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Feeling let down by the West

There is one thing that the Muslim Brotherhood and the government in Egypt have in common: resentment toward the West. But that strong reaction also shows that the West is a sought-after ally in Egypt.

epa03779893 Opponents of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi burn a picture showing the US President Barack Obama during a protest in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, 07 July 2013. Egypt braced for another day of rival demonstrations over the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, as people awaited the announcement of a new prime minister. Morsi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups were gathering in Cairo's eastern Nasr City suburb ahead of a planned march to the Republican Guard headquarters. The grassroots Tamarod movement - which spearheaded the campaign for Morsi to be unseated - also called for marches to Tahrir Square and the presidential Ittihadiya Palace in support of popular legitimacy. EPA/KHALED ELFIQI

Proteste gegen Barack Obama in Kairo Ägypten

Egypt is a deeply divided country: for weeks, the Muslim Brothers and their opponents have faced off. But no matter how deep the chasm is, both sides can still agree on one common enemy - the Western world. Both the Muslim Brotherhood and government supporters feel let down by Western nations. No matter how far they are apart, they are both angry about US and European policy.

United in resentment against the West

Opponents of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi hold posters against US President Barack Obama during a protest as they demonstrate in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, 07 July 2013. (Photo: EPA/KHALED ELFIQI)

Morsi-opponents showed their anger with Obama at a July rally

The Muslim Brotherhood accuses US President Barack Obama and his administration of welcoming and supporting the ousting of President Mohammed Morsi. "Obama openly threatened Morsi with economic sanctions," Essam el-Erian, a leader of the pro-Brotherhood Freedom and Justice Party, declared. Such words resonate among the people: more and more posters denouncing Obama's policy are popping up at the Muslim Brothers' protests.

The other side is equally scathing about White House policy. The newspaper Al Youm Al-Sabee, said to be close to Morsi opponents, criticized US policy and accused Obama of supporting the Muslim Brotherhood to push through US interests. "Obama knows very well that anything else would be defeat in a battle, in which his government had already invested billions of dollars."

A big let-down?

For political scientist Gamal Soltan from the American University in Cairo, the anti-Western sentiments mostly come from feeling let down by the West. Both sides in Egypt's conflict want to win over the West as an ally, according to Soltan.

Riot policemen throw stones during clashes with protesters along a road which leads to the U.S. embassy, near Tahrir Square in Cairo September 13, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

Riot policemen clashed with protesters close to the US embassy in September 2012

"On the one hand, the government doesn't feel sufficiently supported by the West in what they consider the fight against terrorism," Soltan told DW. "On the other hand, the Muslim Brothers feel the West left them alone to fight for what they consider principles of democracy and human rights." Thus, both sides are convinced that they're standing up for western values, and that they aren't recognized for that by the West, claims the political scientist.

Klaus Brandner, head of the German-Egyptian parliamentarian group, has the same impression - both the military and the Muslim Brotherhood think they're in the right: "Both of them think that they acted in a committed and consistent fashion and feel they still couldn't please anyone in the end."

The West's reservation

There are good reasons for the West's resistance to get involved, Brander told DW. "We can't say 'yes' to both sides," he said. "Egypt lacks the experience that a democratization process also needs a certain readiness for give-and-take."

The resentment currently articulated in the media and the streets could be permanent, says Gamal Soltan. The feeling of being sold out by the West runs too deep on both sides, according to the expert from Cairo. "And this impression will surely influence the relationship future Egyptian governments have with the West."

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi take part in a protest near Ennour Mosque in Cairo August 16, 2013. (Photo: REUTERS/Louafi Larbi)

Morsi-supporters have been protesting ever since their president was ousted in July

Hoping for pragmatism

Brandner, however, believes that the anger could die down again. He thinks the connection to the West is too important for Egypt to risk it. Egypt's successes that were achieved with Western support are very present in society, according to Brandner. "And this isn't just about the economic successes, but also the achievements in human rights and other democratic values," he says. "It's about the achievements in providing education to broad levels of the population."

For now, the Western states are facing a dilemma: no matter what they say or do, one of the parties in Egypt will definitely feel offended. Both groups are currently not able to look at the West's resistance as anything but siding with the opponent, according to Soltan. That's because both parties have so much to lose.

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