Morsi flees presidential palace amid a spark of violent protest

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi retreated from the presidential palace Tuesday night as protesters clashed with security forces. Tens of thousands of people were demonstrating outside the palace, located in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, against Morsi’s power grab and the new draft constitution, calling for him to resign. Police forces fired tear gas as protesters ...

AFP/Getty Images/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
AFP/Getty Images/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
AFP/Getty Images/GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi retreated from the presidential palace Tuesday night as protesters clashed with security forces. Tens of thousands of people were demonstrating outside the palace, located in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, against Morsi's power grab and the new draft constitution, calling for him to resign. Police forces fired tear gas as protesters overtook barricades trying to reach the palace walls. 35 protesters were injured and 40 policemen were wounded, but none of the injuries were serious. Morsi returned to the palace on Wednesday morning, after riot police departed. Only 200 demonstrators remained. Meanwhile, other protests have continued in Cairo's Tahrir Square and Alexandria. Eleven newspapers suspended printing in protest over lack of press freedom in the draft constitution and three private television networks agreed to pause broadcasts on Wednesday. The Muslim Brotherhood said it is planning counter-protests for Wednesday and Friday. Dozens of Morsi supporters demonstrated outside the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi retreated from the presidential palace Tuesday night as protesters clashed with security forces. Tens of thousands of people were demonstrating outside the palace, located in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, against Morsi’s power grab and the new draft constitution, calling for him to resign. Police forces fired tear gas as protesters overtook barricades trying to reach the palace walls. 35 protesters were injured and 40 policemen were wounded, but none of the injuries were serious. Morsi returned to the palace on Wednesday morning, after riot police departed. Only 200 demonstrators remained. Meanwhile, other protests have continued in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and Alexandria. Eleven newspapers suspended printing in protest over lack of press freedom in the draft constitution and three private television networks agreed to pause broadcasts on Wednesday. The Muslim Brotherhood said it is planning counter-protests for Wednesday and Friday. Dozens of Morsi supporters demonstrated outside the Supreme Constitutional Court.

Syria

NATO approved the deployment of Patriot anti-missile systems on Turkey’s border with Syria, as violent clashes continue. According to a NATO statement, the agreement was "in order to defend the population and territory of Turkey and to contribute to the de-escalation of the crisis along the alliance’s border." The Patriot batteries and troops will come from the United States, Germany, and the Netherlands, and will likely take weeks to deploy. NATO foreign ministers also expressed deep concerns over reports that the Syrian government may use chemical weapons, saying their use would be a breach of international law. Syria, along with its allies Russia and Iran, have opposed the NATO deployment saying it increases regional instability. Meanwhile, a bombing on Tuesday at a school inside the Wafideen refugee camp in the town of Bteeha near Damascus killed up to 28 students and a teacher. Syria’s state news agency, SANA, said that 10 people were killed at the school, claiming it was hit by mortar shell fired by "terrorists." Opposition fighters said they have surrounded the Aqraba air base outside of Damascus. A spokesman for the Habib al-Mustafa brigade said they did not yet control the base, but "the fighters are choking it off."  Further demonstrating the deteriorating conditions in Syria, the United Nations World Food Program, which is currently supplying food for 1.5 million people in Syria, released a report warning of intensifying food shortages. They said distributing food is becoming more difficult with increased attacks on United Nations vehicles. The report came a day after the United Nations and European Union announced they are curtailing their missions and removing employees from Syria. The conflict has again spilled over into neighboring Lebanon, with clashes in the northern city of Tripoli. After two days of fighting, five people have been reported killed and 45 injured.

Headlines  

Arguments and Analysis

Picking the Wrong Winners (Irena L. Sargsyan, Andrew Bennett, The National Interest)

"Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had some success in remaking the Syrian opposition from a group of squabbling exiles into a more broadly representative leadership with close ties to the Syrian people. During political transitions in the past, the United States has too often backed the wrong horse, trying to invest authority and resources in exiled elites who proved to be non-entities in their home countries, while overlooking the homegrown leaders who actually rose to power. The administration seems to be avoiding this mistake in Syria, but standing up a new opposition leadership is only the first step. To foster the transition to stable democracies in Syria and other states in the region, the Obama administration will have to provide political and material support to local leaders who may at times rile American sensibilities but who can actually wield power in their home countries.

From Iraq to the Arab Spring, the United States has often erred by promoting exiles who look appealing because of their espousal of Western values, English language skills and media savvy. Yet these same attributes, coupled with a lack of recent experience living in their homelands, make these individuals seem out of touch. Homegrown leaders stand in contrast to those who chose comfortable exile. They may be virtually unknown in the West, but stayed in their homeland and suffered through repression and civil war. Thus, they have greater local legitimacy, deeper ties to indigenous social networks, and keener instincts on local politics due to knowledge of domestic grievances."

Why the Military Is Unlikely to Intervene in Egypt’s Messy Power Struggle (Tony Karon, Time Magazine)

"If a cabal of Egyptian generals had been planning a coup, their moment to strike should be imminent. Tuesday saw new clashes between police and tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrators outside Cairo’s presidential palace as a constitutional deadlock hardened into a not-yet-violent civil war between Islamists and their rivals – and as political camps brought their supporters onto the streets ahead of a Dec. 15 referendum on a controversial draft constitution. The turmoil plays out against the backdrop of an Egyptian "fiscal cliff" that urgently demands political stability. Still, even if the current scenario includes conditions similar to those that have preceded coups in unstable societies with powerful militaries, a putsch by Egypt‘s generals remains unlikely.

"Remember," says Century Foundation analyst Michael Wahid Hanna, "Egypt’s military didn’t enjoy their time at the head of the government after [President Hosni] Mubarak was ousted." And while President Mohamed Morsi has antagonized his political opponents with a power grab that has put his decrees beyond judicial restraint, and with an unseemly rush to ram through a constitution critics say opens the way to authoritarian Islamist rule, he has been careful to keep the military onside."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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