Firm action against terror must be taken, US political consultant says

Egypt Independent sits down with US political consultant Maurice Bonamigo.

Egypt Independent: How do you see the scene in Egypt after the 30 June revolution?

Maurice Bonamigo: Let me begin by saying that Egypt is now living an historic and decisive moment. The people were able to overthrow Mohamed Morsy, and the military stood by their legitimate demands.

What happened in Egypt was not a military coup like the Obama administration said in the beginning. On the contrary, it was one of the largest revolutions in history.

Egypt toppled a president that did not meet his promises or achieve the demands of the revolution for freedom. So the people went out once again to delegate Sisi to confront terrorism which is a threat to national security. They have thereby safeguarded their great revolution.

Sisi restored the symbol of a leader in Egypt, which had been lost for decades. He is a great leader that has gained a lot of popularity in a short time. His message is very important, especially when violence is increasing by the day, and terrorism must be fought firmly. The message meets the principles of democracy, because legitimacy derives from the will of the people.

The crowds that came out on 26 July sent a message to the whole world saying that what happened in Egypt was the most popular revolution in history. The people wanted to protect their revolution from terrorism. They took to the squares to demand that.

EI: U.S. Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel advised Sisi to show restraint. Do you think restraint is a solution in the face of terrorism?

Bonamigo: Peaceful means are important, but in Egypt these days, where terrorist groups carry out acts of violence, firm action must be taken.

Morsy supporters try to spread chaos within the community, the situation in Sinai is very dangerous, and Egypt is crafting a new constitution and holding parliamentary and presidential elections. So the situation has to be dealt with firmly in order to achieve the goals of the revolution.

EI: What do you make of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in Egypt?

Bonamigo: The Obama administration failed to assess the situation in Egypt. It did not appreciate the power of the Egyptian people calling for freedom. I am surprised by Obama’s stance. What did Mohamed Morsy do for democracy for Obama to give him all that support?

I believe Obama was surprised by the huge numbers that took to the streets, and went back on his stance under pressure from Congress.

If elections between Obama and Romney were to be held again, Obama would definitely lose. In fact, he would lose to any other candidate of the Republican Party. He lost 28 percent of his popularity, for he is portrayed as a sponsor of terrorism. We saw in Tahrir Square demonstrators carried pictures of Obama wearing the beard of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. media is now trying to improve his popularity, as does Al-Jazeera with the Muslim Brotherhood.

EI: Did the Brotherhood receive money from the U.S.?

Bonamigo: Yes, I know that from government sources that I cannot disclose. All I can say is that the Muslim Brotherhood has been receiving U.S. funding since George W. Bush came to power and tried to reduce the risk of jihadi groups. But it failed to do so.  

This does not denigrate the 25 January revolution. The Brotherhood climbed to power, backed by the Obama administration. This is not clear to the media.

EI: How does the Republican Party see what is happening, especially after McCain called for halting aid to Egypt?

Bonamigo: Some members of the Republican Party see what happened as a coup d'etat, but the majority, including myself, see it as a popular revolution.

McCain was wrong, of course. He did not think about the consequences of what he said. Do not give his remarks much importance.

The majority believe financial aid should continue. It would be foolish to stop it. It has been agreed upon since President George W. Bush.

EI: How do you see the future of Egyptian-U.S. relations, especially after the recent tensions?

Bonamigo: It is in the hands of the Egyptians. The 30 June revolution proved that they are now in a position of strength; a position that has forced the Obama administration to deal with reality. And Obama does not express the U.S. view alone, for Congress also made him deal with reality.

And the next president of Egypt will also determine relations. He should have experience in foreign relations, and should know that he is now in a position of strength. For Egypt is not going to allow any outside interference in its affairs from now on.

And I see that the relation between Egypt and Israel, and maintaining peace in the region, would also shape future relations with the U.S.

EI: Relations with Russia are flourishing, especially after it said it would provide Egypt with arms in case the U.S. ceases to. What do you make of that?

Bonamigo: Russia is after its own interests. It knows that Egypt is in a position of strength now, and so Russia would regain its position as a superpower if it allied with Egypt.

That is why I said Egypt’s foreign relations are in the hands of the Egyptians themselves.

EI: What do you think about international pleas to release Morsy?

Bonamigo: This is an internal affair for the Egyptians to decide. If Morsy is charged with crimes, he should be tried in court. The international community should not interfere in this matter. Egypt would not allow it.

EI: What is Egypt's way out?

Bonamigo: The only way out is to firmly eliminate terrorism so that Egypt can rebuild its economy.

EI: What do you think of the IMF loan?

Bonamigo: It is not in the interest of Egypt now because it is suffering economic problems. I think Egypt should encourage investment.

EI: Should the Brotherhood be placed on the UN list of terrorist groups?

Bonamigo: Certain Brotherhood leaders call for blood. They should be on the list. The group in general is an extremist organization.

EI: How do you see the future of political Islam in Egypt? Should we disband religious parties?

Bonamigo: The future of Islamism in Egypt is mysterious, and disbanding religious parties comes down to the constitution. Yet I think full exclusion is not a solution, for all democratic countries accommodate minorities and take into account their right to participate.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

This article has been edited to correct the interviewee's title.  It had been mistakenly translated as senator rather than political consultant.

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