News / Middle East

Was the Military Ouster of Morsi a Coup... or Not?

Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi carry a banner with his pictures during a protest to counter anti-Morsi protests elsewhere in Alexandria, July 2, 2013.
Supporters of President Mohamed Morsi carry a banner with his pictures during a protest to counter anti-Morsi protests elsewhere in Alexandria, July 2, 2013.
On July 3, the Egyptian military ousted the democratically elected president and senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Morsi. He was deposed after a year in power, and three days after millions of Egyptians took to the streets protesting the way he ran the country.

Mirette Mabrouk, with the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, said Morsi accumulated power to himself, refused to take any advice and wouldn’t work with anyone else - in short, said Mabrouk, he did a dreadful job.

“As a result, there were people who were politically opposed to the president,” she said. “There were people who were morally opposed to the president and there were people who were tired, hungry, had gotten sick and tired of consistent power shortages, petrol [gas] shortages, soaring inflation, soaring unemployment - and people had really just had enough.”

Morsi ignored economy

John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush said Morsi’s government completely ignored the economy.

“That’s the real reason so many millions of Egyptians came out into the streets to demonstrate against Morsi. They wanted the economy fixed first,” said Bolton. “They might have been willing to accept an Islamist government, but only after the economy was back on its feet. And that misperception of the average Egyptian’s priorities, I think, cost Morsi very dearly.”

But when the military moved in and deposed the democratically elected president, was it technically a coup?

Was It a coup?

Jeffrey Martini, an expert on Egypt with the RAND Corporation, said there is no doubt it was a military coup.

“The military could have intervened with a scalpel, but they intervened with a hammer. They deposed the president, took him into custody. They took a number of senior officials within the Muslim Brotherhood into custody,” said Martini. “They shuttered the Freedom and Justice Party’s Cairo headquarters which, of course, is the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood; suspended the constitution, dissolved the upper house of Parliament and took over the flagship newspaper. So I think taken together, it certainly looks like a coup to me.”

But the Obama administration has been hesitant in describing the military takeover as a coup.

US hesitates

White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “This is an incredibly complex and difficult situation. President Obama made clear our deep concern about the decision made by the Egyptian armed forces to remove President Morsi from power and to suspend the constitution. It is also important to acknowledge that tens of millions of Egyptians have legitimate grievances with President Morsi’s undemocratic form of governance and they do not believe that this was a coup.”

Carney also said that there are “significant consequences” that go along with determining that the military takeover in Egypt was a coup.

Experts say one such consequence has to do with aid. The Foreign Assistance Act stipulates the U.S. will shut off its military aid to “any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup.”

US provides substantial aid to Egypt

Jeffrey Martini said the United States provides Egypt with two types of aid.

“The biggest stream is what we call the Foreign Military Financing, the FMF. And that’s set at $1.3 billion. So Egypt receives $1.3 billion annually, which they invest in military platforms like the F-16, the M1-A1 Abrams tank, attack helicopters. And then, of course, the operations and maintenance that is required to operate them.”

That is the aid that will stop if the Obama administration decides what happened in Egypt is a military coup.

Martini said the second type of aid to Cairo is non-military, known as the “Economic Support Funds” worth $250 million in fiscal year 2012.

He said whether it is military or economic aid, the money makes its way back to the United States.

For example the $1.3 billion in military aid goes essentially to U.S. defense contractors, who provide the military hardware Egypt is acquiring.

“Let’s look at the Economic Support Funds. That had historically been used for economic development in Egypt,” said Martini. “But since the revolution, it has been used to pay down Egypt’s bilateral debt with the United States. So it’s essentially going to the U.S. Treasury. The U.S. is cutting a check to itself, in both instances - in the sense that for the FMF, for the Foreign Military Financing, it’s cutting a check to defense contractors, basically. And for the Economic Support Funds, it’s cutting a check to the U.S. Treasury.””

Martini said when U.S. lawmakers and experts are discussing cutting off military aid to Egypt, they are in essence talking about harming the U.S. defense industry as well.

Photo Gallery: Latest Images from Egypt

  • Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohamed Morsi perform weekly Friday prayers at the Rabaa Adawiya square in Cairo where they are camping, July 12, 2013.
  • A supporter of Morsi is doused with water on a hot day in Cairo, July 12, 2013.
  • Supporters of the ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi shout anti-army slogans during a sit-in protest in Cairo July 11, 2013.
  • Morsi Supporters pray after breaking their fast during Ramadan, in Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt, July 11, 2013.
  • An Egyptian boy stands among Morsi supporters who are offering the Tarawih prayer after the evening meal during Ramadan, in Nasr City, Cairo, July 10, 2013.
  • Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi during a rally in Nasr City, Cairo, July 10, 2013.
  • Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi protest at the Republican Guard building in Nasr City, Cairo, July 10, 2013.
  • A supporter of ousted President Mohamed Morsi joins in a protest at the Republican Guard building in Nasr City, Cairo, July 10, 2013.
  • A supporter of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi reads the Koran at the Rabaa Adawiya square, Cairo,  July 9, 2013.
  • Supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at their camp in Rabaa Adawiy square, Cairo, July 9, 2013. 
  • A supporter of ousted President Mohamed Morsi with a national flag gestures to army soldiers guard at the Republican Guard building in Nasr City, Cairo, July 9, 2013.
  • Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of Morsi at Republican Guard headquarters in Nasr City, Cairo, July 8, 2013. 
  • Supporters Morsi carry the body of a fellow supporter killed by violence outside the Republican Guard headquarters in Cairo, July 8, 2013.
  • Morsi supporters mourn protesters who died during clashes with army soldiers in Cairo, July 8, 2013.
  • Wounded supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi wait for treatment at a field hospital in Cairo, July 8, 2013. 

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs