U.S. push aimed at helping Egypt overcome political crisis
August 6th, 2013
06:56 PM ET

U.S. push aimed at helping Egypt overcome political crisis

By Elise Labott

The United States is launching a full court press to help dig Egypt out of the crippling political crisis prompted by the military ouster of President Mohamed Morsy, with Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham and Deputy Secretary William Burns on the ground in Cairo.

They all share the same goal. Both Burns and the senators are trying to ease tensions between Morsy’s supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s military, and create the atmosphere for some sort of negotiation between the two sides.

McCain and Graham arrived at the behest of President Barack Obama to press Egypt’s military  for a quick return to civilian rule.

Burns is joining EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and the foreign ministers of Germany, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to meet with a number Egyptians.

Burns met with the Brotherhood’s No. 2 official, Khairat el-Shater, in the prison where he is being held.

The message being conveyed by the diplomats and the lawmakers, however, is very different.

McCain repeated his refrain the military’s removal of Morsy constituted a coup.  Such a declarative statement carries more weight on the ground, especially when accompanied by  a warning that Congress holds the purse strings to $1.3 billion in American aid if the military does facilitate a return to full civilian rule.

Burns, however, has refrained from calling Morsy’s ouster a coup because the Obama administration has determined it is in its best interests not to make a determination on the events in Egypt.

To call Morsy’s ouster a coup would trigger a mandatory suspension of aid and fuel the perception among millions of Egyptians that Washington is sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

To say no coup occurred would alienate millions of other Egyptians who believe the United States “green-lighted” Morsy’s removal.

State Department Spokesman Jen Psaki said the undefined position has not changed.

“Senator McCain and Senator Graham are certainly entitled to their opinions,” Psaki said. “Just as any member of Congress is.”

The United States and its allies are trying to encourage confidence building measures which could lead to a political process.

For the military, that means releasing Muslim Brotherhood officials and dropping charges against others. For that group, it would require ending the massive pro-Morsy sit-ins being held in two squares in Cairo.

Neither side seems to be budging. Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East policy says the standoff is neither surprising, nor likely to end anytime soon.

“The problem is that the nature of what happened in Egypt put the military and the Brotherhood in existential conflict with each other that makes negotiation almost impossible to produce,” Trager said.

“The military has removed the Brotherhood from power and that means it is unlikely to take any steps to allow them to come back. And the Brotherhood can’t accept what happened because it would have a hard time explaining this to their rank and file,” Trager said.

Trager said a better way forward in Egypt is to focus on a durable transition and political process in which the Muslim Brotherhood can choose to take part or not.

Regardless of whether the United States or the rest of the world calls the events in Egypt a coup for policy reasons, he said the world needs to understand the nature of the conflict to help them figure out how to resolve it.


soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. Phelix Unger

    So let me get this right, Gp, Pete, Says- you think it better to let hundreds if not thousands die unnecessarily, women and children.

    If their not an enemy reach out. Sometimes even with enemies state our purpose or intent and communicate, I don't know what the man who established the Muslim Brotherhood would think, they are the Muslim Brotherhood that won't change, but it would be wise not tempt fate.

    Survival of an idea is what is being talked about, the more people alive to carry on their message, the longer it will survive. It really very simple. Oh and while their at it let Morsi out of Jail or bring up the charges and sentence him for not working with the interests of all the people. They should broadcast the trial and sentence or release him. If there are protests oh well that's what happens in a democracy. That makes ton more sense then letting chaos unfold.

    If the idea is worth anything its worth having history look back and view it without any distractions. Ever heard a catholic say he or she was proud of the wrongs commited against humanity by the church.

    You might think I'm a pacifist you are sadly mistaken, if someone out in this world is planning on killing Americans then mete out justice if the parties involved can't do it themselves.

    Standing around or in this case sitting around and acting like an observer commenting on an acciden. It would be better to avoid seeming like your political statements mean anything.

    Find solutions, don't stay out of the frey. You and everyone else on this rock we call home.

    Don't care what you say, p m o t b.

    August 7, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • George patton

      the problem with these muslim wars is we can't figure out whom to trust; we trusted Pakistanis for the WOT, but they were the culprit WOT went on for 10 long years. In middle east, south asia, muslims are at wars with muslims. We can't get involved in every muslim conflict, so let them sort out, we just sit back and relax, let them do the killing.

      August 7, 2013 at 6:19 pm | Reply
      • George patton

        Barack Obama is being paid to hate Muslims by the M.I.C., Phunnie boy. Now what's your excuse? Let's have it!!!

        August 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
      • George patton

        Phunnie boy, and who exactly are paying him? Saudis !!

        August 7, 2013 at 7:47 pm |
      • George patton

        No Phunnie boy, it's not the Saudis at all but none other than the M.I.C. in Washington D.C. This is how it is running this country as if you didn't know! Wise up to the facts, please.

        August 8, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • Pete

      @Unger,I understand your point but that's what got us into many intervensions,wars starting out helping countries like Isreal,Vietnam,Korea and others ..We go in as big brother to help out and the ones we come to help out haul butt leaving us holding the bag so to speak..Sometimes its wiser to stay on the sidelines for once and let these people hash it out themselves because most have been warring hundreds if not thousands of years before we as a country were ever around ..Even if we help what's not to say in a year or two they go at it again,now that's the scenario I've seen before and with them it may never stop!!

      August 7, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Reply
      • Phelix Unger

        Hey Pete

        All I wanted to say is that I know how it works out most of the time, that shouldn't stop people from trying to save lives before the fire that burns, goes completely out of control makes it impossible to do so.


        August 9, 2013 at 1:59 am |
      • Pete

        @unger,I appreciate your response but my question would be to you and all out there is what would happen like years ago if America and other countrys didn't intercede and just let the uprising or whatever take its natural course!!That's the problem here people here and internationally expect US to intercede and then admonish US for doing so when we do,speaking hypocritically ..So its the damn if you do ,damn if you don't scenario ,get my drift!It's wiser also to pick and choose your battles!!!Let this uprising take its course and sometimes its for the best and it'll show other countrys who the big boys in the room really are and guess what we could use that money we've used for wars ,intervensions better here on our own people,infastructure don't you think!

        August 9, 2013 at 9:39 am |
      • Phelix Unger

        Too many words

        August 12, 2013 at 12:24 am |
      • Pete

        @unger,sometimes it takes more than a couple of words to get the idea across,thanks..

        August 12, 2013 at 11:26 am |
  2. Pete

    Boy what a pair the Saigon Songbird and JAG Jerk Graham can't get any more warmongering a pair than these two!!Pres.Obama hopes maybe an Egyptian sniper will pick them off doing us a great favor and sending a signal to America to stay out of our business in Egypt and let us clean up our own house...

    August 7, 2013 at 8:50 am | Reply
    • Jack Hollis

      Those two clowns need to be prosecuted just for embarrassing this country the way they do! Furthermore, I'm disgusted at the people who are ignorant enough to vote these two misfits into office! This goes to show what a lack of education can do!

      August 7, 2013 at 9:52 am | Reply
      • Pete

        @Jack,you're right..Run into more ignorents that believeve in them than you can count ,all idiots, all republicans..But with theit track records of their pasts political,personal maybe Pres.Obamas has other ideas for them because they sure aren't helping Americans here!!Out of sight,out of mind I suppose!!Take care...

        August 7, 2013 at 10:06 am |
  3. .

    The MB was asked once before and refused. MB is pushing the military, Its their country, their politics. Egyptians on both sides really would like for us to stay out of it.

    August 6, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Reply
  4. George patton

    These two bozos( Graham and McCain) are a disgrace to this country with their shameless, blatant right-wing fanaticism. Who are they to tell the Egyptians what to do? The thing to do is just butt out of Egypt's internal affairs and leave them for the people there to sort it all out!!!

    August 6, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Reply

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