News / Middle East

US Seen as Having Few Policy Options on Egypt

Opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi pass by burning vehicles during clashes with Morsi supporters, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 22.
Opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi pass by burning vehicles during clashes with Morsi supporters, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 22.
Mohamed Elshinnawi
U.S. officials and Middle East experts are closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, where they are concerned about possible violence during rival pro- and anti-government demonstrations expected Friday.

The concerns heightened this week when Egypt's military leader, General Abdel Fattah el-Sissi, called for mass street demonstrations to showcase strong popular support of the military's planned campaign to stamp out what it said was violence and terrorism.

"Please, shoulder your responsibility with me, your army and the police, and show your numbers and steadfastness in the face of what is going on," el-Sissi said.

Sissi's call came on a day in which 12 people died in clashes between Muslim Brotherhood supporters of deposed president Mohamed Morsi and those backing his ouster by the military.

Jen Psaki, the State Department spokesperson, summed up U.S. concerns over the situation in Egypt.

“We reiterate our call, which we have done publicly a number of times, but also in private conversations with him [Sissi] and others, on all participants, that all demonstrations be peaceful,” Psaki said. “We are concerned that clashes would make it very difficult to reconcile and get ahead of cycles of unrest and instability.”

As a signal of its concern, the Obama administration announced it was delaying the planned delivery of four F-16 fighter jets earmarked for Egypt. The broader question of continuing Washington's $1.3 billion in annual military assistance was not addressed.

US public opinion favors low-profile Washington role

American public opinion, meanwhile, clearly favored an arms-length stance with Cairo.

 

Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour (R) meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, July 15, 2013.Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour (R) meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, July 15, 2013.
x
Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour (R) meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, July 15, 2013.
Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour (R) meets with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns at El-Thadiya presidential palace in Cairo, July 15, 2013.
A new public opinion poll conducted by Zogby Research Services (ZRS) gauged the opinions of 1,014 likely U.S. voters between July 12 and July 13. It concluded that Americans’ negative attitudes toward the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt climbed to 61 percent, and that 63 percent of Americans want Washington to stay out of the dispute between the Islamist movement and protestors backed by the military.

“Right now, with such a highly uncertain political environment in Egypt, the less we do or say, the better off we are,” said pollster James Zogby.

But Washington, said Zogby, needs to articulate an overall position on the Egyptian situation because the lack of such a vision has led each side in Egypt to conclude that Washington is backing the other.

A sign of this distrust came earlier this month when U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns visited Cairo, and both anti-Islamist and pro-Muslim Brotherhood leaders refused to meet with him. Burns was able to meet only with the country's military leaders and the civilians they appointed.

Possibly because of such distrust and the fast moving developments in Cairo, most Middle East experts in the United States generally agree that Washington should be cautious in dealing with Egypt for the time being.

Despite the tense situation, Dennis Ross, former National Security Council senior director for the region and long-time Middle East negotiator, told a U.S. Senate hearing this week that Washington had to maintain its leverage over events in Egypt.

“It makes sense for us to stay in the game and try to affect Egypt’s course, and not make a statement that will render us largely irrelevant as Egyptians shape an uncertain future,” Ross said, adding that Washington should make Egyptian leaders understand that continued U.S. economic and military assistance was at stake.

But Shadi Hamid, research director of the Brookings Institution's Doha Center, told a seminar in Washington this week that U.S. aid to Egypt was no longer as influential in Cairo as it used to be because Arab Gulf nations had already pledged $12 billion to the country's new government.

Steven Clemons, a senior fellow at the Washington-based New America Foundation, said Washington could get back some of its former influence by restructuring its aid package.

“Triple the economic portion of U.S. aid and cut the military aid for a period of time,” Clemons told the same Washington seminar this week. He said that restructuring would signal to the leaders in Cairo that Washington was supporting the welfare of the Egyptian people, not necessarily the latest leadership group.

You May Like

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

Analysts say move by President Xi is an effort to win more party support, take step toward economic reforms, removing those who would stand in way of change More

South Africa Land Reforms Still Contentious 20 Years Later

Activists argue that the pace of land reform is slow and biased; legal experts question how some proposed reforms would be implemented More

In Vietnam, Religious Freedoms Violated, UN Finds

Beliefs reportedly prompt heavy surveillance, intimidation and travel restrictions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid