US embassy cable - 01CAIRO3757 (original version)

EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERS - PART 2: A POPULAR POLITICAL FORCE (original version)

Identifier: 01CAIRO3757
Wikileaks: View 01CAIRO3757 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Cairo
Created: 2001-06-21 11:20:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KISL PGOV PTER EG
Redacted: This cable was redacted by Wikileaks. [Show redacted version] [Compare redacted and unredacted version]
P 211120Z JUN 01
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1939
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 CAIRO 003757 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/20/2005 
TAGS: KISL, PGOV, PTER, EG 
SUBJECT: EGYPT'S MUSLIM BROTHERS - PART 2: A POPULAR 
POLITICAL FORCE 
 
REF: CAIRO 3303 
 
CLASSIFIED BY DCM RENO HARNISH FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D). 
 
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SUMMARY 
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1. (C) IN THIS, THE SECOND OF TWO CABLES ON EGYPT'S MUSLIM 
BROTHERHOOD (MB), WE LOOK AT THE BANNED MOVEMENT'S POPULARITY 
AND ITS SOURCES.  DESPITE INTERNAL TENSIONS AND IMPRISONMENT 
OF THE MOST DYNAMIC OF ITS YOUNG LEADERS SINCE THE 
MID-1990'S, THE MB HAS ENJOYED AN UPSURGE IN POPULARITY, 
WINNING 17 PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY (PA) SEATS IN THE FALL 2000 
ELECTIONS AND A RETURN TO THE BOARD OF THE BAR SYNDICATE IN 
FEBRUARY ELECTIONS.  REASONS FOR THEIR POPULARITY ARE MANY; 
AMONG THEM ARE PERCEPTIONS THAT THEY ARE NOT CORRUPT, THEY 
ARE THE ONLY REAL POLITICAL OPPOSITION TO THE GOVERNMENT AND 
RULING NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY, AND THAT THEY HAVE AN 
EFFECTIVE ORGANIZATION AND DISCIPLINED MEMBERSHIP. 
 
2.  (C) PUBLIC OUTREACH TO ORGANIZATIONS AND INDIVIDUALS HAS 
INCREASED MB POPULARITY WHICH IS STRONGEST AMONG THE POOR. 
BUT THEY ARE NOT UNIVERSALLY RESPECTED.  INTELLECTUALS - 
WHETHER SECULAR OR RELIGIOUS - MISTRUST THE GROUP AND 
QUESTION ITS POLITICAL VIABILITY IN A DEMOCRACY AND ITS 
RELIGIOUS CREDENTIALS.  DETRACTORS CLAIM THERE IS CORRUPTION 
WITHIN MB RANKS AND CONTINUE TO SUSPECT THAT IT HAS A 
CAPACITY FOR VIOLENCE. 
 
3.  (C) MB INDEPENDENTS ELECTED TO THE PA LAST FALL TRIED 
BRIEFLY TO COEXIST WITH THE GOVERNMENT, BUT THE EFFORT WAS 
SHORT-LIVED.  IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS, THE MB HAVE TAKEN ON 
KEY GOVERNMENT MINISTERS DURING PA SESSIONS AND HAVE AROUSED 
PUBLIC SENTIMENT WITH THEIR STRONG ANTI-GOVERNMENT POSITIONS 
ON DOMESTIC AND REGIONAL ISSUES, PARTICULARLY THOSE RELATING 
TO ISRAEL AND STRIDENT SUPPORT FOR THE PALESTINIANS.  THE 
GOVERNMENT HAS RESPONDED, MAKING CLEAR THAT IT, NOT THE MB, 
IS SETTING THE POLITICAL AGENDA.  END SUMMARY 
 
--------------------------- 
POPULAR REACTIONS TO THE MB 
--------------------------- 
 
4.  (C) DESPITE GOVERNMENT REPRESSION AND THEIR OWN INTERNAL 
PROBLEMS (SEE REFTEL) IN RECENT YEARS, EGYPT'S MUSLIM 
BROTHERS (MB) ARE ENJOYING AN UPSURGE IN POPULARITY.  THEIR 
SUCCESS IN THE FALL 2000 PEOPLE'S ASSEMBLY (PA) ELECTIONS, 
ALBEIT AS INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES, AND IN THE LAWYERS' 
SYNDICATE ELECTIONS IN FEBRUARY, ATTEST TO THIS.  DESPITE AN 
INTENSIVE CAMPAIGN OF ARRESTS AND HARASSMENT, OF 40 MB 
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES FOR THE PA, 17 WON SEATS.  IN THE 
LAWYERS' SYNDICATE ELECTIONS MB CANDIDATES WON 8 OF 24 SEATS 
ON THE BOARD.  IN AN ERA OF PERCEIVED VAST CORRUPTION, HIGH 
UNEMPLOYMENT, UNEQUAL DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH AND PRIVILEGES, 
AND OF ECONOMIC DOWNTURN, THE MB ARE GAINING GROUND.  MANY 
EGYPTIANS SYMPATHIZE WITH THE SIMPLE, DIRECT MESSAGE, "ISLAM 
IS THE SOLUTION," AS WELL AS WITH THE IMAGES IT PROJECTS 
REGARDING ITS PURITY OF RELIGIOUS VALUES AND THE PROVISION OF 
 SOCIAL SERVICES.  ACCORDING TO ITS LEADERS, THE MB ADVOCATE 
STRONGER ISLAMIC INFLUENCE IN SOCIETY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE. 
INTERESTED IN THE COMMON WELFARE OF THE AVERAGE EGYPTIAN, 
THEY PROJECT THEMSELVES AND ARE PERCEIVED BY MANY AS THE 
ANTITHESIS OF A CORRUPT, WEALTHY, SECULAR RULING ELITE. 
 
5.  (C) WHILE MANY, PARTICULARLY AMONG THE POOREST, BELIEVE 
THE MB SINCERE IN ITS OBJECTIVES, MANY ISLAMIST AND SECULAR 
INTELLECTUALS WITH WHOM WE SPOKE BELIEVE THE SIMPLICITY OF 
THEIR MESSAGE CONCEALS A POLICY VACUUM AT BEST, OR NEFARIOUS 
INTENTIONS AT WORST.  ANTI-MB INTELLECTUALS CLAIM THAT THE 
ORGANIZATION IS POISED AT ANY OPPORTUNE MOMENT TO USE 
VIOLENCE TO ACHIEVE ITS OBJECTIVES.  TOO LITTLE, THEY SAY, IS 
KNOWN ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION'S STRUCTURE AND POLITICS (SEE 
REFTEL).  FOR INSTANCE, WHO ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE MB 
GOVERNING BOARD AND WHAT DECISIONS ARE THEY MAKING?  LITTLE 
IS KNOWN ABOUT THE SIZE AND COMPOSITION OF ITS MEMBERSHIP AND 
LESS ABOUT THEIR STRATEGY FOR SPREADING MB INFLUENCE AND 
IDEAS IN EGYPTIAN SOCIETY. 
 
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THE ONLY OPPOSITION IN TOWN 
--------------------------- 
 
6.  (C) AFTER THE GOVERNMENT'S TARGETING OF THE MB IN 1994 
AND 1995, THE ORGANIZATION EFFECTIVELY WENT UNDERGROUND UNTIL 
2000 WHEN SOME OF THE TOP YOUNG LEADERS WERE RELEASED FROM 
PRISON.  ONE ACADEMIC ARGUED THAT THE MB HAD TO SHOW ITS FACE 
TO SURVIVE.  "THEY HAD NO CHOICE.  THEY NEEDED TO PROVE THAT 
THE CRACKDOWN HAS NOT BROKEN THEM AND THAT THEY CONTINUE TO 
EXIST AS A VIABLE MOVEMENT."  DESPITE THE PRE-ELECTION 
CRACKDOWN, THE MB PROVIDED DISCIPLINED SUPPORT TO ITS 
CANDIDATES IN THE FALL 2000 PA ELECTIONS, UNLIKE OTHER 
PARTIES INCLUDING THE RULING NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY (NDP). 
 
7.  (C) THE MB'S INFLUENCE WAS AMPLIFIED BY THE LACK OF A 
SECULAR OPPOSITION POLITICAL MOVEMENT IN EGYPT WHICH 
CONSTITUTED A CREDIBLE POLITICAL ALTERNATIVE TO THE RULING 
PARTY AT ELECTION TIME.  ACADEMICS ESTIMATE THE POLITICALLY 
ACTIVE SECTOR OF THIS SOCIETY RANGES BETWEEN 2-8%, DEPENDING 
UPON THE TIME (E.G. ELECTIONS) AND THE ISSUE (E.G. 
CORRUPTION).  IN THE FALL 2000 PA ELECTIONS, MB CANDIDATES 
CAPTURED THE POPULAR TIDE OF VOTES AGAINST THE (RULING) NDP 
IN THE SMALL NUMBER OF DISTRICTS WHERE THEY FIELDED 
CANDIDATES.  DESPITE MANY ARRESTS, HARSH TREATMENT OF MB 
MEMBERS AND SYMPATHIZERS AND ITS STATUS AS AN ILLEGAL PARTY, 
THE 40 MB CANDIDATES RUNNING AS "INDEPENDENTS" MANAGED TO WIN 
17 PA SEATS.  THEY RECENTLY CINCHED ONE-THIRD (8) OF THE 
BOARD SEATS IN THE EGYPTIAN BAR SYNDICATE IN ITS FIRST 
ELECTIONS SINCE 1992.  THEY CONTINUE TO HAVE SIGNIFICANT 
INFLUENCE IN ALL EGYPTIAN LABOR AND PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES, 
MANY HOLDING SEATS ON UNION BOARDS FROZEN FOR THAT VERY 
REASON BY THE GOVERNMENT IN 1996.  WHILE NO MB POPULARITY 
POLLS HAVE BEEN CONDUCTED, ESTIMATES THAT THEY COULD GAIN 20 
TO 30 PERCENT OF PARLIAMENTARY SEATS IN A FREE AND FAIR 
ELECTION SEEM PLAUSIBLE. 
 
-------------------------------------------- 
STRONG POLITICAL ORGANIZATION AND DISCIPLINE 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
8.  (C) IN THE FALL 2000 PA ELECTIONS AND AGAIN IN THE BAR 
SYNDICATE IN FEBRUARY, THE MB DEMONSTRATED BETTER 
ORGANIZATION AND MORE PARTY DISCIPLINE THAN OTHER PARTIES AND 
CANDIDATES.  A FORMER DIRECTOR OF STATE SECURITY TOLD "ROSE 
EL YOUSSEF" MAGAZINE ON APRIL 21, 2001 THAT THE VICTORY OF 
THE MB IN THE PA ELECTIONS "WAS NOT A RESULT OF THEIR 
STRENGTH IN PROPAGATING THEIR IDEOLOGY, BUT (WAS) A RESULT OF 
THE PASSIVENESS AND LACK OF ORGANIZATION OF OTHER FORCES ON 
THE POLITICAL SCENE."  NDP AND OPPOSITION PARTY OFFICIALS 
HAVE COME TO THE SAME REALIZATION.  ISLAMIC AND SECULAR 
INTELLECTUALS DOUBT THAT WERE THE MB TO GAIN A SIGNIFICANT 
NUMBER OF SEATS IN THE PARLIAMENT THAT THEY WOULD BE 
REELECTED TO SECOND TERMS, BECAUSE THEY HAVE NO MEANINGFUL 
MESSAGE.  THE GOVERNMENT PREVENTED THEM FROM RUNNING IN THE 
SHURA COUNCIL (UPPER HOUSE) ELECTIONS HELD MAY 16-JUNE 12 BY 
ARRESTING CANDIDATES AND SUPPORTERS IN PRE-ELECTION SWEEPS, A 
RE-PLAY OF STEPS TAKEN BEFORE THE PA ELECTIONS.  OF A 
POSSIBLE 20 INDEPENDENT MB CANDIDATES, ONLY ONE REMAINED BY 
ELECTION TIME TO RUN FOR A SHURA COUNCIL SEAT.  HE DID NOT 
WIN.  THE SUCCESS OF THE MB WHEN IT IS PERMITTED TO RUN IS 
DUE IN PART TO THE INABILITY OF THE RULING AND OPPOSITION 
PARTIES TO ORGANIZE OR IMPROVE PARTY DISCIPLINE AND TO PUT 
FORWARD POPULAR CANDIDATES. 
 
-------------------------- 
OUTREACH KEY TO POPULARITY 
-------------------------- 
 
9.  (U) MUSLIM BROTHERS' OUTREACH IS DIRECTED TOWARDS THE 
POOR BUT THEIR SERVICES ARE NOT LIMITED ONLY TO THE POOR. 
THEY ARE ACTIVELY DELIVERING EDUCATION, HEALTH CARE AND LEGAL 
SERVICES TO THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT.  THEY ARE INVOLVED IN 
ALL THE PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS (SYNDICATES) AND ARE THE 
BACKBONE OF THE EGYPTIAN MEDICAL AND TEACHERS' SYNDICATES. 
WITHIN THE SYNDICATES THEY HAVE REACHED OUT TO A BROAD 
AUDIENCE, BY FOR INSTANCE, OFFERING MEMBERS REDUCED PRICE 
MEDICAL COVERAGE.  IN THE JOURNALISTS' SYNDICATE, THE MB 
HELPED MEMBERS TO GET INCREASED BENEFITS INCLUDING SUBSIDIZED 
HOUSING AND CREDIT CARDS (WITH A US$1,500 LIMIT), A BENEFIT 
VIEWED VERY POSITIVELY EVEN BY ANTI-MB JOURNALISTS. 
 
10.  (U) DOCTORS AND NURSES PROVIDE INEXPENSIVE, SOMETIMES 
FREE MEDICAL CARE TO THE POOR FOR WHOM THERE ARE NO OR 
INSUFFICIENT GOVERNMENT SERVICES.  WHILE THE MB SOMETIMES 
OPERATE  MEDICAL CLINICS AT MOSQUES, THE LACK OF INFORMATION 
ABOUT WHO IS ACTUALLY AN MB MEMBER HAS SOMETIMES RESULTED IN 
BENEFICIARIES THINKING THE MB HAS HELPED THEM WHEN IT HAS 
NOT.  THE MB-DOMINATED DOCTORS' SYNDICATE HAS MADE IT 
POSSIBLE FOR MEMBERS OF ALL SYNDICATES TO OBTAIN REASONABLY 
PRICED HEALTH INSURANCE.  THE MB REPORTEDLY PROVIDES 
STIPENDS, COVERING LIVING AND BOOK EXPENSES, TO POOR MB 
STUDENTS AT UNIVERSITIES.  MB SHOP OWNERS PROVIDE SUBSIDIZED, 
SOMETIMES FREE, FOOD AND CLOTHING TO THE NEEDY IN 
IMPOVERISHED AREAS.  THE MB IS FILLING A GAP IN A SOCIETY 
WITH FEW GOVERNMENT SERVICES AND POOR ADMINISTRATION OF THOSE 
THAT EXIST. 
 
11.  (C) MANY KNOWN MUSLIM BROTHER LEADERS ARE FROM EDUCATED, 
SOMETIMES WEALTHY FAMILY BACKGROUNDS.  THE LEADERS ARE 
INVOLVED IN MOST ASPECTS OF PROFESSIONAL AND COMMERCIAL LIFE 
IN EGYPT: MEDICINE, LAW, ENGINEERING, EDUCATION, AND 
BUSINESS, FROM SMALL STORES AND BASIC SERVICES TO HEADING 
LARGE COMPANIES.  A LARGE AMOUNT OF THEIR FINANCING IS 
THOUGHT TO COME FROM ABROAD, PRINCIPALLY FROM SAUDI SOURCES, 
INTERESTED IN PROMOTING A MORE CONSERVATIVE RELIGIOUS TREND 
IN EGYPT. 
 
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CONTROVERSY ABOUNDS 
------------------- 
 
12.  (C) THE MB'S POPULAR IMAGE IS NOT WITHOUT CONTROVERSY. 
WHEN THE BAR SYNDICATE WAS JUDICIALLY SEQUESTERED IN 1996, IT 
WAS ON THE BASIS OF A COMPLAINT BY NON-MB LAWYERS THAT MB 
SYNDICAL LEADERS WERE DISPENSING THE SYNDICATE'S CONTRACTS 
AND LOANS TO MB SUPPORTERS, CHANNELING EMPLOYMENT 
OPPORTUNITIES AND PROFITS TO MB COMPANIES.  (IN THIS WAY, 
THEIR OPERATIONS MIRRORED THAT OF THE RULING PARTY.) 
NONETHELESS, THEY ARE BROADLY PERCEIVED AS MORE HONEST THAN 
THE RULING NDP. 
 
13.  (C) ONE PROFESSOR ASKED RHETORICALLY, "THINGS ARE SO 
BAD, COULD THEY (THE MB) REALLY BE ANY WORSE?"  A WELL-KNOWN 
ISLAMIST LAWYER HOWEVER, TAKES ISSUE WITH THAT CONTENTION, 
"THEIR POPULARITY RESTS ON A SLOGAN... THEY HAVE NO ANSWERS, 
NO SOLUTIONS TO EGYPT'S VERY REAL PROBLEMS (PARTICULARLY) THE 
ECONOMIC CRISIS - THE MOST SERIOUS OF EGYPT'S PROBLEMS," HE 
STRESSED.  ANALYSIS OF MB ACTIVITIES IN THE PA, HE AND OTHERS 
SAY, SUPPORTS THE CLAIM THAT THE MB HAS NO SOLUTIONS.  "THE 
MB IS ABSORBED WITH PAROCHIAL, RELIGIOUS ISSUES RATHER THAN 
ISSUES OF NATIONAL CONSEQUENCE," A POLITICAL SCIENCE 
PROFESSOR ASSESSED.  AN NDP PA MEMBER COMMENTED THAT MB 
MEMBERS ARE COMPLETELY IGNORANT OF PARLIAMENTARY PROCEDURES, 
CONSEQUENTLY  WASTING A GREAT DEAL OF THE ASSEMBLY'S TIME. 
 
----------------------------------- 
REGIONAL ISSUES WORK IN THEIR FAVOR 
----------------------------------- 
 
14.  (C) REGIONAL POLITICS HAVE BOLSTERED THE MB'S IMAGE. 
RISING DISCONTENT OVER ISRAEL'S TREATMENT OF THE PALESTINIANS 
AND WHAT IS PERCEIVED AS A HALF-HEARTED RESPONSE BY ARAB 
LEADERS HAVE STRENGTHENED THE MB, WHO HAVE MADE A NAME FOR 
THEMSELVES AS STAUNCH SUPPORTERS OF THE PALESTINIANS.  THEY 
ARE THE MAIN INSTIGATORS OF PRO-PALESTINIAN AND 
ANTI-ISRAEL/U.S. DEMONSTRATIONS ON THE CAMPUSES AND AT THE 
SYNDICATES AND ARE THE BENEFICIARIES OF POPULAR ANGER OVER 
THE AL AQSA INTIFADA.  MANY OF OUR INTERLOCUTORS, INCLUDING 
AN EGYPTIAN-AMERICAN POLITICAL SCIENTIST, REMIND US THAT THE 
MB RIDE THE TIDE OF POPULAR CONCERNS: ANTI-CORRUPTION, 
PRO-PALESTINE, ANTI-ISRAEL AND THE PEACE PROCESS.  THEY ARE 
USING THESE HOT ISSUES, HE ESTIMATES, TO "PENETRATE" STUDENT 
UNIONS AND PROFESSIONAL SYNDICATES.  THE PROFESSOR, LIKE MANY 
EGYPTIANS, BELIEVES THE MB HAS NO STRATEGY PER SE OTHER THAN 
GAINING POWER.  HE DOES NOT BELIEVE THEY ARE SUCCESSFUL IN 
INCREASING THEIR OUTREACH BEYOND A COMMITTED NUCLEUS, BUT HE 
BELIEVES THAT IS STILL MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN THE OUTREACH BY 
MOST POLITICAL PARTIES. 
 
--------------------------------- 
"OBJECTIVE OPPOSITION" TURNS SOUR 
--------------------------------- 
 
15.  (C) DESPITE MASSIVE ARRESTS, TRIAL AND IMPRISONMENT OF 
RESPECTED MB LEADERS IN RECENT YEARS, THE ORGANIZATION 
CONTINUES.  THE ELECTORAL VICTORY OF 17 MUSLIM BROTHERS IN 
THE FALL ELECTIONS REPRESENTS A CHALLENGE TO THE GOVERNMENT. 
MB'S ARE AN ILLEGAL BUT DE FACTO BLOC IN THE PARLIAMENT. 
INITIALLY, MB PARLIAMENTARIANS SEEMED TO PLAY THE 
GOVERNMENT'S GAME.  OBSERVERS SPECULATED THAT A TRUCE OF 
SORTS HAD BEEN DECLARED BETWEEN THE MB AND STATE SECURITY. 
UNDER WHAT MB MP HAMDI HASSAN TERMED A POLICY OF "OBJECTIVE 
OPPOSITION" (TO GOVERNMENT POLICIES), HE TOLD AL AHRAM 
NEWSPAPER, "THE BROTHERHOOD'S DEPUTIES CALLED INTO QUESTION 
THE STATE'S PUBLISHING THREE "PORNOGRAPHIC" BOOKS, WHICH WERE 
CONSEQUENTLY WITHDRAWN TO AVOID A POTENTIALLY DAMAGING 
DEBATE."  HE ADDED THAT THE MB DID NOT OBJECT TO THE PRIME 
MINISTER'S JANUARY 22 GOVERNMENT POLICY STATEMENT.  "WE 
WANTED TO GIVE THE IMPRESSION THAT THE (MB) PRESENCE... 
SHOULD NOT TRIGGER EXCESSIVE FEARS.  (OUR) PRESENCE DOES 
REALLY GO IN FAVOR OF DEMOCRACY AND NOT AGAINST IT..." 
 
16.  (C) HOWEVER, ON APRIL 21, THE 17 MB MP'S STORMED OUT OF 
PARLIAMENT, PROTESTING THE SPEAKER'S REFUSAL TO GIVE THEM THE 
FLOOR TO RAISE THE ISSUE OF ARREST OF 2 MB SHURA COUNCIL 
CANDIDATES.  FOLLOWING THIS CONFRONTATION, THE MB BLOC 
SUBMITTED TO THE SPEAKER A LONG LIST OF QUESTIONS 
"EMBARRASSING" TO THE GOVERNMENT, ACCORDING TO ONE 
PARLIAMENTARY REPORTER.  THEY CALL UPON THE GOVERNMENT TO 
CANCEL THE "MISS EGYPT" PAGEANT; QUESTION THE MORALITY OF AN 
ARTICLE IN THE STATE-OWNED FILM MAGAZINE, "THE STARS"; ACCUSE 
THE MINISTER OF INTERIOR OF IGNORING VIOLENCE IN THE SCHOOLS; 
AND REQUEST PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONS PAUSE REGULARLY FOR 
PRAYERS.  TARGETED MINISTERS INCLUDE THE POWERFUL MINISTERS 
OF AGRICULTURE YOUSSEF WALY, OF INFORMATION SAFWAT SHERIF AND 
CULTURE MINISTER FAROUQ HOSNI.  THEY HAVE CONTINUED TO GARNER 
PUBLIC SUPPORT WITH TIRADES AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT, 
CORRUPTION, AND AGAINST EDUCATION MINISTER BAHA EDDIN FOR 
REASSIGNING THOUSANDS OF TEACHERS TO ADMINISTRATIVE POSITIONS 
BECAUSE THEY WERE MB SUPPORTERS AT A TIME WHEN THE RATE OF 
ILLITERACY AND LACK OF EDUCATION ARE PROFOUND SOCIAL 
CONCERNS. 
 
---------------- 
FUTURE PROSPECTS 
---------------- 
 
17.  (C) TO CONTINUE TO GROW BEYOND ITS CURRENT SUPPORTERS, 
THE MB DEPENDS ON UNREST IN THE REGION, POPULAR DISCONTENT 
OVER GOVERNMENT MISMANAGEMENT OF THE ECONOMY, CORRUPTION AND 
UNEMPLOYMENT.  THE AVERAGE EGYPTIAN BELIEVES THAT THINGS 
CAN'T REALLY GET MUCH WORSE WERE THE MB MORE INFLUENTIAL. 
THEY MIGHT EVEN GIVE SOMETHING BACK TO THE PEOPLE.  THE 
MIDDLE CLASS JUST "WANTS TO GET BY" WITHOUT INTERFERENCE FROM 
THE GOVERNMENT OR RELIGIOUS TYPES.  INTELLECTUALS TEND TO BE 
STRIDENTLY ANTI-MB.  AS AN NDP POLITICIAN AND JOURNALIST 
COMMENTED, "IF ONLY 6 PERCENT OF EGYPTIANS ARE POLITICIZED, A 
LARGE PERCENTAGE OF THEM ARE PRO-MB."  HOWEVER, HE AND OUR 
OTHER INTERLOCUTORS BELIEVE THAT THE MB ARE NOT SO POPULAR 
NOR IS THEIR BASE OF SUPPORT SO SIGNIFICANT THAT THEY COULD 
TAKE OVER THE REINS OF POWER TODAY, OR IN THE VERY NEAR 
FUTURE. 
 
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COMMENT 
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18.  (C) WHILE THE MB HAS HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO RESUME A 
PLACE ON THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM, THEIR POWER AND INFLUENCE 
REMAIN LIMITED.  STATE SECURITY FORCES MAINTAIN THE MB IN A 
TIGHT VISE SINCE THE BAR SYNDICATE ELECTIONS AND HAVE MADE IT 
CLEAR THAT THEY WILL WIN NO MORE POWER OFFICIALLY FOR THE 
TIME BEING.  WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE MB REPRESENTS A 
SERIOUS THREAT TO THE GOE.  IT IS NOT CAPABLE OF SEIZING 
POWER AND MANY OF ITS YOUNGER MEMBERS SEEM TO FAVOR POLITICAL 
ADVANCEMENT THROUGH ELECTIONS.  IN THE CONTINUED ABSENCE OF 
SECULAR OPPOSITION POLITICAL PARTIES THE MB WILL CONTINUE TO 
REPRESENT FOR MANY THE ONLY VIABLE POLITICAL OPPOSITION. 
 
 
HARNISH 

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