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Mohamed Elmeshad: US & Qatar strongly backed Morsi, but with growing protests future of Morsi’s presidency looks dim

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

The clock is ticking for President Mohamed Morsi. He was given an ultimatum by Egypt’s military that he had 48 hours to resign.

Now joining us to unpack all of this is Mohamed ElMeshad. He is a Cairo-based independent journalist who wrote for Egypt Independent for two years. And he joins us now from Cairo.

Thanks for being with us again, Mohamed.


DESVARIEUX: So, Mohamed, my first question is related to the Americans and what role they play in all of this. Where are you seeing the American hand behind the scenes and things of that nature? Can you describe for us what’s going on?

ELMESHAD: One very, very, very telling thing that happened was if you read Guardian today, one of the president’s aides, an unnamed source, came out and said that they are hoping that with American support the military would not be able to implement what they see as a coup. So that was one of the first really big alarm bells that the U.S. is in fact, as many of the opposition were saying, one of the main forces behind Morsi’s claim to power and Morsi’s ability to maintain a grip on power and maintain a steady relationship with the military, who’s seen as sort of the main ally of the U.S. in Egypt.

On the other hand, many of the Morsi supporters say that the opposition is backed by America, as represented by the secular anti-Islamic forces, especially since ElBaradei, one of the main–the former head of the UN watchdog, one of the main opposition figures, worked–I mean, was part of the UN watchdog and worked closely with the U.S. on issues such as Iran and Iraq nuclear weapons or the search, the question of Iran and Iraqi nuclear weapons.

President Obama came out today and called on Morsi to–well, CNN reported that he called on Morsi to hold early elections. Washington just denied that, the State Department just denied that a few minutes ago. And Obama then called on just a general respect of democracy, which has many people saying maybe the U.S. should not comment, period, because it seems like whatever they say can and will be used against them, the Egyptian popular [incompr.] But who knows, really, what it is, because the military continue to receive funds. And a year ago [incompr.] was always meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the U.S., and with John McCain especially, and Mr. Kerry now. So the relationship is there. It’s not clear where the U.S. is throwing its chips.

What is clear is that the U.S. didn’t seem to have a problem dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood and its leaders from the get-go, from before the elections when they were invited to Washington and many of them, including the supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, met with the U.S. ambassador here, Anne Patterson. Anne Patterson was speaking before June 30, Anne Patterson was quoted in many Egyptian papers speaking about Egyptian democracy and [incompr.] incited many anti-Muslim, pro-Morsi people. So it’s funny that now it seems that the U.S. may be the saving grace for Morsi. Or maybe that’s just what they happen to think.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. Let’s talk about another major player in the region, of course, is Qatar. What is Qatar’s agenda? And more specifically, if we can talk about Al Jazeera and their coverage of events, what do you see their role being?

ELMESHAD: Qatar’s agenda is even to my eyes a little more difficult to pin down than the U.S.’s. Many are convinced that Qatar has been behind much of the Muslim Brotherhood funding and financing. None of that has been substantiated, except for reported visits by Muslim Brotherhood leaders to Qatar and historic ties between the two.

Al Jazeera has been–it depends. I mean, you have Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera direct and Al [incompr.] direct Al Jazeera Mubasher Egypt. So the direct channels, they kind of do [incompr.] indicates is that they report directly from the scene with mostly live footage. They’re more likely to–the Muslim Brotherhood leaders are more likely to appear. They’re kind of more able to attract them. So at least in the eyes of the Muslim Brotherhood they’re more levelheaded. This time around, Jazeera has not played as prominent a role as in the 2011 uprising. It’s a bit more subdued. People are more–there are more options now anyway. I have followed Jazeera a bit, but even me, like, you know, if Al Jazeera took 25 percent of my viewing before, nowadays it’s taking maybe 5 to 10 percent.

DESVARIEUX: So we certainly know that there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing happening behind the scenes. President Morsi, he met with the army chief of staff, as well as the prime minister. And Reuters is also reporting that there is some sort of, quote, roadmap plan that is going to come forward. What do you see as being some elements that could be included in this roadmap? What sort of resolution do you see coming to the table?

ELMESHAD: Any sort of wheeling and dealing would include, according to–if you believe the Guardian article, would include the U.S., would include the military, would include the presidency, may include the opposition if they are invited and voted on by the military to join, I think.

It doesn’t seem like there’s a future for Morsi either way. Many reports from–I mean, leaks from Muslim Brotherhood meetings indicated that they might even entertain early elections or taking Morsi out as long as they’re able to salvage, I mean, something, which mean the Constitution, which may mean–they really don’t have many other options. It may be that they want to avoid being persecuted again, which could happen.

I mean, the relationship between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood was never great. The relationship between the police and the Muslim Brotherhood was never great. The fact that police officers actually came out and protested in uniform against Morsi was very telling.

So, I mean, they’re afraid. Like, they are afraid. It’s not just afraid for their political future; I believe that they’re now afraid for their–afraid to return to them being persecuted indiscriminately as terrorists as what happened before.

DESVARIEUX: Okay. My final question, Mohamed. I am getting a sense that it’s mostly the urban areas where we’re seeing a lot of anti-Morsi demonstrations taking place. And the rural areas, the countryside, there are a lot of pro-Morsi supporters. Do you see what’s happening right now as being a urban-rural divide in Egyptian politics?

ELMESHAD: No, no, actually. I see more so than 2011 a lot of rural townships and rural governorates or rural-dominated governorates are included, such as in [dVnaoU], Mansoura. There are many different neighborhoods, there are many different areas [incompr.] coming out en masse against Morsi in ways that we never saw them come out before.

It’s also worthy to note that during the Revolution, many of the opposition forces found great difficulties mobilizing in these areas, because pro-Mubarak supporters, including tribes in the south and traditional leaders in other areas, they had a hold on these–on the people of their areas. So a lot of these people coming out now could be seen as pro-Mubarak influence. But at the same time, they were forgotten during the past. And as a result, they were prone to come out once they saw that everyone else was coming out. I mean, the philosophy of revolution grew over the past two years and the concept of being able to go out to speak for your rights reached these areas within these past two years, especially with the mobilization that happened during the parliamentary elections. Let’s not forget that a lot of them are Salafi and Islamist influence. And they also–you know, they were also influenced to come out due to that. Many Salafis, including the main Salafi party, [incompr.] party, weren’t necessarily entirely pro-Morsi during this past [incompr.] They were more very critical. So that might have encouraged a lot of people in rural areas and cities and rural governorates to join in for now.

DESVARIEUX: Thank you for joining us, Mohamed

ELMESHAD: Thanks. Thank you.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.


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Mohamed Elmeshad is an independent journalist based in Cairo and former reporter for Al-Masry Al-Youm's  Egypt Independent. He graduated in 2006 with a B.S. in Economics and a Minor in Journalism from the George Washington University.  He worked in Benin as a Peace Corps Volunteer between 2006-2008 where he focused on Small Enterprise Development and other educational projects.  This was followed by two years as a Corporate Analyst at a Private Equity firm in Bahrain.