The U.S.-backed Egyptian military junta chose Christmas Day to declare the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and threatening anyone who even associates with it as a terrorist, a move that itself threatens to further destabilize the country.
The day before, a police headquarters was bombed, and although an al-Qaeda-inspried militant group known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis claimed responsibility, the junta blamed it on the Brotherhood, without evidence, as a pretext for their crackdown on their political opposition.
Former Brotherhood leader and democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, was deposed in a coup d’etat by the military on July 3.
The Obama administration’s response to the coup was to promise the military junta that took over government that the $1.3 billion in annual military aid would continue, as it had for the 30 years prior under the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak, despite this being in violation of U.S. law, which forbids military aid to any government that took power through a coup.
Two days after that announcement, on July 27, the Egyptian military massacred over 70 demonstrators protesting the coup. The commander of the armed forces, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi claimed to have a “mandate” to crush the political opposition.
The Obama administration’s response was again to assure that that the aid would continue to flow in violation of U.S. law. The message being well understood, the Egyptian military described protesters as “a threat to Egyptian national security” and their sit-ins in a number of squares in Cairo as hotbeds of “terrorism”. Once again claiming a “mandate” to use force, the military leadership ordered security forces to crush the protests on July 27.
The following day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry defended the coup by claiming the military had a popular mandate to overthrow the democratically elected president. He added the Orwellian declaration that by doing so, “they were restoring democracy”.
The message was again understood loud and clear in Egypt. On August 14, as expected, the military continued its crackdown, killing over 1,000 protesters in Cairo. The New York Times described it as a “ferocious assault” and “the worst political bloodletting in modern Egyptian history”.
Following that massacre, the Obama administration issued a meaningless statement condemning the violence against protesters and hypocritically offering condolences to the families of the victims, while still reassuring the generals that the $1.3 billion in annual aid would continue.
The ruling junta subsequently extended its crackdown to include rounding up “dissenters” like political activists and journalists. The New York Times described it as “a chilling warning that no Egyptians should feel safe if they dare to challenge authority.”
It wasn’t until October that the Obama administration announced that it would scale back the amount of financing for the Egyptian military by $260 million and withhold delivery of military hardware, including Apache helicopters, missiles, tank parts, and F-16 fighter aircraft. It was a clear green light for the junta, signaling that while they ought to avoid additional mass killings, the U.S. would continue to provide the generals with over $1 billion in financing to carry on.
It is in this context that the junta has now declared the Muslim Brotherhood a “terrorist” organization on a false pretext.
The announcement was accompanied with another broadening of the military’s crackdown, with the junta seizing land, stocks, and vehicles from Brotherhood members. The funds of over 1,000 social charitable organizations associated with the Brotherhood were also frozen, including the Islamic Medical Association, a network of hospitals that serves over two million patients a year.
Apparently belatedly cognizant of the social unrest this action might provoke, the junta seemed to reverse itself, announcing that such organizations would be “allowed” the funds necessary to continue operating, but as the New York Times reported, “it was still unclear how or when cash would be freed up. And the Justice Ministry, which made the announcement, did not clarify whether the organizations would be allowed to accept new donations, which many rely on as their primary source of income.”
The aforementioned U.S. intervention in Egyptian affairs is helping to fuel the violence, oppression, and social upheaval that could spiral even more dangerously out of control.