Egypt: Military Gives President Morsi 48 Hours

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It’s about to get REAL ugly in Egypt. Sunday, the revolutionaries gave Mohamed Morsi 24 hours to resign. 17 million Egyptians filled the streets. Today, the military gave Morsi 48 hours to meet the “demands of the people.”

The official statement from the military – followed by patriotic music – read:

“If the demands of the people are not realized within the defined period, it will be incumbent upon (the armed forces)… to announce a road map for the future.”

As reported by, the demonstrations that began Sunday in Cairo against the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi have attracted “millions” of supporters and many counter-demonstrators as well, making the protest the largest political event in the history of the world, according to the BBC.

The demonstrations are the culmination of the polarization and instability that have been building since Morsi’s June 30, 2012 inauguration as Egypt’s first freely-elected leader. The past year has seen multiple political crises, mounting bloody clashes and a steadily-worsening economy – with power outages, fuel shortages, rising prices and persistent lawlessness and crime.

While various pundits (my pal, Rush Limbaugh, included) are today in effect saying “I told you so” to the Egyptians for now rejecting what they “wanted” barely two years ago, they miss the point:

After 30 years of authoritarian rule under Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptians knew substantially more about what they didn’t want – than what they did. Given the choice between “what they didn’t want” and “anything else”, they chose “anything else.”

The irony for Barack Obama and the United States is profound. When it became clear that Morsi would form a new government in Egypt, the administration was hesitant to criticize him or the Brotherhood for two primary reasons: fear of further destabilization in Egypt, and, more importantly, fear of losing Egypt’s cooperation in the region – primarily in respect to Israel and Iran.

However, now that Egypt once again teeters on the edge of collapse, tens of millions of Egyptians who have interpreted Obama’s acquiescence to Morsi as being “pro-Brotherhood” harbor a growing resentment for him – and the United States.

This puts Barack Obama – and the US – in an untenable position, at best.

So, what does Obama do and when does he do it? Given that the crisis appears to be racing toward a tipping point quicker than I suspect the best analysts of the region anticipated, the best thing for Barack Obama to do now is “nothing.” Nothing, I mean, in the sense of public statements of support – one way or the other. If there was ever a time to “lay low,” this is it.

Behind the scenes, as they say, it’s a different story. Obama should reach out – and hopefully has done so – to the opposition and reaffirm US support for a peaceful democratic solution to the crisis. He should pledge support to a democratic Egypt – vs. to one party or ideology over another. It’s not a perfect choice, but Obama – if even of his own doing – has not been dealt a perfect hand.

Should the Morsi government survive, Obama must be seen in the future as holding it and the Brotherhood more accountable – when necessary – to democratic principles in Egypt. Should the opposition prevail, hopefully, Obama will have sufficiently convinced it as to why he supported Morsi from the beginning. To be fair, I suspect many of those in the opposition did so as well.

IJR will continue to cover this breaking story.

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