If you find the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt confusing, I suspect that is entirely intentional. The Brotherhood is now the largest organised political force in Egypt, but it currently operates from ramshackle offices in a Cairo suburb. It has sweeping ambitions and a grand vision for the entire Middle East. But it has promised not to seek a majority of seats in the coming parliamentary elections in Egypt or to run a candidate for president.
Essam el-Erian, the brotherhood’s spokesman, embodies the contradiction. He is smiling and welcoming to foreign visitors and he speaks about conciliation and pluralism in Egypt. But get him on international affairs and something much darker and angrier emerges. The Obama administration may hope that it gained credit by urging President Mubarak to step down. But not in the eyes of El-Erian. He insists that America is actively working to overturn the Egyptian revolution and adds – “The Americans always lie. They say one thing and do the opposite.”