Tony Blair backs Egypt’s government and criticises Brotherhood

Former British PM says Muslim Brotherhood was stealing Egypt’s revolution and army intervention has put it on right path

Tony Blair has given staunch backing to Egypt’s government following a meeting on Wednesday with its army leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

In a television interview on Thursday morning, Britain’s former prime minister said Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood had stolen Egypt’s revolution, and the army who deposed him last July had put the country back on the path to democracy.

“This is what I say to my colleagues in the west,” said Blair, visiting Egypt as a representative of the UN, the US, the EU and Russia in their attempts to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. “The fact is, the Muslim Brotherhood tried to take the country away from its basic values of hope and progress. The army have intervened, at the will of the people, but in order to take the country to the next stage of its development, which should be democratic. We should be supporting the new government in doing that.”

Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, was removed by Sisi following days of mass protests. His many critics said Morsi had authoritarian leanings and that his removal was essential to prevent Egypt from eventually turning into an autocratic theocracy.

Rights groups say the government that replaced him has been anything but democratic – with more than a thousand dissidents killed, thousands more arrested, and the right to free assembly and free speech severely curbed. The day before Blair’s comments were aired, 20 journalists were referred to court on terrorism allegations – charges a leading rights lawyer said returned Egypt to the dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak.

Blair’s office did not respond to a query about how the west could promote democracy without criticising lapses in democratic values.

In his television interview, he said: “Right here in Egypt I think it is fundamental that the new government succeeds, that we give it support in bringing in this new era for the people of Egypt. And, you know, we can debate the past and it’s probably not very fruitful to do so, but right now I think it’s important the whole of the international community gets behind the leadership here and helps.”

Blair’s comments are in keeping with his previous comments on the region. In the past, he has been supportive of autocratic rulers toppled during the 2011 revolutions such as Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi. His comments drew criticism from other British-based Middle East specialists.

“The Middle East is a huge region and cannot be broken down into simplistic black-and-white realities, into blocks of good and evil, or as one picture as Tony Blair continually promotes,” said Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

“Too often the peoples in the region are presented a false choice between religious-based parties such as the Brotherhood and secular dictatorship. We should reject that. For sure the Muslim Brotherhood under Morsi failed to deliver but neither are the current Egyptian authorities [delivering].

“Dangerously, Blair and others are turning a blind eye to the suppression of human rights, the widespread arrests, the crackdown on freedom of media and the absence of rule of law. These bear the hallmarks of the security state dictatorship under Mubarak, a man Blair described in 2011 as a ‘force for good’ even as his [the former dictator’s] security forces were killing Egyptians in the streets.”

At the time of Mubarak’s overthrow in 2011, Blair warned that his removal would lead to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood: “They are extremely well organised and well funded whereas those people who are out on the street at the moment, many of them will be extremely well intentioned people but they’re not organised in political parties yet.” © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds