U.S.-Engineered Egyptian Coup?
In 2011, Cairo’s Tahrir Square was the stage on which the Egyptian act of the Arab Spring was played. Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets and, eventually, Egypt’s dictatorial former president, Hosni Mubarak, was removed from office. In 2012, democratic elections were held and Mohammad Morsi, the leader of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood political party, was chosen to be the president by 52% of Egypt’s voting population. The international community determined that the elections were free and fair.
Why then, just over a year since Morsi’s election to the presidency, have the Egyptian people taken to the streets in protest once again? Why is the country’s first democratically elected president under house arrest? Is the army-led overthrow of President Morsi and the installation of an interim government a coup or an exercise in popular democracy? And, if it is a coup, what might be the involvement of the U.S.?
Over the past few days, this is what happened in Egypt: the army arrested the president, his advisers, top-ranking members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and effectively shut down the government; the army suspended the constitution and hand-picked new leaders to run things; the army has shut down major news stations, including Al-Jazeera; the army has moved their tanks into the streets and the resulting protests have led to at least 36 deaths, including 15 from sniper rifles.
Doesn’t this sound like a coup?
Not according to President Barack Obama.
In an official statement on the situation in Egypt Obama said, “The United States does not support particular individuals or political parties, but we are committed to the democratic process and respect for the rule of law. Since the current unrest in Egypt began, we have called on all parties to work together to address the legitimate grievances of the Egyptian people, in accordance with the democratic process, and without recourse to violence or the use of force.” In other words, it is legitimate for the army to overthrow a democratically-elected leader as long as part of the population doesn’t like his policies.
Yes, Morsi had made some unpopular decisions while in office and yes, the Egyptian economy was not recovering as fast as some thought it should. There were anti-Morsi demonstrations in the streets. Does this mean that the man should have been forcibly ousted from his democratically elected office? What sort of precedent does that set?
One theory as to why the U.S. refuses to call Morsi’s overthrow a coup is because they actually engineered the whole thing. The Jordanian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood has publicly called Morsi’s arrest “a U.S.-led conspiracy against the Egyptian people and their first democratic experience.” They say that the events of the past few days have been a “conspiracy against legitimacy” and “a military coup that wastes the will of the people and returns Egypt to tyranny.”
They may not be so far off the mark. Morsi’s political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, has never been popular with the U.S. Even during the Arab Spring, the U.S. was worried that the Brotherhood would radicalize Islam across the Arab world. The U.S. is also a long-time ally of Israel, a country that, despite the fact that it has forcibly occupied the West Bank for three generations, continues to project itself as the Middle East’s only democracy. Egypt’s free and fair elections undermined Israel’s claim and gave the West another ally in the region. Finally, the U.S. gives billions of dollars to the Egyptian military every year and – as we all know – where there’s money, there’s power.
So it is possible that the U.S. supported the military coup they refuse to call a coup in order to oust an Islamic leader from office and install a loyal military dictatorship? It wouldn’t be the first time…
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