In Egypt, U.S. Senators Label Morsi’s Ousting a ‘Coup’ as Tension and Confusion Reigns

  • Share
  • Read Later
AMEL PAIN / EPA

U.S. Senator John McCain, left, with Senator Lindsey Graham in Cairo on Aug. 6, 2013

Cairo has always been a popular site to mediate the many disputes of the Middle East. A regional crossroads and the home of the Arab League, Egypt has hosted numerous rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as well as intra-Palestinian talks between rival factions Fatah and Hamas. In 2003, it served as the nerve center for last-minute attempts by the Arab League and Gulf states to convince Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to seek exile ahead of the eventual U.S.-led invasion.

But the past month of political turmoil following the military’s ousting of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency has flipped that script. Now international envoys are packing into Cairo from multiple directions in order to mediate the Egyptian crisis. The past few days have seen overlapping visits from U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, U.S. Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, E.U. envoy Bernardino León and the Foreign Ministers of both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

In each case the foreign envoys have crisscrossed the capital, moving from presidential palaces to prison warden’s offices seeking to find some sort of acceptable resolution that will heal the rifts between the military-backed transitional government and Morsi’s marginalized and embittered Muslim Brotherhood.

(MORE: Obama’s Egypt Policy: The Israel Factor)

Morsi supporters continue to rally in mass numbers at two separate sites in Cairo, vowing to continue their civil disobedience campaign until what they consider a blatant coup is reversed and Morsi returned to power. The military and police have issued multiple warnings of a looming crackdown to clear the sit-ins, but a shaky peace has held for the past week as the negotiators went to work.

But so far, the flurry of diplomatic activity has failed to produce signs of even a road map toward reconciliation. Amid conflicting reports and denials over who met who and who proposed what, the past week’s events may have even muddied the waters further, in the eyes of some observers.

“It’s difficult to know what’s going on because we don’t know what’s really being said between the Brotherhood and the foreigners,” says Hussein Gohar, head of international relations for the Social Democrat Party — one of the leading members of the Egyptian ruling coalition and the party of Interim Prime Minister Hazem al-Beblawy. “It’s a little confusing and I don’t think we’re getting anywhere.”

If anything, the mediation efforts have served to emphasize just how far apart the two sides remain. The Brotherhood continues to insist that any resolution begins with Morsi’s return to power. Brotherhood officials have consistently dropped hints that they would consider a scenario in which a restored President Morsi handed off some of his duties or announced fresh presidential elections. But in the eyes of the transitional government, any talk of a Morsi return is an absolute nonstarter.

“We’re long past the idea of Morsi returning in any form. As long as they insist on that, then there are no negotiations,” says Gohar. Many of the other core Brotherhood demands seem equally impossible to realize — not least the insistence of Brotherhood leaders that they would never join a unity government that includes Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister General Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, the army man who they consider guilty of treason for toppling Morsi, then his Commander in Chief.

(MORE: Why U.S. Aid to Egypt Is Here to Stay)

The simultaneous visits of both Burns and the two Senators represent a significant shift on the part of the U.S. — an active re-engagement after several weeks of semantic gymnastics over how to define this crucial phase of Egypt’s revolution. The U.S. government is deeply distrusted by both players in the dispute and seemed, until recently, to be willing to take a backseat and endorse the E.U. mediation efforts.

But the renewed U.S. engagement hasn’t brought much more clarity to the situation. Last week, Burns’ boss, Secretary of State John Kerry, made the strongest comments yet in favor of the post-Morsi government while on a visit to Pakistan, stating that the Egyptian military’s intervention was aimed at “restoring democracy.”

On Tuesday however, McCain and Graham seemed to be singing from a completely different song sheet. The Senators openly labeled Morsi’s ouster as a “coup” — a word the White House and State Department have studiously avoided for weeks and one that, when invoked, draws the ire of the transitional government and its supporters.

Still, McCain stated that cutting off the U.S.’s $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt — an action mandated by current U.S. law in the event of a coup against a democratically elected government — would be “the wrong signal at the wrong time.” But Graham, in comments to reporters on Tuesday, offered a blunt assessment of the Egyptian playing field — one that directly challenges the transitional government’s statements of its own legitimacy. “The people who are in charge were not elected. The people who were elected are in jail,” he said. “The status quo is not acceptable.”

All of this shuttle diplomacy takes place under a looming threat of a bloody crackdown that could drive the Muslim Brotherhood back underground — where it spent much of the past 50 years. Part of the reason the envoys have had a peaceful week in which to operate may be due more to the nature of the Islamic calendar than to any realistic prospect of reconciliation. The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends on Thursday and the final 10 days of the month are considered particularly sacred — and therefore a terrible time for internecine strife. Ramadan culminates in the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, one of the holiest periods in the Muslim calendar. Next week, once the holidays have come and gone, the prospects of a final — and inevitably violent — security push to clear the Brotherhood protests and end the stalemate will rise.

Khalil is a Cairo-based journalist and author of Liberation Square: Inside the Egyptian Revolution and the Rebirth of a Nation.

MORE: Egypt’s New Rule

27 comments
AbrahamYeshuratnam
AbrahamYeshuratnam

McCain has now become senile and his assessment of the situation in Egypt is not correct. His policy failed in Syria. Putin strongly supported Assad ignoring the bloodbath and Assad is now strengthening his position. McCain does not possess the political skill to understand the geopolitical landscape in Egypt. Morsi was slowly emerging as another Ayotollah Khoemini in Egypt.  Washington should try to sterngthen the ties with the present regime in Cairo before it slips into the lap of Putin.

myname
myname

can someone summarize this article for me without any bias information please

TutAnkhAmon
TutAnkhAmon

McCain in SPIEGEL, February 06, 2011

SPIEGEL: Many people are drawing comparisons between the situation in Cairo and the Iranian revolution of1979, which led to the country's takeover by religious leaders. If you look at elements like the Muslim Brotherhood, how likely is a similar outcome in Egypt?

McCain: I am deeply, deeply concerned that this whole movement could be hijacked by radical Islamic extremists.

SPIEGEL: What is your assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood?

McCain: I think they are a radical group that first of all supports Sharia law; that in itself is anti-democratic -- at least as far as women are concerned. They have been involved with other terrorist organizations and I believe that they should be specifically excluded from any transition government.

SPIEGEL, February 06, 2011

ravenrdr
ravenrdr

The irony is that McCain and Graham are now clearly on the side of the Muslim Brotherhood!  (Maybe not irony so much as typical Republicans opposing Obama no matter what position he takes)  Politics indeed makes for strange bedfellows!

LidoAmerWaleedKhalaf
LidoAmerWaleedKhalaf

if McCain label Morsi’s Ousting a ‘Coup’, We should consider US war on terrorism in Iraq was an occupation.

LidoAmerWaleedKhalaf
LidoAmerWaleedKhalaf

Anyone still think the extremist McCrazy has come for Egyptian reconciliation???

adworth444
adworth444

Simple as this, “The people who are in charge were not elected. The people who were elected are in jail,” he said. “The status quo is not acceptable.” Was George W. Bush overthrown despite the fact there were a great a number of Americans who went to protests to dispute the ballot? Was Obama overthrown when he failed to fulfill his campaign promises? A kettle calling a pot black! No two ways about it!


MohamedFakhr
MohamedFakhr

Once again two clowns from the states are interfering Egypt's internal affair.

These senators are no longer welcomed in Egypt.

Anne Pattersn is no longer welcomed in Egypt.

markb3699
markb3699

These guys are joined at the hip. What are the hell are they trying to prove? It's like they're trying to form their own mini shadow government. Give it a rest guys.

swagger
swagger

once again mccain and his buddy try to pass themselves off as state department representatives when they are merely clumsy meddlers intent on undermining the president's policies.  they are basically grandstanding louts or loose cannons, whichever seems the more appropriate description.

wantcountryback
wantcountryback

@usa_truth yes Egypt was a coup. McCain & Graham are saying it is bad to overthrow a horrible govmt. They are scared we will do the same.

AbaDablam
AbaDablam

Until last weeek, I would have agreed (discreetly) that on a first order of analysis, Morsi's removal is a coup. Then I had a chat with an Egyptian colleague just freshly arrived from Cairo with his wife and teenage kids, they are coptic, and he explained me that Morsi had intented to modify the constitution by decree, had been sacked by Supreme Court, and had been "protected" by Muslim Brothers physically surrounding and bullying the Supreme Court until it lets go.

It makes sense, as changing the Consitution normaly requires the complete Congress (both chambers, whatever they are).

So, I'm not sure anymore that Morsi's removal was the first coup in that can of worms.

The West has been lucky to build democracy on paperwork, where inquiry led to trial that led sometimes to a new law, that led sometimes to a new constitution, all in an orderly paperstamping manner.

Nowadays, the West itself is confronted to "one crime spot news, one new law", with an on-the-spot reporting and legislating attitude.

Egypt and most Arab countries face this kind of challenge not in their day-to-day legislating work, but in their constitution-building legislating work.

My impression now is that Morsi has abused its powers w/r the Constitution, and that maybe the example for Egypt to deal with these abuses could lie in Pakistan, where the lawyers and the Supreme Court have stood their ground in front of  various politicians fighting for Prime Minister.

I think the Arab League and/or the African Union should assess the situation in Egypt and speak out on the issue.

ianbrealey
ianbrealey

@lrozen Well America was slow getting into the war against Hitler. He was elected you know He had a mandate for murder, hate, war, torture

Zathras3
Zathras3

@lrozen The disaster was Obama admin assuming victory for democracy when Mubarak fell, turning attention elsewhere.

AmrAdelFahmy
AmrAdelFahmy

@lrozen it was,but helpful,revealing,will help end crisis,story of bear who killed his friend with hug?Presidency will issue statement tom

Somatoro
Somatoro

1. The current leader of Al-Quida is an Egyptian who studied in Cairo University.

2. An Egyptian played the key role in attacking innocent civilians on 9/11.

3. An Egyptian was the second in command of Al-Quida when they attacked innocent civilians on 9/11.

4. in 2012, Egyptians burned U.S flags in broad day light and attacked U.S embassy.

5. in 2012, Egyptians chanted anti=American slogans on the streets of Cairo.
6. Even today, Egyptian's don't like U.S despite U.S giving them billions and F-16s and trying to help them solve the violence. On 08/04/2013, Aljazeera wrote the following: "Anti-US sentiment is growing on both sides of Egypt's political divide...At rallies held by both sides, anti-American chants are common." And on August 5, 2013, Al Jazeera wrote the following: "Both supporters and opponents of the military see the US as self-interested and hypocritical". Despite U.S much efforts to help them, including days of efforts by the deputy secretary of state and these two senators, the current interim president said in the above article "But Egypt’s interim presidency denounced “foreign pressure” in a sign of its growing impatience with international mediations." They jut don't seem to get it. No matter what the U.S does, no matter how much the U.S tries, Egyptians don't seem to get it.

Probably, it is just time U.S takes a pose and rethink if it can get any real friendship from Egypt? I think it is even overdue. Egypt should earn the aid that U.S gives it. Let us face it, billions of dollars is no little money and 12 F-16s is also not a little aid. U.S should support its true friends not those that really are unable to have a good heart for U.S.

I stand to be corrected!


 

bobpulga
bobpulga

@lrozen hard to believe US Diplomacy still failed to learn that (not to) "loose face" is crucial for all the ones in power at ME !

JustDahlia
JustDahlia

Yup, had presser to say it was coup & all shld b released. Know ur audience MT @lrozen: McCain/ Graham Cairo trip sounds like a disaster

dinaselim1
dinaselim1

@adworth444 Did George W. Bush detain 3500 democrats and torture 350 people in one year? Did 217 people die of torture or by direct murder from his supporters?? I think not!!

CarolMay
CarolMay

@swagger   Are you kidding...?  McCain and Graham are Obama's most exuberant cheerleaders.  All they need are some pom-pons.  They went on this mission with Obama's blessing.  I do agree that they are grandstanding louts though.

6thangle
6thangle

@AbaDablam It is a utter lie, very common from pro coup egyptian. Morsi tried to restore the first ever elected parliament several times then he passed his legislative authority to the upper house the other elected boday and repeatedly tried for a new parliament election(lower house) which is opposed by opposition as they know they will not get majority. They only thing morsi and elected members have the people's support through vote, the army and its business allies including media is totally under control of status quo which dont want a democracy in egypt. They spread lies and use their supporter with the help of army to reestablish autocratic rules. Just ask your friend why they are afraid of vote. Morsi and his supporter just ask for election/vote  and democracy. 

markb3699
markb3699

The same could be said of Putin.

Somatoro
Somatoro

@Zathras3 @lrozen I don't think you can blame the Obama administration for Egypt's failure to see how much U.S tries to help it. U.S should change policy. Egypt should earn each dollar of aid. Period

6thangle
6thangle

@Somatoro If you help a military regime(out of 15. biilon of aid, 1.3 directly goes to army) that crash its citizen for decades then don't expect to win their heart.