US wades into Egypt turmoil

2013-07-02 20:19

(Mohamed El-Shahed, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Washington - Fearing a political-military implosion that could throw its most important Arab ally into chaos, the US has abandoned its hands-off approach.

They have delivered pointed warnings to the three main players in the crisis: Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi, protesters demanding his ouster and the powerful Egyptian military.

US officials said on Tuesday they are urging Morsi to take immediate steps to address opposition grievances, telling the protesters to remain peaceful and reminding the army that a coup could have consequences for the massive American military aid package it currently receives.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak publicly about the delicate diplomacy that is aimed at calming the unrest and protecting Egypt's status as a bulwark of Mideast stability.

The officials said Washington has stopped short of demanding that Morsi take specific steps, but has instead offered strong suggestions, backed by billions of dollars in US aid, about what he should do to ease the tensions. 

Those include calling early elections, firing an unpopular prosecutor and expressing a willingness to explore constitutional change. The army has been told that the $1.3bn in foreign military financing it receives each year from Washington could be jeopardised by a coup or the appearance of a coup.

Obama called Morsi

President Barack Obama personally delivered the message to Morsi in a phone call late on Monday from Tanzania where he was wrapping up a trip to Africa, the officials said.

Around the same time, General Martin Dempsey, chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called his Egyptian counterpart to point out that US law requires cuts in military assistance in most cases when a country's armed forces are involved in an unconstitutional change in government, the officials said.

Meanwhile, diplomats at the US Embassy in Cairo have been speaking with the opposition, the officials said.

In their conversation, Obama "encouraged President Morsi to take steps to show that he is responsive to [opposition] concerns, and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process", the White House said in a statement released before the president left Tanzania.

As Obama flew back to Washington, some of his top national security advisers were meeting at the White House on Tuesday to plot a way forward. The conclusions of the so-called "deputies committee" meeting were not immediately clear.

The committee usually meets to prepare policy options for the president and his Cabinet, which gather in what are known as "Principals Committee" meetings.

Counselling behind the scenes

Pentagon spokesperson George Little would not say whether the US has received any commitment from the Egyptian military to provide security for any Americans at the embassy in the event of riots or a coup.

Asked whether the US would cut off military relations with Egypt if the military takes control of the government, Little said that he would not speculate on legal conclusions. But, he added that generally, "there are consequences that can flow from such political developments".

The administration had tried to remain above Egypt's political fray, quietly counselling all sides to cooperate and compromise for the good of the country and the broader region.

But officials said they determined that the low-key approach was no longer tenable after all sides hardened their positions on Monday. First, the army gave Morsi a 48-hour deadline to take action or face military intervention.

That emboldened the protestors demanding Morsi's immediate departure, while the president himself dug in his heels and rejected the ultimatum.

Those developments prompted Obama's and Dempsey's calls to Cairo as well as a subtle shift in the administration's language, the officials said.

Where previous statements had stressed Morsi's position as Egypt's first democratically elected leader, the emphasis is now on the importance of the democratic process and respecting the principles of the revolution that led to strongman Hosni Mubarak's toppling in 2011.

Obama told Morsi in their phone call that "the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group", the White House said on Monday.

"He stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country."

Read more on:    mohammed morsi  |  barack obama  |  us  |  egypt  |  north africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.