Egypt's Morsi Grants Himself Sweeping New Powers
While Americans ate turkey and watched football, the world that Barack Obama helped usher in kept spinning toward more Islamist power. Egypt's recently elected President Mohammed Morsi, alum of the radical Muslim Brotherhood, granted himself a sweeping new set of powers that make him a dictator in all but name. Morsi declared himself above the judiciary -- so there will be no checks on his actions -- and exempted the constituent assembly from judicial review. That body is writing Egypt's new constitution. Placing it and himself above judicial review removes a stop on the Muslim Brotherhood's drive to write their priorities into the constitution. Morsi also set up new security laws, which will allow him to crack down on dissent down the road.
The United Nations is said to be "very concerned" about Morsi's power grab. Mohammed ElBaradei dubbed Morsi the "new pharaoh." As if, had he been elected, ElBaradei would have not done the same thing Morsi is doing.
But the United States rushed to stamp its approval on a deal that Morsi brokered, inserting Egypt into the conflict between Hamas and Israel.
The accord inserts Egypt to an unprecedented degree into the conflict between Israel and Hamas, establishing it as the arbiter ensuring that militant rocket fire into Israel stops and that Israel allows the opening of the long-blockaded Gaza Strip And stops its own attacks against Hamas.
In return, Morsi emerged as a major regional player. He won the trust of the United States and Israel, which once worried over the rise of an Islamist leader in Egypt but throughout the week-long Gaza crisis saw him as the figure most able to deliver a deal with Gaza's Hamas rulers.
"I want to thank President Morsi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who met Morsi Thursday, said at a Cairo press conference with Egypt's foreign minister announcing the accord.
"This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt's new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace," she said.
Clinton said all of that before Morsi swept Egypt's judiciary aside. He replied to her praise by making a fool of her. Well, that would be charitable view. The more realistic view is that Egypt and Hamas are making the moves that both are making now because they have read Obama's re-election as giving them space to act without fear of American intervention on Israel's side.
It is striking, how unsurprised Obama, Clinton, Rice et al seem to be by the Hamas barrage against Israel over the past fortnight, and by Egypt's swift turn toward Islamist dictatorship. It's almost like they expected these events to happen.
The "new" Egypt resembles the old Iran a bit more with each passing day. Egypt doesn't have a mullah oligarchy atop its revolution, yet, but it does have the Islamist group which the Obama government's top intelligence man dubbed "mostly secular" leading Egypt into the arms of Hamas, and farther down the road to full Islamist control.