Jewish World Review Feb. 7, 2011 / 3 Adar I, 5771
Worst Case Scenario Confirmed: Muslim Brotherhood joins negotiations on Egypt crisis
By Laura King and Ned Parker
Obama concedes terror group is anti-American yet downplays significance of acceptance
AIRO (MCT) Opposition groups including the banned Muslim Brotherhood held landmark talks Sunday with
The government offered up a number of new concessions that would have constituted an undreamed-of bonanza for the opposition only a few weeks ago. But demonstrators in
Protesters by the thousands continued their round-the-clock occupation of the sprawling plaza, which has taken on the air of a mini-city within a city. However, revolutionary fervor was increasingly at odds with the urgent wishes of many Egyptians to resume their normal routines.
Banks, along with many shops and businesses, reopened Sunday, the first day of the Egyptian workweek. Traffic surged on previously empty roadways.
In talks with some opposition groups, Vice President
Suleiman also offered what amounted to an amnesty for nonviolent protesters, greater press freedoms, formal redress for those seized by the secret police, and the creation of a broadly representative committee to work on constitutional reforms. But most in the square expressed skepticism that there would be follow-through on such pledges.
Still, Suleiman's face-to-face talks that included the Brotherhood, which has been outlawed since the 1950s, were momentous for a government that for decades has attempted to isolate that organization through intimidation and the arrests of thousands of its members. Inviting the nation's largest opposition party — one that supports a constitution based on Islamic law — into negotiations reveals how much
It's "frankly quite extraordinary," said Sen.
Obama described the Muslim Brotherhood as a well-organized group with anti-American rhetoric, but he downplayed the group's size and influence in
"I think the Muslim Brotherhood is one faction in
"It's important for us not to say our only two options are the Muslim Brotherhood or a suppressed Egyptian people," Obama said.
As has been his practice in recent days, Obama avoided saying that Mubarak should resign immediately. It remains unclear if the Egyptian government and the Brotherhood and other opposition groups can reach compromises on reform and other changes while Mubarak is in power.
Opposition groups have said they have not abandoned their demands that Mubarak step down. Sunday's talks, however, allowed the government to show it was attempting to meet protesters' demands while granting opposition parties a rare seat at the center of power.
In an apparent bid to halt the protests, Mubarak recently promised that neither he nor his son Gamal would run in the presidential election scheduled for September. He shook up his Cabinet, and the leadership of the ruling party, including his son, resigned.
But the longtime leader has dug in his heels on the protesters' demand that he leave office immediately, saying his abrupt departure would trigger chaos and pave the way for a takeover by Islamists.
In a communique issued after Sunday's talks, endorsed by the opposition groups taking part, Suleiman promised a full investigation of the abrupt pullback of police in cities nine days ago — a move that triggered a wave of looting — and also a probe of last week's violent and seemingly carefully choreographed attack on the square by groups supporting the regime.
The talks Sunday drew criticism from one key opposition leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who said he would not negotiate with the government until Mubarak stepped down.
"The whole idea was to move that regime to a new regime," ElBaradei said on CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS." "Mubarak continues to be a symbol of that old regime, and I will not give any legitimacy to that existing regime."
He proposed the creation of a transitional presidential council, including Suleiman or an army representative along with civilians, that would prepare the country for free and fair elections. Any elections before "the right people establish parties and engage" would be "fake democracy," he said.
Although ElBaradei did not join Sunday's talks, a representative of his National Front for Change attended.
Soldiers, meanwhile, continued to tighten their cordon around
Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.