WASHINGTON — Several hours after the Egyptian military’s 48-hour deadline for President Mohamed Morsi expired and the yearlong ruler was shown the door, the White House finally spoke about the ouster without using the word “coup.”
But the statement wasn’t lacking warnings to the military or subtext about desiring a continued role for the Muslim Brotherhood.
President Obama huddled with a stream of Cabinet members in the White House after the military acted swiftly on its promise, telling Morsi at 1 p.m. Eastern time that he was out after refusing to agree to a power-sharing presidency.
The resulting statement tried to be equally critical of each side, reflecting the administration’s continuing refusal to take a stand while the Egyptian protesters decried the U.S. president for propping up the Muslim Brotherhood regime.
“As I have said since the Egyptian Revolution, the United States supports a set of core principles, including opposition to violence, protection of universal human rights, and reform that meets the legitimate aspirations of the people. 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,” Obama said.
Obama said Washington “is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt” and expressed deep concern over “the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution.”
“I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters. Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt,” he continued.
Under the Foreign Assistance Act, the U.S. government must suspend foreign aid to any country that undergoes a coup. The definition of what happened in Egypt would be determined by the administration’s review. The Obama administration didn’t budge when lawmakers such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) urged a suspension of aid for the human-rights violations under Morsi’s regime.
“The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties —secular and religious, civilian and military,” Obama continued in a hint that his administration doesn’t want to see the Muslim Brotherhood left out. “…The voices of all those who have protested peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsy. In the interim, I urge all sides to avoid violence and come together to ensure the lasting restoration of Egypt’s democracy.”
As the White House was releasing the statement, reports emerged that arrest warrants had been issued for 300 members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Saad El-Katatni, who heads the political arm of the Brotherhood, and Rashad Bayoumi, the deputy head of the Islamist movement, were reportedly detained.
Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad confirmed on Twitter Wednesday night that Morsi is under house arrest.
“No transition to democracy comes without difficulty, but in the end it must stay true to the will of the people,” Obama added. “An honest, capable and representative government is what ordinary Egyptians seek and what they deserve. The longstanding partnership between the United States and Egypt is based on shared interests and values, and we will continue to work with the Egyptian people to ensure that Egypt’s transition to democracy succeeds.”
Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the State Department and Foreign Operations, further warned that Egyptian aid, which flowed to the Morsi regime, could be cut off.
“The Morsi government has been a great disappointment to the people of Egypt, and to all who wish Egypt a successful transition to responsive, representative government under the rule of law. He squandered an historic opportunity, preferring to govern by fiat rather than work with other political parties to do what is best for all Egyptians,” Leahy said.
“Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise. In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree,” the senator continued. “As we work on the new budget, my committee also will review future aid to the Egyptian government as we wait for a clearer picture. As the world’s oldest democracy, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms.”
Other lawmakers, though, weren’t so eager to hastily push Egypt to its next step.