaei, Hamdeen Sabahi and even the army, says. The dispute with the Brotherhood is only linked to how it manages the state. The Brotherhood must accept complete democracy and not a selective one. It must accept a constitution that grants rights to everyone and protects rights. It must accept the principle of separation of powers. The ousted president and his comrades attempted to ignore all these and thus pushed different parties to unite against them.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on August 10, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.