The Obama administration is sending mixed signals on Egypt. While criticizing the military, the most revered institution in Egypt, and cancelling the upcoming joint military exercises, the U.S refused to label Morsi’s ouster by the military as a coup, thus enabling the U.S. to continue sending $1.5 billion in taxpayer aid to Egypt.
ABC-TV reported on August 20, 2013, that David Carle, an aide to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), said the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee has been informed that the “transfer of military aid was stopped” amid ongoing Egyptian security operations against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi. Leahy’s aide suggested that the Obama administration has decided to stop the shipment of military hardware to the Egyptian Army, and described it as a rebuke of the once stalwart U.S. ally’s crackdown on Islamist opponents and the military ouster of its president. The Obama administration officials immediately rejected the claim.
It remains to be seen whether or not the Obama administration ends up penalizing the military. One thing is clear: Obama “succeeded” in alienating all sides in the emerging Egyptian civil war. The Obama administration has now undermined U.S. interests twice, originally by “throwing U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak under the bus.” It lent its support to the MB, the same MB that managed to hijack the Tahrir Square demonstrations for liberty and reform. And now Obama is siding with the deposed MB President Muhammad Morsi, and seeking to punish the Egyptian military. The military intervened last June and removed Morsi, following the largest anti-MB demonstrations in Egyptian history, which brought almost a third of Egypt’s 80+ million people to the streets, demanding that Morsi step down, accusing him of corruption, authoritarianism, and mismanagement of the economy.
It is not only Obama who is wrong on Egypt. Republican U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) urged the Obama administration, according to the Associated Press (8/16/13), “to suspend U.S. aid to Egypt.” The two Republican senators traveled to Egypt at Obama’s request, and had this to say last Friday: “The massacre of civilians this week in Egypt has brought our longstanding relationship with that country to a fork in the road. The interim civilian government and security forces – backed up, unfortunately, by the military – are taking Egypt down a dark path, one that the United States cannot and should not travel with them.”
What neither the Obama administration nor McCain and Graham have considered, in the rush to denounce the military, are the wishes of secular and patriotic Egyptians, and especially the Christian Coptic minority of approximately 10 million. For them, the military takeover is a positive development.
The New York Times reported on August 20, 2013:
Across Egypt, churches were burned and Christians terrorized. A Coptic Christian group, the Maspero Youth Union, recorded at least six deaths and the destruction of at least 38 churches, as well as attacks on at least 23 more. An activist with the group, Beshoy Tamry, primarily blamed Islamist leaders for “charging their followers with hate” and trying to destabilize the country by attacking its weakest citizens.
Jeffrey Fleishman, reporting for the LA Times (8/20/13) from Helwan, Egypt, wrote, “The Muslim Brotherhood wants to burn down the country.” He cited Nagy Shokrallah, a fidgety man thumbing through photos of church damage on his Blackberry. Shokrallah said, “When we take our children to visit the monasteries in the south, we tell them they were burned twice in history: the first time under Roman occupation and the second time by the Muslim Brotherhood.”
The Jewish community in Egypt barely exists today, with a few dozen elderly Jews who remained after the Six Day-War of June 1967. Before Israel’s independence in 1948, the Jewish community numbered about 75,000; they comprised the backbone of the Egyptian economy. Brutal persecution and the confiscation of Jewish-owned properties forced nearly all the Jews with foreign passports to flee Egypt; some went to Europe and North America, others to Israel.
Martin Gilbert, in his recent book, In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands (Yale University Press 2010) describes the ordeals of Egyptian Jewry (page 288). “Within days of the start of the Six-Day War, as Israeli troops began their advance through the Sinai Desert towards the Suez Canal, two hundred of the one thousand Jews still in Egypt were arrested and held in prison. Jews were kept without water for 48 hours at the police headquarters. In Abu Za’abal prison outside Cairo, Egyptian police officers kicked and whipped Jewish prisoners, forcing them to call out anti-Israel slogans.” Gilbert also relates in his book (page 252) that “Anti-Jewish attacks were always instigated by the extremist Muslim Brotherhood. Fortunately for the Jews, the Egyptian government feared the Brotherhood Islamic fundamentalist appeals and moved against the organization with severity.”
Magda Haroun, 61, is the President of the Jewish community in Egypt. She is also the youngest of the 14 women who make up Cairo’s dwindling Jewish community. Most are now in their 80s, living off charity and rental income from properties the community has owned for generations. Haroun related to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) that “when protesters filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square at the end of June, calling on President Mohamed Morsi to step down, she was right there with them. She added that the Jewish community “like many other Egyptians, is supportive of the army’s campaign to quell Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.”
Media reports on Tuesday, August 20, 2013, cited the White House decision to withhold military aid to Egypt in protest over the military’s crackdown on Morsi’s supporters. Haroun pointed out that “the army’s control is a welcome development,” and she qualified it as “the army is fighting terrorism.” Haroun went on to say that under Morsi’s rule, the Egyptian government voted to end a monthly subsidy of $1,000 that had been provided to the Jewish community for 20 years. She called Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood “a fascist movement.”
The Obama administration and its EU allies have demanded the release of Morsi. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the inclusion of the MB in the governing of Egypt. Yet, last year, the Obama administration refrained from challenging Morsi’s attempts to impose an authoritarian regime on the country. Nor did the administration object to Morsi’s executive overreach. Had Obama protested then as he does now on behalf of Morsi, it would have favored Egypt’s real democratic forces. Therefore, it appears to most Egyptians that Obama promotes the ousted regime and is siding with the MB rioters. While Obama has sent condolences to the victims of Cairo’s MB Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp killings, which was intended for martyrdom and not really for democracy, he has not done the same for the hundreds of Christian Coptic victims of the Islamist MB who did seek democracy, human rights and religious freedom in Egypt.
The Obama administration must realize that the so-called “Arab Spring” was subverted by the MB, which imposed their intolerant and extremist ideology on Egypt and the rest of the Arab Middle East. The Obama administration’s support for the MB government, because it was “democratically elected,” is a fallacious argument. The Nazis in Germany, as well as the Hamas terrorists in Gaza, also won in democratic elections. For the democratically inclined Egyptians and the minority communities, U.S. condemnation of the Egyptian military for fulfilling the wishes of the people is the wrong choice.
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