Wednesday, February 02, 2011

US State Department Discusses Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Role

From today's daily press briefing by spokesman P.J. Crowley:
QUESTION: Yeah, what about the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, again --

QUESTION: How about Ayman Nour?

QUESTION: Are you talking to the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: This is not our process. This is not our list. We do not have a favorite candidate or candidates. We are not going to anoint any successor to President Mubarak. These are decisions to be made by the Egyptian people as part of a transition that occurs in Egypt. Our point is this transition, this process to fundamental change needs to begin now. If any figure wants to play a role in this process, they can come forward. If any group --

QUESTION: Does that include the Muslim Brotherhood? Does that include the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: If any group wants to come forward and play a role in a democratic process, a peaceful process, that is their right as Egyptians. It’s not for us, the United States, to dictate this.

QUESTION: What about the Muslim Brotherhood? Can you talk about the Muslim Brotherhood and whether there have been any contacts with them and whether you think that the Muslim Brotherhood should be part of any political process? You say you’re not going to anoint anybody, but what if a figure from Muslim Brotherhood emerges as the primary candidate to lead the country?

MR. CROWLEY: Again --

QUESTION: Specifically on the Muslim Brotherhood?

MR. CROWLEY: We have not met with the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: Have you spoken to --

QUESTION: Okay. Can – no, but what if – should they be part of a political process?

MR. CROWLEY: No, we have had no contact with the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: But should they be part of a political process? They obviously have a following in the country.

MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, that is up to them. They are a fact of life in Egypt. They are highly organized. And if they choose, and if they choose to participate and respect the democratic process, that is a – those are decisions to be made inside Egypt. The army obviously will play a role in this transition. There are a broad variety of political figures, political groups, political actors that can participate if they choose. These are decisions to be made inside Egypt.

QUESTION: Have you met – have you asked to meet the Muslim Brotherhood?


QUESTION: Why not?

QUESTION: Wait. P.J. --

QUESTION: Well, it’s obvious that the --

QUESTION: I mean, you’ve met with other opposition members. Who – can you say who you’ve met with? Ayman Nour, you’ve met with – can you give a decent --

MR. CROWLEY: I don’t have a list here. We are doing an aggressive, active outreach to a broad range of figures. We have always done that. We’re going to continue to do that. We’ve been very active in the last few days. I can’t detail all the people we have and have not. You asked a specific question. We have not had contact with the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: But why don’t you meet with the Muslim Brotherhood? What’s the reason not to meet with them?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m – we will meet with figures. If we meet with anyone along those lines, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Do you give conditions before you meet with people?

QUESTION: Are you saying that the reports about the meeting with – that Ambassador Wisner has had with the Muslim Brotherhood representatives is false?

MR. CROWLEY: I was in touch with Ambassador Wisner on the airplane as he was coming back. He had two meetings, one with President Mubarak and one with Vice President Suleiman.

QUESTION: So is the report false or is it not false?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean, I’m just telling you he had two meetings. So if you’re saying, "Did Mr. Wisner meet with the Muslim Brotherhood," the answer is no.

QUESTION: Why is it obvious that the army is going to play a role in this transition? This is a democratic transition. Shouldn’t it be led by civilians only?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, it’s not for us to determine who wants to participate. The army is a respected institution within Egyptian society. You’re going to go through fundamental changes in Egyptian society. The army, as a respected institution, can play a role in this. But again, these are decisions to be made inside Egypt.

QUESTION: P.J., could you share with us the future --

QUESTION: But why didn’t – wouldn’t it have made sense – wouldn’t it make sense to leave Frank Wisner on the ground a bit longer? You keep talking about the private advice you’re giving the government. You sent this trusted emissary over, he had two meetings, and he came back. Was there nothing more for him to do?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, we have an Ambassador, Margaret Scobey, who conducts our day-to-day business with the Government of Egypt. She is doing a brilliant job. She is engaged with members of civil society. She is engaged with political figures every day. And she will be our point person on a day-to-day basis as --

QUESTION: Should we --

MR. CROWLEY: -- Egypt goes through this transition.

QUESTION: Should we interpret that, then, to mean that Wisner accomplished what he was sent there to do? Or that the response was such that there was no point in him staying any longer?

MR. CROWLEY: Ambassador Wisner has a longstanding relationship with President Mubarak and other key leaders within the Egyptian Government. We thought it was useful for Ambassador Wisner to go over and have a two-way conversation as a means of providing his perspective to President Mubarak given their friendship, and also to bring back his judgment as to what the situation is at the highest levels of the Egyptian Government. He will report back to the President and the Secretary when he lands.