Egyptian Pol: ‘Very Strong Perception’ Obama Backs Muslim Brotherhood

TIME Magazine reports that Egyptians “remain convinced that President Obama is backing the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed President Mohamed Morsi.”Speaking on August 22, the head of Egypt’s Social Democratic Party Mohamed Abou El-Ghar said: “America is losing Egypt… There is a very strong perception that they are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and they are against other parties.”

El-Ghar said this perception began growing when Senator John McCain (R-AZ) met with representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood in February 2012 but would not meet with with representatives from other parties. He said the perception “was furthered” when U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson “criticized Egypt’s military” for deposing Morsi in July.

On the day El-Ghar was interviewed, that perception was strengthened when State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki reiterated the Obama administration’s call for the release of Morsi.

Psaki said the administration is concerned “about arbitrary arrests” and believes “there should be a process for [Morsi's] release.”


Aide: Rand Paul Egypt plan could get vote

The Senate might vote this week on a proposal from Sen. Rand Paul that would cut U.S. aid to Egypt, sources said.

Paul (R-Ky.) “could very well get a floor vote this week” on his amendment to a transportation and housing spending bill, said a Democratic aide, who is involved in the amendment process. The measure would redirect Egypt’s $1.5 billion in annual U.S. aid to crumbling domestic bridges and was the first floor amendment filed to the bill, submitted on Tuesday morning.

Hawkish Senate Republicans could still object to a vote, but the aide deemed the chances for a vote on the amendment before the Senate breaks for summer recess “better than even.” There is also the possibility Paul will instead get a vote on his standalone bill to cut off aid to Egypt, another source said.

Democrats believe a vote on Egypt would be difficult for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a long-time defender of foreign aid. A McConnell spokesman declined comment. When asked several weeks ago about his position on assistance to Egypt, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Obama administration is taking a look at aid but declined further comment. The administration has delayed a sale of four fighter jets to Egypt in recent days, however.

“It’ll be a tough vote for everyone but probably a lot tougher for Republicans given their brewing civil war over foreign policy,” the Democratic aide said, a reference to continued sniping between Paul and hawkish Republicans over national security priorities. If the amendment gets a vote, it will come just days after the Egyptian military fired on and killed dozens of pro-Muslim Brotherhood protesters.

Top Senate foreign policy voices like Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have called for a suspension of aid to Egypt in the wake of the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian military. They argue that a coup occurred in Egypt, a designation that would result in a loss of aid from the U.S. and one that the Obama administration has declined to make.


Egypt Islamists to rally after ‘massacre’

EGYPT’S interim leader has vowed fresh elections by early next year as Islamists prepare to rally after dozens of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s loyalists died in clashes at a Cairo military barracks.

Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which has led demonstrations against last week’s military overthrow of the Islamist leader, called for an “uprising” after accusing troops and police of “massacring” its supporters during dawn prayers on Monday.

“Each province is organising funerals and rallies (on Tuesday), and each province will have a central sit-in,” Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad told AFP.

Amid the widening chasm in the restive country, interim president Adly Mansour issued a decree setting a timetable for a referendum on an amended constitution and then for parliamentary elections.
The whole process will take no more than 210 days, according to the decree, meaning elections by early February at the latest.

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Mansour will announce the date for presidential elections after the new parliament convenes, according to a draft of the 33-article decree published by the official MENA news agency.

The Brotherhood released the names of 42 people killed in the incident outside the elite Republican Guards’ headquarters, as the interior ministry and military said two policemen and a soldier were also killed.

Emergency services chief Mohammed Sultan said at least 51 people were killed and 435 wounded.

The military blamed “terrorists”, while witnesses, including Brotherhood supporters at the scene, said security forces fired warning shots and tear gas, and that “thugs” in civilian clothes carried out the shootings.

The United States called on the Egyptian army to exercise “maximum restraint”, while also condemning “explicit” Brotherhood calls to violence.
The Islamist movement’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), had called for “an uprising by the great people of Egypt against those trying to steal their revolution with tanks” because of Monday’s killings.

In the Suez Canal city of Port Said, gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on a church early on Tuesday, wounding a man, witnesses said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the latest wave of bloodshed in Egypt, calling for an independent inquiry.

According to Mansour’s decree, a panel representing political, religious and security services will agree on final amendments to the constitution suspended on Morsi’s ouster and put it to referendum within five months.

Parliamentary elections would be completed in less than three months after the constitution is ratified.

A senior Muslim Brotherhood official denounced the decree. “A constitutional decree by a man appointed by putschists … brings the country back to square one,” said Essam al-Erian in a Facebook posting.
In response to the “massacre”, the conservative Islamist Al-Nur party, which won almost a quarter of the votes in 2011-2012 parliamentary elections and had backed the army’s overthrow of Morsi, said it was pulling out of talks on a new government.

Al-Nur had rejected leading liberal Mohamed ElBaradei’s nomination as prime minister.

Among the names being floated as Egypt’s next premier is liberal economist Samir Radwan, who told AFP he was considering the position.

Mansour, a top judge before his appointment as interim president, has ordered a judicial commission of inquiry into the killings.

Witnesses say Islamists hurled stones at the security forces who responded with tear gas and live rounds.

“Morsi supporters were praying while the police and army fired live rounds and tear gas at them,” said the Brotherhood.

Emotions ran high as people searched for the names of missing loved ones on a list of the dead in hospital, where dozens of bodies were laid on the bloody floor of a makeshift morgue.

The army warned it would not allow anyone to threaten national security, urging protesters to stay away from military installations and to end their sit-ins.
International condemnation of Monday’s bloodshed poured in, with Germany expressing “shock” at the violence, Turkey calling it an attack on “humanity” and Brotherhood backer Qatar urging “self-restraint” and “unity”.


Army Ousts Egypt’s President; Morsi Is Taken Into Military Custody

CAIRO — Egypt’s military officers removed the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, on Wednesday, suspended the Constitution and installed an interim government presided over by a senior jurist.
Tahrir Square, where tens of thousands of opponents of the government had gathered each night since Sunday to demand Mr. Morsi’s removal, erupted in fireworks and jubilation at news of the ouster. At a square near the presidential palace where Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters had gathered, men broke into tears and vowed to stay until he was reinstated or they were forcibly removed. “The dogs have done it and made a coup against us,” they chanted. “Dying for the sake of God is more sublime than anything,” a speaker declared.

Mr. Morsi rejected the generals’ actions as a “complete military coup.”

Military vehicles and soldiers in riot gear had surrounded the rally in the hours before the takeover, and tensions escalated through the night. Within hours, at least seven people had died and more than 300 were injured in clashes in 17 provinces between Mr. Morsi’s supporters and either civilian opponents or security forces.

By the end of the night, Mr. Morsi was in military custody and blocked from all communications, one of his advisers said, and many of his senior aides were under house arrest. Egyptian security forces had arrested at least 38 senior leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Saad el-Katatni, the chief of the group’s political party, and others were being rounded up as well, security officials said. No immediate reasons were given for the detentions.

For Mr. Morsi, it was a bitter and ignominious end to a tumultuous year of bruising political battles that ultimately alienated millions of Egyptians. Having won a narrow victory, his critics say, he broke his promises of an inclusive government and repeatedly demonized his opposition as traitors. With the economy crumbling, and with shortages of electricity and fuel, anger at the government mounted.

The generals built their case for intervention in a carefully orchestrated series of maneuvers, calling their actions an effort at a “national reconciliation” and refusing to call their takeover a coup. At a televised news conference late on Wednesday night, Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi said that the military had no interest in politics and was ousting Mr. Morsi because he had failed to fulfill “the hope for a national consensus.”

The general stood on a broad stage, flanked by Egypt’s top Muslim and Christian clerics as well as a spectrum of political leaders including Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Prize-winning diplomat and liberal icon, and Galal Morra, a prominent Islamist ultraconservative, or Salafi, all of whom endorsed the takeover.

Despite their protestations, the move plunged the generals back to the center of political power for the second time in less than three years, following their ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Their return threatened to cast a long shadow over future efforts to fulfill that revolution’s promise of a credible, civilian democracy. But General Sisi sought to present a very different image from the anonymous, numbered communiqués from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that were solemnly read over state television to announce Mr. Mubarak’s exit, and the general emphasized that the military had no desire to rule.

“The armed forces was the one to first announce that it is out of politics,” General Sisi said at the start. “It still is, and it will remain away from politics.”

Under a “road map” for a post-Morsi government devised by a meeting of civilian, political and religious leaders, the general said, the Constitution would be suspended, the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, would become acting president, and plans would be expedited for new parliamentary and presidential elections under an interim government.
At the White House, President Obama urged the military to move quickly to return Egypt to a democratically elected government, saying, “We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian Constitution.” The president notably did not refer to the military’s takeover as a coup — a phrase that would have implications for the $1.Still, there was no mistaking the threat of force and signs of a crackdown. Armored military vehicles rolled through the streets of the capital, surrounded the presidential palace and ringed in the Islamists. The intelligence services put travel bans on Mr. Morsi and other top Brotherhood leaders. The Brotherhood’s satellite television network was removed from the air along with two other popular Islamist channels. The police arrested at least two prominent Islamist television hosts and many others who worked at those channels, as well as people who worked at a branch of the Al Jazeera network considered sympathetic to Mr. Morsi, security officials said. And state television resumed denouncing the Brotherhood as it once did under Mr. Mubarak.

Moments after the General Sisi spoke late Wednesday, Mr. Morsi released a short video over a presidential Web site delivering a final, fiery speech denouncing the ouster. “I am the elected president of Egypt,” he declared. “I am ready to sit down and for everybody to sit with me and to negotiate with everybody.”

“The revolution is being stolen from us,” he repeated.

Minutes later, the Web site was shut down, the video disappeared and he e-mailed journalists a statement “as the president of the Republic and the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces” urging all to follow the rules of the recently approved Constitution. Then he called the takeover “a complete military coup which is categorically rejected by all the free people of the country who have struggled so that Egypt turns into a civil democratic society.”

And in a sign of how little Mr. Morsi ever managed to control the Mubarak bureaucracy he took over, the officers of the Presidential Guard who had been assigned to protect him also burst into celebration, waving flags from the roof of the palace.

Although the tacit control of the generals over Egyptian politics is now unmistakable, General Sisi laid out a more detailed and faster plan for a return to civilian governance than the now-retired generals who deposed Mr. Mubarak did two years ago. General Sisi made no mention of any period of military rule and granted the acting president, Mr. Mansour, the power to issue “constitutional decrees” during the transition.

Mr. Mansour was named to the bench by Mr. Mubarak two decades ago, before Mr. Mubarak sought to pack the court with more overtly political loyalists or anti-Islamists. Mr. Mansour ascended to the post of chief only a few days ago and, while he is said to be highly regarded, not much is known of his views or how much authority he will truly wield.

General Sisi called for the formation of a “technocratic government” to administer affairs during the transition and also of a politically diverse committee of experts to draft constitutional amendments. It was not clear who would form the government or the committee. The general said that the constitutional court would set the rules for the parliamentary and presidential elections, and the court would also “put forward a code of ethics to guarantee freedom of the press and achieve professionalism and credibility” in the news media.

The general’s plan bore a close resemblance to one proposed in recent days by the ultraconservative Islamist Nour Party, and suggested that he was seeking to bring in at least some Islamists as well as liberals and leftists to support the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Nour Party, which quickly endorsed the plan, had joined other political groups in accusing Mr. Morsi and the Brotherhood of monopolizing power at the price of a dangerous political polarization.

But unlike liberals, the ultraconservative Islamists were keen to avoid the installation of a liberal like Mr. ElBaradei as a transitional prime minister, or to see the current Constitution — with its prominent recognition of Islamic law — scrapped instead of revised. It was unclear if the generals planned to allow the Brotherhood to compete in parliamentary elections and potentially retake its dominant role in the legislature, which could give it the ability to name a new prime minister.

Brotherhood leaders urged Islamists to resist. “The people will not surrender,” Essam el-Erian, a senior Brotherhood political leader, declared on the group’s satellite channel before it disappeared from the air. “The military will reach the point when the conflict is no longer between political opponents. Instead the military will be in confrontation with a large sector of the people — I daresay the bigger part.”


Egypt’s Mursi calls for dialogue amid street fury

(Reuters) – Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, called on Thursday for a
national dialogue after deadly clashes around his palace, where demonstrators
responded by demanding the “downfall of the regime”, using the chants that
brought down Hosni Mubarak.

Mursi said in a televised speech that plans for a referendum on a new constitution on December 15 were on track, proposing a meeting on Saturday with political leaders, “revolutionary youth” and legal figures to discuss the way forward after that.

The Republican Guard intervened on Thursday to halt violence outside the palace, where seven people were killed overnight in clashes between supporters and opponents of Mursi.

Members of the main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, said they were assessing the offer of talks to end a crisis sparked by Mursi’s November 22 decree awarding himself wide powers and protecting his decisions from judicial review.

The opposition has previously demanded that Mursi scrap his decree, postpone the referendum and redraft the constitution.

As well as drawing up a political roadmap, Mursi said the talks would aim to resolve the fate of the upper house of parliament after the Islamist-dominated lower house was dissolved in June, the election law and other issues.

“I call for a full, productive dialogue with all figures and heads of parties, revolutionary youth and senior legal figures to meet this Saturday,” Mursi declared, adding that the meeting would be at his official palace.

Several thousand opposition protesters near the palace waved their shoes in derision after his speech and shouted “Killer, killer” and “We won’t go, he will go” – another of the slogans used against Mubarak in last year’s revolt.

The Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled Mursi to victory in a June election, was set ablaze. Other offices of its political party were attacked.

This week’s violence reflects the widening rifts in the most populous Arab nation, where contrasting visions of Islamists and their liberal rivals have complicated a struggle to embed democracy after Mubarak’s 30 years of one-man rule.

The United States, worried about the stability of an Arab partner which has a peace deal with Israel and which receives $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid, had urged dialogue.

He said a new constituent assembly would be formed to redraft the constitution if Egyptians rejected the one written in the past six months by an assembly dominated by Islamists.

The Republican Guard, an elite unit whose duties include protecting the presidential palace, had ordered rival demonstrators to leave by mid-afternoon. Mursi supporters withdrew, but opposition protesters remained, kept away by a barbed wire barricade guarded by tanks.

By evening their numbers had swelled to several thousand.

The military played a big role in removing Mubarak during last year’s popular revolt, taking over to manage a transitional period, but had stayed out of the latest crisis.

Thousands of supporters and opponents of Mursi had fought well into Thursday’s early hours, using rocks, petrol bombs and guns. Officials said 350 were wounded in the violence. Six of the dead were Mursi supporters, the Muslim Brotherhood said.

Prosecutors investigating the unrest said Brotherhood members had detained 49 wounded protesters and were refusing to release them to the authorities, the state news agency said. The Brotherhood denied this, saying all “thugs” detained by its members had been handed over to police or the Republican Guard.


Before Mursi’s speech, opposition groups had called for protests after Friday prayers aimed at “the downfall of the militia regime”, a dig at what they see as the Brotherhood’s organized street muscle.

A communique from a leftist group urged protesters to gather at mosques and squares across Egypt, and to stage marches in Cairo and its sister city Giza, converging on the presidential palace. “Egyptian blood is a red line,” the communique said.

Hardline Islamist Salafis summoned their supporters to protest against what they consider biased coverage of the crisis by some private Egyptian satellite television channels.

Outside Cairo, supporters and opponents of Mursi clashed in his home town of Zagazig in the Nile Delta, state TV reported.

Egypt plunged into renewed turmoil after Mursi issued his November 22 decree and an Islamist-dominated assembly hastily approved a new constitution to go to next week’s referendum.

Since then six of the president’s advisers have resigned. Essam al-Amir, the director of state television, quit on Thursday, as did a Christian official working at the presidency.

The Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, called for unity, saying divisions “only serve the nation’s enemies”.

Mursi’s opponents accuse him of seeking to create a new “dictatorship”. The president says his actions were necessary to prevent courts still full of judges appointed by Mubarak from derailing a constitution vital for Egypt’s political transition.

U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay urged the Egyptian authorities to protect peaceful protesters and prosecute anyone inciting violence, including politicians.

The Islamists, who have won presidential and parliamentary elections since Mubarak was overthrown, are confident they can win the referendum and the parliamentary election to follow.

As well as relying on his Brotherhood power base, Mursi may also tap into a popular yearning for stability and economic revival after almost two years of political turmoil.

Egypt’s pound hit an eight-year low on Thursday, after previously firming on hopes that a $4.8 billion IMF loan would stabilize the economy. The stock market fell 4.6 percent.