The New York Times is Obama Inc’s Paper of Record. Lately it’s the place where the government goes to launder its foreign policy failures. And Egypt is no different.
“How American Hopes for a Deal in Egypt Were Undercut” lays out the official spin. It begins, backward, with McCain and Graham’s visit to Egypt.
What was the deal? Freeing Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Of course.
The Americans heightened the pressure. Two senators visiting Cairo, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, met with Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the officer who ousted Mr. Morsi and appointed the new government, and the interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, and pushed for the release of the two prisoners. But the Egyptians brushed them off.
“You could tell people were itching for a fight,” Mr. Graham recalled in an interview. “The prime minister was a disaster. He kept preaching to me: ‘You can’t negotiate with these people. They’ve got to get out of the streets and respect the rule of law.’ I said: ‘Mr. Prime Minister, it’s pretty hard for you to lecture anyone on the rule of law. How many votes did you get? Oh, yeah, you didn’t have an election.’ ”
Mahmoud Abbas hasn’t had an election in quite a while. Somehow I doubt Graham would be asking him that question. Somehow I doubt he would be asking it of the King of Saudi Arabia or former Prime Minister Mario Monto of Italy.
The Prime Minister was telling Graham that you can’t negotiate with terrorists. And indeed you can’t.
General Sisi, Mr. Graham said, seemed “a little bit intoxicated by power.”
A feeling completely foreign to Graham, who touches down in Egypt and begins telling its government what to do.
All of the efforts of the United States government, all the cajoling, the veiled threats, the high-level envoys from Washington and the 17 personal phone calls by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, failed to forestall the worst political bloodletting in modern Egyptian history.
Actually the worst bloodletting in history would have come if the Brotherhood had been allowed to remain in power… as Obama wanted it to.
From one side, the Israelis, Saudis and other Arab allies have lobbied him to go easy on the generals in the interest of thwarting what they see as the larger and more insidious Islamist threat.
When everyone in the region, except Qatar, which has become the region’s top terrorist backer, is saying the same thing, maybe it’s time to pay attention.
Mr. Obama gambled on Mr. Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood leader elected a year ago. He found Mr. Morsi a useful and pragmatic partner in handling issues like a violent flare-up in Gaza. But Mr. Obama became convinced that the Egyptian was not being inclusive enough at home to stabilize his own country.
Something that Obama was never willing to say in public.
The administration enlisted people on opposite sides of the contest unfolding in Egypt. Diplomats from Qatar, a regional patron of the Muslim Brotherhood, agreed to influence the Islamists. The United Arab Emirates, determined opponents of the Islamists, were brought in to help reach out to the new authorities.
But while the Qataris and Emiratis talked about “reconciliation” in front of the Americans, Western diplomats here said they believed the Emiratis were privately urging the Egyptian security forces to crack down.
In other news. Duh.
The UAE has cracked down hard on the Brotherhood. Qatar may run D.C., but it no longer runs Cairo.
Mr. Hagel tried to forge a connection with General Sisi, the defense minister who has become the country’s de facto leader. Mr. Hagel, a 66-year-old decorated Vietnam War veteran, felt he and General Sisi, a 58-year-old graduate of the United States Army War College in Pennsylvania, “clicked right away” when they met in April, an American official said.
Sometimes you almost feel sorry for Hagel. Sure he’s evil. But he’s also pathetic.
In a series of phone calls, Mr. Hagel pressed General Sisi for a transition back to civilian rule. They talked nearly every other day, usually for an hour or an hour and a half, lengthened by the use of interpreters. But General Sisi complained that the Obama administration did not fully appreciate that the Islamists posed a threat to Egypt and its army. The general asked Mr. Hagel to convey the danger to Mr. Obama, American officials said.
“Their whole sales pitch to us is that the Muslim Brotherhood is a group of terrorists,” said one American officer, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the dialogue.
By “sales pitch”, he means obvious facts that everyone and their cousin already knew.
Mr. Kerry sent his deputy, William J. Burns, to Cairo, where he and a European Union counterpart scrambled to de-escalate the crisis.Under a plan they worked out, the Muslim Brotherhood would limit demonstrations to two squares, thin out crowds and publicly condemn violence.
The government would issue a similar statement, commit to an inclusive political process allowing any party to compete in elections and, as a sign of good faith, release Saad al-Katatni, the Muslim Brotherhood speaker of the dissolved Parliament, and Aboul-Ela Maadi, founder of a more moderate Islamist party. Both faced implausible charges of instigating violence, and Western diplomats felt that before the takeover, Mr. Katatni in particular had proved himself a pragmatic voice for compromise.
How implausible are those charges? Here’s Katani calling for the destruction of Israel and demanding that the gates of Jihad be opened.
And here’s how he began his term in office.
“Our revolution continues and we will not rest until all the goals of the revolution are met and we avenge our martyrs,” he said in an address that drew a standing ovation. “We will never betray the blood of our martyrs.”
Yup. Utterly pragmatic and implausible.
But on Aug. 4, the interim government surprised the diplomats by bringing charges for incitement to murder against the Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, who was in hiding, and Khairat el-Shater, its most influential leader, who had been detained.
Adding to the shock of the new charges, they came just hours before Mr. Burns and his European partner, Mr. León, were allowed to see Mr. Shater. Mr. Shater embraced the need for dialogue, but did not endorse the proposals.
Yes. Utterly shocking.
Mr. Shater’s people also claimed that he never met with them and would never agree to anything.
Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham arrived in Cairo amid increasing tensions. They went first to see Ambassador Anne W. Patterson. “You could see it on her face, that nobody’s listening,” Mr. Graham said. He said administration officials asked them to press for the release of the two Islamists and to push the Brotherhood to pull people off the street.
Obama Inc helping the Brotherhood? I’m shocked.