Egypt’s Military Suspends Constitution, as U.S. Shifts Away from Morsy
The State Department insists it's not taking sides in Egypt's unrest. But minutes before Egyptian generals declared their takeover of what was Mohamed Morsy's government, the department's spokesperson strikingly criticized Morsy -- while treating the military with kid gloves. On Wednesday, the head of the Egyptian army Gen. Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi announced the removal ...
The State Department insists it's not taking sides in Egypt's unrest. But minutes before Egyptian generals declared their takeover of what was Mohamed Morsy's government, the department's spokesperson strikingly criticized Morsy -- while treating the military with kid gloves.
On Wednesday, the head of the Egyptian army Gen. Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi announced the removal of Morsy from power and the suspension of the constitution on live TV. In Cairo's Tahrir Square, anti-Morsy protesters errupted in cheers.
But before the televised announcement, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki specifically called out Morsy for failing to address the demands of protesters in his speech last night, while refusing to criticize the Egyptian military's violent coup threat.
That's a shift in America's stance. Just a few weeks ago, U.S. diplomats did everything they could to avoid criticizing Morsy's rule -- and to play down the possibility that street protests could determine the shape of the government. Now: not so much.
"It's important for President Morsy to listen to the Egyptian people and take steps to engage with all sides," Psaki told reporters. ""Unfortunately ... He didn't do that in his speech last night."
When asked if she would condemn actions by Gen. al-Sisi, who pledged to overthrow Morsy's democratically elected regime "with our blood," she repeatedly refused to do so.
"We believe all sides need to take steps to talk with each other to engage with each other to lower the level of violence," she said. Double-checking, a reporter asked "you have not condemned the military's ultimatum to the president?"
"Correct," said Psaki.
If the goal is not alienating the incoming power structure, the U.S. may have succeded. Minutes after Psaki's breifing ended, al-Sisi temporarliy suspended the constitution. Which way Washington is leaning looms large as U.S. officials try to avoid alienating the ruling Muslim Brotherhood without betraying the aspirations of Egypt's liberal opposition, who could come out on top in the days and weeks to come. Already, the Obama administration has taken flack for repeatedly waving restrictions passed by Congress on aid to Egypt and failing to loudly criticize Morsy's repeated power grabs.
If the uneven criticism Psaki dished out at Wednesday's briefing is telling, it may be the first sign that the U.S. saw today's military coup as inevitable.
John Hudson was a staff writer and reporter at Foreign Policy from 2013-2017.
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