Newly appointed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's first visit to Egypt in his present capacity, on March 2-3, 2013, was met with objections from most opposition elements in the country. These elements expressed their displeasure at February 28, 2013 statements by a U.S. State Department spokesman that "the U.S. position is... that we encourage all political parties and individuals with an interest in representing the Egyptian people to participate in [the parliamentary] elections" planned for April 2013. These statements were perceived as a call to the opposition to reverse its decision to boycott the elections. Opposition spokesmen perceived Kerry's visit as an American attempt to pressure the opposition, describing this as unacceptable interference in Egypt's internal affairs and as American backing to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) regime led by President Muhammad Mursi.
Even before Kerry's March 2, 2013 arrival in Cairo, some opposition circles announced that they would greet him with protests, and would pelt him with tomatoes and eggs. The National Association for Change, founded by Mohammad ElBaradei – one of the heads of the National Salvation Front, which is the umbrella organization of the Egyptian opposition – called Kerry a persona non grata in Egypt, and held a demonstration on March 3 outside the Egyptian Foreign Ministry in protest against the American call to the opposition to participate in the elections. During the demonstration, protestors burned a drawing of Kerry with an Islamic-style beard that was captioned "Brother Kerry in Egypt."
Photos from the March 3 demonstration
During his visit, Kerry invited several opposition representatives to a meeting. The National Salvation Front was divided on whether to attend or to boycott the meeting, and eventually the decision was left up to each of the invitees. Al-Wafd Party chairman Al-Sayyid Al-Badawi and Egyptian Popular Current head and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi boycotted the meeting, while former Arab League secretary-general and former presidential candidate 'Amr Moussa chose to attend.
Cartoon in Qatari Al-Watan: 'Amr Moussa boards Kerry's "elections" balloon, while ElBaradei and Sabahi flee, saying "we are not getting in."
The following are translated excerpts from Egyptian opposition elements' reactions to the Cairo visit by U.S. Secretary of State Kerry:
Egyptian Opposition Heads: U.S. Disrespects The Will Of The Egyptian People
A communiqué by the National Association for Change, which organized the protests over Kerry's visit, stated: "Neither America nor any other country has the right to advise Egypt or interfere with an internal Egyptian matter, whether regarding the elections or the dialogue between the regime and the opposition." Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the organization's general coordinator and one of the heads of the National Salvation Front, said that the Egyptian people would not participate in "false democracy," regardless of internal or external pressure.
The association blamed the U.S. administration that, just as it had once supported the corrupt and tyrannical Mubarak regime, it is now supporting the MB regime that uses the same methods of oppression, arrests, torture and attacks on the freedom of the press and media and the independence of the judiciary. It claimed further that the Obama administration was tied to "war crimes" perpetrated against the youth of the revolution. The association warned against "the consequences of the Egyptian people's rage" if the U.S. continued to support "hangmen and tyrants" at the expense of the people's right to independence, liberty and honor.
Another leader of the National Salvation Front, Dr. Wahid 'Abd Al-Magid, said that the front would not accept any external pressure to change its position on boycotting the elections, saying that the U.S. administration has no right to express any opinion on this since it is an internal matter. Addressing Kerry, he said: "Before you express clear inclinations towards the MB, you must recognize the gravity of the deteriorating political situation in Egypt, which has caused the opposition to withdraw from the elections. If you have any advice, give it to yourselves. It is improper for America, which purports to be democratic, to interfere in and disrespect the will of the people and pressure the opposition to participate in the elections in order to further legitimize the MB regime in a way that serves American interests."
Egyptian Oppositionist To Kerry: The U.S. Is Party To Establishing A Copy Of The Iranian Regime In Egypt
Some attendees at the meeting with Kerry protested directly to Kerry himself. Gamila Isma'il, a member of the Al-Dustour opposition party led by ElBaradei, said: "Egypt does not need new aid from America, but rather to establish the relationship [with it] on new foundations... Our country is not a testing ground. You supported a semi-military regime that is now gone, and now you support a semi-religious one... [expecting] each Egyptian regime to fulfill the role [you] require of it... As far as we are concerned, the revolution continues... You used to describe Mubarak and his regime as democratic, legitimate and elected, and you still describe the current regime as such, despite the fact that it murders peaceful protestors, and kidnaps and tortures young activists...
"You have made an alliance with forces that are interested in halting this revolution. You are currently participating in the construction of an Egyptian copy of the Iranian '[Rule of the] Jurisprudent' state. It might not bother you to have another Iran, but this is our fate and the future of our children, and we do not want them to live in a land ruled by religious or military fascism… We ask you: Do nothing for us. Stop acting in our country and stop supporting tyranny and fascism; allow us to complete our revolution and realize our dreams, which do not stop at the meager place you envision for us and our future."
Kerry with Egyptian political activists
National Salvation Front Member 'Amr Al-Hamzawi Attacks U.S. Policy On Egypt
U.S. Strategically Betting On The MB
'Amr Al-Hamzawi, a former MP and a member of the National Salvation Front, wrote in his column in the Egyptian daily Al-Watan: "After visiting Washington in the spring of 2012 and holding many meetings with American politicians and researchers, I learned for certain that the U.S. administration, which is formulating its policy for post-revolution Egypt, is strategically betting on the MB and its Freedom and Justice Party. The U.S. administration treats them as a kingpin of political life and as a [major] factor in the equation of Egyptian rule, the other factor being the military establishment, according to American understanding... Washington treats the office of the [MB] general guide and the leaders of the Freedom and Justice Party the same way it treated the elites of president [Mubarak's] regime... and is expecting a 'positive contribution' from the MB in defending its interests, which include Israel's security, the supply of oil, the security of the Suez Canal, the war on terror, and positive economic and trade relations..."
According to Al-Hamzawi, another factor causing the U.S. to strategically bet on the MB is the false impressions created by various elements that affect its policy on Egypt – chiefly the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The embassy perceives the MB is the main element in Egypt with organizational, public and financial capabilities, and as moderate and committed to democracy compared to other Islamic streams; it also creates false impressions regarding the Egyptian opposition, painting it as weak, divided and with a negligible presence among the people.
U.S. Ignores MB Attacks On The Foundations Of Democracy
Al-Hamzawi added: "These unobjective claims and impressions cause the U.S. to perform imprecise calculations, which are similar to those it made during the Mubarak era. The MB's organizational, public and financial capabilities enable it win elections, but they are not enough to let it rule Egypt professionally and effectively, and realize the interests of wide sectors of the public. The MB's commitment to democratic procedures... is no different from that of the Salafis… The most serious problem is that, when the MB participates in elections, it undermines the basic foundations of democracy such as the rule of law, the impartiality of the country's executive and administrative mechanisms, the national consensus on the constitution and the basic laws of the democratic transitional period, and human rights. The elected president... has undermined the independence of the judiciary, and his movement and party are formulating a large-scale plan to take over the country's executive and administrative mechanisms...
"[Due to the MB's] complete disregard of the need to reach an understanding on the constitution, Egypt was pushed into a referendum in difficult social circumstances, embodied by [a struggle] between two camps. Today, it is being pushed into parliamentary elections in the same difficult conditions… The [opposition's] call to amend the unjust rules of the political, constitutional, legal and executive processes [was meant] to end the human rights violations and ensure fair elections as a condition for [its] participation. This is a clear democratic principle... Today, just like in the entire era of the previous president [Mubarak], Washington is marketing [the claim] that the opposition is weak. It ignores it in its calculations and wants only one thing from it – that it participate in the [parliamentary] elections, even if there are no political or executive guarantees that they will be fair...
"The U.S. leans towards the MB and disrespects the opposition and the popular sectors that object to the current situation. While marketing the MB's democracy, [The U.S.] ignores the principles of American democracy, which are based on rule of law, freedom, human rights and a transition of power. Once again the U.S. administration has fallen into the trap of misreading the situation in Egypt and performing imprecise calculations... The U.S. is once again acting contrary to its own statements, which have lost their credibility, regarding support for democracy and human rights in Egypt. The U.S.'s strategic gamble on the MB is undemocratic..."
Kerry's meeting with Mursi
April 6 Youth Member: Kerry's Visit Was Meant To "Provide A Fig Leaf Of Legitimacy To The Mursi Regime"
In an article in the independent Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', Mahmoud 'Afifi, a member of the April 6 Youth opposition movement, wrote: "The visit by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in Cairo at a very sensitive time, concurrent with the opposition's declaration of boycotting the parliamentary elections, was meant to pressure the opposition [to change its mind] and participate in the elections – in order to provide a fig leaf of legitimacy to the Mursi regime, which the U.S. strongly supports. This is exactly what used to happen in the not-so-distant past, during Mubarak's era, when Hillary Clinton would arrive to meet with MB and Al-Wafd Party officials to persuade them to participate in Mubarak's elections and give him backing and legitimacy.
"I sincerely hope that the message is received in the West. [It hope it understands] that the political situation in Egypt has changed and that the Egyptian opposition has not and will not submit to any kind of pressure, and will not [consent] to imposed dictates. [The West must understand] that the opposition's decision is based on a true national position that objects to the regime's takeover and hegemony, and the imposition of [its] rules of political play as facts on the ground...
"Mubarak and his regime fell at the feet of the U.S. administration, which used to brazenly interfere in Egypt's decision-making... Unfortunately, the new regime is now continuing these illegitimate relations with the West and is operating according to the same rules without rebelling against them and acting [to achieve] true national independence... [The Mursi regime] wanted to gain the Americans' trust and support without acting to gain independence for its decisions..."
 Iipdigital.usembassy.gov, February 28, 2013.
 Al-Watan (Egypt), February 28, 2013.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 3, 2013.
 Al-Ahram (Egypt), March 3, 2013.
 Al-Watan (Qatar), March 3, 2013.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), February 28, 2013.
 Al-Dustour Al-Asli (Egypt), March 3, 2013.
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), March 3, 2013.
 Al-Watan (Egypt), March 2, 2013.
 Moheet.com, March 2, 2013.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), March 2, 2013.