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Al-Dostour , Jordan

Obama Takes Very Cautious
Stance on Egyptian Crisis

Translated By Ahmad abdel-rahamn

11 December 2012

Edited by Lau­rence Bouvard


Jordan - Al-Dostour - Original Article (Arabic)

The United States has adopted a very cautious stance since the start of the ongoing crisis between Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi and the opposition. Obama apparently prefers to maintain his relationship with his Egyptian counterpart, and the way out of this crisis is not yet clear.

For Washington the dilemma lies in supporting Egyptian democratic aspirations without upsetting one of its most important regional allies, who turned out to be a key player in negotiating a ceasefire agreement between the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Israel on Nov. 21. Washington was taken by surprise when Mohammed Morsi, praised by the Americans for his mediation in the Gaza crisis, afterward signed a decree giving himself sweeping powers. Nevertheless, American diplomacy has not condemned this move, saying that the situation was "not clear" before the opposition's call for peaceful demonstration. But demonstrations are increasing, and thousands of opponents besieged the presidential palace on Wednesday demanding the repeal of the decree and postponement of the constitutional referendum scheduled for Dec. 15.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for dialogue, stressing that the Egyptians deserve "a constitution that protects the rights of all Egyptians — men and women, Christians and Muslims." On Thursday President Obama had a telephone conversation with Mohammed Morsi during which he expressed his concern after the violent incidents that left seven dead and hundreds injured on Wednesday night in the vicinity of the presidential palace.

In this phone call, Obama reiterated the "United States' support for the Egyptian people and its transition toward democracy that respects the rights of all Egyptians." However, Obama has not taken a position on the controversial decree issued on Nov. 22. Meanwhile, he has not publicly expressed his attitude on the crisis that has been plaguing Egypt for over two weeks.

This cautious stance reveals tension between American interests in the region and the desire to support the spread of democracy after supporting Hosni Mubarak for three decades. American commentator David Ignatius wrote in the Washington Post: "Through this upheaval, the Obama administration has been oddly restrained." He added, “It’s crazy for Washington to appear to take sides against those who want a liberal, tolerant Egypt and for those who favor sharia. Somehow, that’s where the administration has ended up."

U.S. officials, who continue to express their concern, say that the Egyptian president pledged to respect the peace agreement signed with Israel in 1979, which is an absolute priority for Washington. Moreover, the U.S. position contradicts the one adopted by the most assertive Europeans. France criticized the decree the day after it was released on Nov. 22. Germany threatened to reconsider its development aid in the light of democratic progress in the country.

For his part, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, denounced what he described as "a coup" and called for the cutting off of funds for Egypt. The U.S. Congress is currently freezing financial assistance worth $450 million for the Egyptian government. But in spite of the call made by some members in the House of Representatives, the U.S administration does not intend to reconsider the impending $1.3 billion sent each year to the Egyptian army.

In this respect, a European diplomat said, on condition of anonymity: "The United States has different relationships with Egypt, including major military cooperation with the Egyptian army, and therefore we understand that [its stance] is more retreating than the European Union."



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