An exclusive interview with President Thein Sein about the rapid transformation of Myanmar – a revolution in progress.
Q&A with Christiane Amanpour
By Samuel Burke
What’s next for Egypt?
I think what we’re seeing is a challenge by the new President Mohammed Morsy to the military and, frankly, what is considered to be the military’s hijacking of democracy. The idea of declaring invalid so many of the parliamentary elections, to basically dissolve parliament, is counter to a free electoral process. This week Morsy confronted the military in a quiet way by reconvening parliament just for one hour to try and get the parliamentary ball rolling again. The court again came out and said that their decree stood and that there needed to be new elections for a new parliament.
Will Morsy have a violent clash with the military?
My belief is that Morsy will not go toward a full-scale confrontation with the military. That’s in nobody’s interest. Most certainty not in his interest, nor in the interest of Egypt. His struggle is more likely to take place on the political chess-board, rather than by calling for protest in the streets.
For the next few months, who is in charge of Egypt? SCAF (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) or Morsy?
It’s very unclear frankly. In the next months we’ll see this play out. Morsy’s people are saying that the U.S. needs to step up to the plate. They’re saying the U.S. needs to give a robust defense of democracy. And they say the U.S. must place conditions on the very generous aid it gives to Egypt – specifically the aid to the military and SCAF-that are linked to reform and respect for the democratic process. The U.S. is faced with deciding who their friends are in the region: supporting the democratically elected president and parliament, or hedging its bets and supporting the military. The U.S. has deep ties with the military, because for many years it represented stability, peace with Israel and a barrier to radical Islamists taking over. What the U.S. decides to do is incredibly important because it directly affects what happens on the ground in Egypt.
Are we going to learn more about SCAF and see them in the media?
They’re quite secretive and don’t give interviews. Certainly the hierarchy of SCAF is known to the Pentagon and to U.S. officials. They have meetings and joint exercises. The U.S. gives $1.3 billion in aid – so SCAF is very well-known to those who deal with them, including of course Field Marshall and Defense Minister Hussein Tantawi. But he doesn’t often speak publicly , except to issue decrees through the state media. It’s not a very democratic process, although the military portrays itself as the protector of Egypt’s stability, its standing and its democracy. When Mubarak stepped down, I said that the people have traded a military-backed regime for a military regime.
Do you think Morsy will implement strict Islamic laws?
Morsy comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, but it’s very significant that he decided to make a statement by resigning from the Muslim Brotherhood and their political wing when he was named president. He told me there is no such thing as “Islamic Democracy” – only democracy. He told me is going to be president for all Egyptians: men, women, Christians and Muslims. And I think hearing him say all this is fundamental, and key to how this chapter in Egypt’s history is going to turn out. We’re all still waiting to see. But there’s no doubt that Islam will play a huge role in that part of the region for a generation. The question is what kind of Islam?
You lived through an Islamic Revolution in Iran, and now you’ve just come back from reporting in Egypt. Any similarities?
NONE. No similarities whatsoever. When Ayatollah Khomeini returned to Iran, it immediately became a fundamentalist Islamic theocracy. Women were immediately put under the veil, Sharia law immediately replaced civil law. The road map was clear.
I see Egypt’s hope and future lying in more of a “Turkish solution” – Islamic flavored democracy. I think that’s certainly what many people hope for. But I do see worries amongst the people in Egypt – the country’s elite, the Coptic Christians and the business class. The country is split. 48% voted for Ahmed Shafik, who was part of the old Mubarak Regime. That’s something Morsy must to take into account.
Morsy made Saudi Arabia his first official foreign trip. This is very significant signal. Saudi is worried about the rise of Islamism especially in an old ally like Egypt. Morsy assures them he is not out to export revolution.
Christiane Amanpour is the host of CNN International's Amanpour program & ABC's Global Affairs Anchor