Opening statements at the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s hearings on the unrest in Egypt indicated that members of the committee plan to focus on why the Obama administration didn’t have a contingency plan in place due to the instability in the region and whether the Muslim Brotherhood is a legitimate party in the democratic process.
Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) said that the panel would focus on whether there could be stability in Egypt, what plans had been in place and what role the Egyptian military was playing. Many questions from members of the committee focused on what sort of threat the Muslim Brotherhood would present to the United States and the Western world.
Cables revealed by WikiLeaks indicate that U.S. officials believed that the regime of President Hosni Mubarak used the threat of Islamic radicalism and the Muslim Brotherhood to prevent the U.S. from pushing too hard for democracy in Egypt. The threat of the group has dominated cable news discussions on regime change in Egypt.
In a packed room in the Rayburn House Office Building, the Committee heard from a panel including: Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; Lorne Craner, President of the International Republican Institute; and Dr. Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
The Muslim Brotherhood, said Abrams, is “something that has to worry all of us.” But he said that it was important to emphasize that the U.S. thinks what is going on in Egypt has been terrific and that Americans firmly support democracy.
Craner said the U.S. should not accept the false choice between current Egyptian President Mubarak and the Egyptian Brotherhood, which is the choice that Mubarak presented. Craner said it was important to “realize that there are some in the middle.”
Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said that the Obama administration seems to be wavering on whether the U.S. stands behind the Egyptian people and their demands or whether they are prioritizing stability at any cost.
Ackerman said that the U.S. should have a “Nixon moment” and use the military (which has received a large amount of U.S. aid over the years) as its messenger in the region.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) pointed out that President Barack Obama for rolling out the “red carpet” for a Chinese dictator but then expressing concern over the human rights in Egypt.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) said that the Obama administration was throwing Mubarak not only under the bus but “to the wolves” by not backing its ally of 30 years.