World Bulletin/News Desk
News about a recent decision by Egypt's military-backed interim government to hire a US lobbying firm to promote its transitional roadmap is giving local and international observers insights into Egypt's current political crisis.
The observers say both parties to the crisis, which started following the ouster by the powerful Egyptian military of Egypt's first elected president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, have internationalized their conflict, which does not augur well for Egypt's political future.
"The conflict has, in fact, been internationalized very early on," Said Sadek, a leading Egyptian political commentator, told Anadolu Agency in an interview on Sunday.
"This was clear in the interest international news media, including Al-Jazeera news channel in particular, showed in the crisis from the very beginning," he added.
Egypt's political turmoil started after Morsi, who hails from Egypt's most vibrant Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, was unseated by the army, which said it was reacting to mass anti-Morsi demonstrations on June 30.
Soon after, the army-installed interim administration launched a nationwide crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, with hundreds of senior leaders and prominent figures thrown in jail.
The authorities accuse Morsi's supporters, who continue to stage almost daily protests against his ouster, of inciting violence and attacking public and private properties.
The Muslim Brotherhood, for its part, denies the claims, accusing the interim government of fabricating such charges with the aim of taking Egypt away from the democratic track it had taken following the toppling of long-serving president Hosni Mubarak in the 2011 revolution.
Apparently seeking to sell its case, the Egyptian government has commissioned Glover Park Group, a strategic communications firm that delivers research-driven campaigns that shape opinions, to promote the transitional roadmap in the US.
The firm has reportedly filed lobbying registration forms with the US Department of Justice to confirm offering public diplomacy services for Egypt.
The Glover Park Group, touted as one of the leading lobbying firms in the US, will liaison between the Egyptian government and the Obama administration and the Congress.
Washington has recently decided to suspend the delivery of tanks, helicopters and fighter jets to Egypt and withhold $260 million in cash assistance to Egypt to signal dissatisfaction with the slow pace of restoring democratic rule.
Giving credence to views that fully-fledged media warfare is being waged by both rival camps is not only the government's decision to enlist the service of the American PR firm, but also a paid ad campaign by the Muslim Brotherhood in international newspapers.
The ads have already appeared in the British daily The Guardian and the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
The Financial Times has declined to publish the ad.
"We just want to show the international public opinion the reality of what is happening in Egypt," Musfata al-Khatib, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party's media committee, told AA.
"Thousands of people are being killed and thousands others are being thrown in jail," he added.
The campaign is titled "The Death of Democracy: 100 days of dictatorship in Egypt".
Mohamed Salmawi, the spokesman of Egypt's constitution-amending committee, wondered where the money for the ad campaign came from.
"You need to pay $100,000 at least to publish a full page ad like this in one of these newspapers," he told a local privately-owned channel.
An Egyptian court has earlier recommended freezing the assets and the funds of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But al-Khatib insisted that the paid ad campaign was launched and sponsored by sympathizers who have seen the victimization of Muslim Brotherhood members in Egypt.
He suggested that the "volunteers" who have launched the campaign had raised funds in Europe to pay for the cost of the ad publication.
"It is wrong to sum up the whole thing as a conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army," he said.
"This is a military coup and many people are opposed to it."
Better walk the walk
Cynthia P. Schneider, a distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy from Georgetown University, criticized the propaganda charm offensive.
"The government would rather take steps to implement the roadmap, instead of talking about it," she told AA.
"It is terrible that the government wastes the funds it desperately needs like this."
Egypt's persistent political turmoil has had its toll on the national economy, with revenues from tourism dramatically falling and industrial activities tragically disrupted.
A multibillion dollar aid package from oil rich Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates is keeping the country afloat, but economists are drawing bleak scenarios that might happen after Gulf financial aid dries.
Schneider believes the Egyptian government does not care about influencing American public attitudes, but only about influencing the Obama administration with an eye on economic and military aid.
The distinguished professor insists that the interim government cannot just exclude the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt's political process.
Egyptian government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Schneider, still, refused to buy into the Muslim Brotherhood's argument that they were fighting for democracy.
"They cannot claim that they are proponents of democracy. The best thing the Brotherhood can do is to behave in a way that can engender more support, by behaving in a genuinely democratic way," she added.
"This is not an era of propaganda."Last Mod: 20 Ekim 2013, 23:47