Last October, Yale lecturer Erika Christakis sent an email questioning whether university administrators should advise students on what Halloween costumes to wear. It resulted in protests on campus and a heated debate around the country.
Dozens of Muslim Brotherhood supporters were killed in Cairo early this morning in clashes with the military. There were conflicting accounts of what started the confrontation, but witnesses said security forces fired on protesters. The Muslim Brotherhood called on Egyptians to stage an “uprising” against “those trying to steal their revolution with tanks.” The Egyptian army removed President Mohamed Morsi from power last week after widespread demonstrations against his rule. All eyes are on the military now and its promise of new elections. A discussion on the future of Egyptian democracy and what role, if any, the U.S. should play.
- Mervat Hatem political science professor at Howard University.
- Ambassador Dennis Ross counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; former Middle East special coordinator, former special assistant to the president and National Security Council senior director for the central region.
- Samer Shehata associate professor of Middle East politics at the University of Oklahoma.
- Nancy Youssef Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. New reports of violence in Egypt this morning at least 42 people died in Cairo early today when security forces fired on Muslim Brotherhood supporters. The conflict threatened to plunge Egypt into chaos. Last week, the army ousted Egypt's democratically-elected president.
MS. DIANE REHMWe talk about the latest news and the instability there with Dennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mervat Hatem of Howard University and Samer Shehata of the University of Oklahoma. But first, joining us by phone from Cairo, Nancy Youssef. She's Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Nancy, good morning to you. Tell us what the situation is like in Cairo now.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFWell, very simply, it's incredibly tense. Around dawn this morning, about 4 a.m., there was some sort of attack between those who support ousted-Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and the Egyptian military, which had been stationed nearby, protecting the Republican Guard headquarters where Morsi is believe to be held.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFBoth have a different version of events of what happened. The protesters say that they were praying peacefully when the police and army started attacking them. The security forces say that they only attacked after the protesters tried to storm the Republican Guard headquarters. And so now there's a battle of sort of version of events of what's happening here.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFBut either way, it's marred Egypt politically. The Nour party, the only Islamist party in this government formed by the military, has now suspended its participation. And there's a real war happening in the streets here over the role of the military, who's on the right side and whether the nation can even continue to hold together amid these clashes that are happening here.
REHMNancy Youssef, that Morsi is being held. Is he under arrest?
YOUSSEFOur understanding is and it's always hard to confirm things here is that he's being put under house arrest. There were talk of charges against him, but I think in this climate it would be very hard to do so. And I should tell you that that's not confirmed that's where he is, but that's where the protesters believe he lives at when they stormed allegedly according to the security forces the Republican Guard headquarters this morning also on Friday killing one person.
REHMNow, it seemed for a while as though Mohamed ElBaradei was going to become the interim prime minister. What happened?
YOUSSEFWell, a couple of things, the Nour Party, the Islamist party, the Salafist party that I mentioned earlier, objected to his becoming prime minister. He is not only the former head of the IAEA but the leader of the National Salvation Front, the largest opposition group here. And the other problem that Mohamed ElBaradei would have faced is, had he joined this government, he would have been the only person so far named that at some point has been a critic of the military and the supreme council of the armed forces, the military council.
YOUSSEFAnd so it would have been significant to see him named. Now, he has told meet the press as recently as Sunday that he believes he will be named prime minister -- excuse me -- vice president. And he came out this morning and condemned the violence that happened there, so certainly presenting himself as a future leader of Egypt. But things are so divisive and so...
YOUSSEF...sticky here that it's really hard to say whether that will happen or not (unintelligible).
REHMNancy, is there any way of knowing what percentage of Egyptians actually support the military and what percent want Morsi back in office?
YOUSSEFWell, if we base it on the protests and certainly the one of June 30th, I think it's fair to say that the majority are happy to see Morsi go. Remember that while he won 52 percent of the vote in the presidential elections, only 24 percent of eligible voters voted for him. And in the first round of elections, he actually had fewer votes than the three opposition candidates. So he never had this wide base of support.
YOUSSEFAnd he treated the presidency as though there was one moment of accountability, Election Day. And if people didn't like him, they could deal with it in four years from now. And there was a growing and, I'd say, mounting frustration against him because of that. And so if we base it on the protests on June 30, there's an estimated 14 million that came out. That's one out of every six Egyptians. And when you go to rallies now, generally, those who are against Morsi and pro-military tended to be bigger than Morsi supporters.
REHMAnd finally, there have been some reports of women protesters being assaulted and even raped at demonstrations. What can you tell us about that?
YOUSSEFHuman Rights Watch reported that there were 100 sexual assaults just over the last few days. I can tell you as a woman that I don't go Tahrir Square at night because, the minute you walk in, you're whistled at, you're grabbed at. It's a very uncomfortable place for a woman to be. And let me be clear. This isn't just one man grabbing you, although that would be bad enough. We're talking about 100 men at one point just swarming a woman, ripping off her clothes and grabbing every part of her.
YOUSSEFAnd the problem is, as a woman, you cannot properly secure yourself. You can take pepper spray, but you literally get isolated in this group. You can go with another man, but he can't protect you from 100 people. And so it's a rampant problem here, and it's only continued to be so through these protests. And I admire the women who have the courage to go down there because even for me, as a journalist, it's frightening to go down there.
REHMBut can you tell me why women are being singled out here?
YOUSSEFWell, this has been a problem in Egypt even before 2011, but what's collapsed since that time is a sort of a social order and a security order. And so there's a feeling that it can be done without impunity. That is, the Morsi government and the military council before that never went after those who attacked women in any real way.
YOUSSEFI just told you there were 100 reported assaults, and yet I can't tell you about anybody being charged for it. The other thing is that the police and army generally aren't right in the middle of the square because it has raised tensions rather than defused them. And so it's that combination of a collapse in security and a collapse in the social order where people feel that they can do whatever they want in this new Egypt that has sort of led to the culmination of these attacks.
YOUSSEFI should also point out that women are speaking up in ways that they never did before. And I think that's one of the reasons we're hearing about it. But some form of harassment has been part of an Egyptian woman's experience for years and years and years, if not decades.
REHMNancy Youssef, she's Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Thank you, Nancy. And take care.
YOUSSEFThank you so much.
REHMAnd turning to you now, Samer Shehata. The Muslim Brotherhood is now calling for people to rise up. Are we on the verge of another civil war in the Middle East?
PROF. SAMER SHEHATAI don't think so. I don't think that Egypt is going to go the way of Algeria after the 1991 coup or Syria. There unfortunately might be more deaths and more killing, and certainly I would have hoped that, faced with the reality, that is, the military as well as most likely the majority of Egyptians against Mr. Morsi, that the Brotherhood's calculations would have been different and would have come to some kind of accommodation, resentful as it may be, to the new situation.
PROF. SAMER SHEHATAI think one of the key things to understand is that this certainly -- what we saw yesterday as well as the Brotherhood's own position -- does not bode well for national reconciliation. National reconciliation, I think, is something that Mr. ElBaradei mentioned and is something that is crucial if Egypt wants to move forward.
REHMMervat Hatem, how do you see it?
PROF. MERVAT HATEMI think I agree with Samer that this could go very badly if, for instance -- well, let me put it this way. The position of the Brotherhood right now is not very surprising. I mean, after all, their President Morsi was forced to resign, and therefore there is no way that they could have basically accepted this as part of what the Democratic politics is going to be all about. And, in fact, they may be doing Egyptian democracy a huge service by declaring that the military intervention in politics is not acceptable in this new Egypt.
PROF. MERVAT HATEMHow far they take this and the extent to which they are able to basically encourage violent protests could also backfire because it could mean the end of any kind of reconciliation. I actually think that the withdrawal of the Nour Party from government is a very serious development because it basically polarizes the forces, the political forces in Egypt and the presence of the Nour Party at least indicated that the Islamic forces in Egypt are very diverse and can disagree with Egypt.
REHMDennis Ross, what's your take on what's going on?
MR. DENNIS ROSSWell, we have a very polarized situation. I think that's part of the problem and you're trying to find some basis for common ground right now, and it's pretty hard to identify it. I think this morning's events, regardless of whose narrative as the one that's true at this point, simply deepens that kind of polarization.
MR. DENNIS ROSSThe Nour Party pulling out, I'm afraid, begins to create the impression that it's basically Islamists versus secular forces, which is what you don't want. I think the challenge right now is somehow to try to create some kind of national reconciliation conference, create some symbol of national reconciliation because we don't have that. It's pretty hard to see how you get out of the current circumstances.
MR. DENNIS ROSSI mean, this is, you know, here is Egypt which is in many ways, no matter how you slice it, it's the largest Arab country. It's always been the country that in one way or the other led the rest of the region, and what you don't want to see is Egypt of all countries to become a failed state or a failing state. And unless they can break this cycle of polarization, pretty hard to see how things change.
REHMDennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mervat Hatem, political science professor at Howard University and Samer Shehata of the University of Oklahoma. Short break. We'll be right back.
REHMAnd welcome back. We're talking about the latest events in Egypt, where protests last week led to the removal of President Morsi who had been democratically elected. But clearly, the population was dissatisfied, unhappy. Now, after his removal and his current situation, perhaps, as Nancy Youssef told us, under house arrest, there are those who want to bring in new leaders. But who those leaders might be is still up in the air. Mervat Hatem, you say that getting a new leader for Egypt is the critical move now.
HATEMI think it -- depending on who it is, and there are rumors right now that it is going -- it may be Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, who is basically a business lawyer. But he's also a trained economist and was the head of the investment authority in Egypt, and the appointment of such a figure can, in fact, begin to address the economic problems.
HATEMAnd the economy really looms very large over how Egyptians are feeling about the Democratic transition because up until now, the economy has been in free fall as a result of the lack of agreement among the major political forces in Egypt. And if a new government begins to address itself to some of the key concerns of your average basic Egyptian citizen, then this might actually have implications for the political arena. It might, in fact, defuse some of the tensions and some of the polarization that exist right now.
REHMMervat Hatem of Howard University. You are welcome to join us with your questions, comments. Call us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email to email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Dennis Ross, do you agree that whoever is put into that new place of leadership is going to be absolutely critical? And how will the divided forces come together on a new leader?
ROSSWell, I hope that whoever emerges -- if this is -- I mean, after all, you're talking about an interim prime minister. And if the interim prime minister is someone like Ziad Bahaa-Eldin, there is some potential, I think, that is positive. But I think, again, even if he wants to address the economic issues, which is absolutely critical, there has to be a political environment that makes it possible to do so.
ROSSIf we have hundreds of thousands of people constantly in the street, it's pretty hard to begin to address the problem. So you need to create some kind of political process at the same time that everyone sees is somehow inclusive. If the Muslim Brotherhood wants to remain out in the street and if it wants to foment violence, I do think it will foster a backlash against the Brotherhood. I think the Brotherhood has to also take a long review of its own interest within Egypt, number one. I think the Brotherhood has to be included in a political process. It is a real social force that can't be excluded.
ROSSAnd I think there needs to be something, as I said, like a national reconciliation conference that can also begin to form agreements on, you know, a timetable for elections but then free an interim prime minister to then be able to address the real problems. I mean, one of the reasons that you have the alienation against President Morsi is not just because he was acting by fiat. It's also that the, you know, as you said, the economy was in free fall and life was begetting dramatically worse for everybody.
REHMSamer, you have strong feelings about how this is going to -- how these various factions can come together.
SHEHATAWell, that's correct, and I, you know, am in large agreement -- largely agreement with both my colleagues here. I mean, I think that there's no way forward that does not include Islamist forces. And of course, any attempt to exclude the Salafis or the Muslim Brotherhood or any group that doesn't participate in violence is doomed to failure. So that is crucial.
SHEHATAAnd, of course, that's not the only problem that Egypt faces in a post-Morsi world. Another problem, as we saw yesterday, is taming the security apparatus, both the military as well as the interior ministry and the police. And you have to remember this was the original reason Egyptians went on to the street on Jan. 25, 2011 on Police Day to condemn police violence and the arbitrary exercise of authority.
SHEHATAAnd, unfortunately, what we've seen, I think, only strengthens the hand of the security forces, both the military, as well as the police. And Egypt is in dire need of reforming those institutions and making the military under the control of civilian authority and comprehensive reform of the police.
REHMWhy was ElBaradei not a choice that could be accepted?
SHEHATAWell, I am a huge fan of Mohamed ElBaradei before Mr. Mubarak was unseated, and I think he would be wonderful as prime minister or any post. He has tremendous integrity, and he doesn't want power. And I think that's quite crucial. And he has a conception of what a modern Egyptian state would look like. Now, his -- the Nour -- the Nour Party objected to Mr. ElBaradei because they felt that he was too liberal, too secular.
SHEHATAHe's also now involved in the constitution party, which has been critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists and so on. So they are looking to exert their influence in the political process to show their constituency that they're not sellouts also, that they believe principle. They're not simply succumbing to either the political winds or the military.
REHMAnd what about Bahaa-Eldin?
SHEHATABahaa-Eldin. Well, you know, I think that it seems also that the Nour Party has some objections to him as well, looking at the Egyptian press, and you know, again, I have no problem with him. I think that, as Mervat and Dennis mentioned a moment ago, certainly, the business community would be very much behind him.
SHEHATAAnd, in fact, what we've seen over the last few days in Egypt are business people saying that they're going to bring in money, invest heavily into the economy. They've established a fund to potentially replace USAID, at least that's the thinking, and so on. So certainly, those pillars of wealth in commerce are behind or are supportive of Egypt, post Morsi.
REHMAnd, Dennis Ross, what is the Barack Obama administration doing in this interim?
ROSSWell, like any situation that is profoundly difficult as this one, you're faced with a series of options, none of which are particularly good. So you've got a dilemma. And I think what the administration is trying to do is operate behind the scenes which, by the way, makes sense. I think the administration needs to be out there in public with a set of principles. The principles have to start with non-violence, inclusiveness, the points about we focus on principles, not on individuals or parties or groups.
ROSSI think all that is exactly the right tone. We are already seen by the majority of Egyptians as having backed the Muslim Brotherhood. You know, I don't believe that was the position of the administration, but that certainly is a perception of those who are -- those who came to the streets in such large numbers. So I think, right now, we have to elevate principle over identification with any individual.
REHMSo what happens to the USAID going to Egypt, going primarily to the military?
ROSSWell, you saw -- the administration has been extremely cautious on this. The president expressed disappointment with the need for the military intervention, and he talked about the issue of arbitrary arrest -- the use of arbitrary before the word arrest means some arrest might be acceptable -- directed agencies to look at whether or not our assistance should continue or not, all of this, I think, was designed to buy us time and to preserve us some flexibility.
ROSSI have to say that from a personal standpoint, I think if we were to cut off assistance right now, we would lose any potential for influence. That isn't to say that I think that behind the scenes and quietly, we shouldn't be saying to the military our ability to maintain the assistance to you depends upon the following steps by you. So I would do that. I think the minute we cut it off, then the military is not going to listen to us.
ROSSSo I wouldn't cut it off right now.
REHMThe death toll from the shootings at the Republican Guard compound in Egypt has now gone up to 51. So as these killings continue to occur, it would seem that everyone is in a more tenuous position, Samer.
SHEHATAOh, there's no question about that, and I think, in fact, what we've seen yesterday puts the military in a much more difficult position vis-a-vis the Obama administration and vis-a-vis those who would like to cut off aid. Now, I think that there are larger questions involved in the aid that goes to Egypt, and that has to do with who benefits from that aid. I mean, certainly sending money to the military generals to buy F-16s and other kinds of things I don't think benefits the vast majority of Egyptians.
SHEHATAI would like to see aid go to the things that Egyptians need: schools, hospitals, education, health care, infrastructure and so on. Now, this debate in Egypt is highly polarized, and the vast majority of Egyptians are very critical now and resentful of this threat to withhold U.S. aid. I also don't think aid should stop, but I would hope that aid would be directed at the things that would benefit Egypt most.
REHMMervat, where do you think this aid should be going, or should it be going?
HATEMIn -- at this point, the aid has been going -- 1.3 billion goes to the military, and therefore it doesn't really have an effect on the economic fortunes of the country. And aid is a very sensitive issue for most of Egyptians because it is perceived as allowing the U.S. to exert undue influence over internal affairs.
REHMAnd there you have U.S. Sen. John McCain saying that the aid should be suspended for now.
HATEMNo, I think I agree with both my colleagues here when they say that would be not a terribly positive development because at least the aid might allow the United States government to use it as leverage against the continued basically military involvement in politics. I mean, in the end, if you want to secure the return of the military for -- to the barracks, you really need to continue pressure on them, and that means pressure from the United States as well as pressure from other Egyptians.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Dennis Ross, what does the U.S. get out of its financial aid to Egypt?
ROSSWell, I think we have to look at this in a kind of historical perspective and then also look at what is the new Egypt. Historically, the United States used -- saw Egypt as a kind of pillar of stability. The aid goes back to the Camp David Accords. It goes back to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. So it began basically in -- after 1979. And we obviously provided a large amount of money over the years and developed a relationship with the military.
ROSSWe provided a lot of money, actually, for economic assistance as well. I agree with my two colleagues. I would like to see the aid redirected so that it is more productive for Egypt, and maybe that is possible over time. But I think in terms of your question, Egypt was this pillar of stability in the region. Right now, we're looking at a new Egypt, and it's a new Egypt that unless we can find ways -- which, by the way, the United States is not going to be the one that's going to be able to manage this.
ROSSWe're not the author of...
ROSS...of what's happened in Egypt. Our ability to influence this is going to be on the margins. But even on the margins, it means something, and that's why I wouldn't like us to give up the possibility of having it.
SHEHATAI think that the direct answer to your question -- what does the U.S. get out of the military aid to Egypt? -- is the following, right? The U.S. gets expedited passage of naval vessels through the Suez Canal. The U.S. is the only country that is allowed to have nuclear vessels pass through the Suez Canal. The U.S. gets thousands of overflight rights over Egypt. It gets intelligence sharing.
SHEHATAThis was, of course, very important in the so-called war on terrorism and so on, and it gets to some extent the pliancy of the Egyptian military and, previously under Mubarak, the Egyptian government with regard to foreign -- U.S. foreign policy in the region. That's quite a bit, and especially considering that there are beneficiaries in this country -- the military contractors -- that do quite well with regard to the aid.
REHMAnd what about Egypt unstable? How does that affect the region as you look at it today, Mervat?
HATEMI think the outcome of the present political struggle between the different political forces -- the Islamist, the liberals and the remnants of the old regime -- has implications for the outcomes of other Arab Spring experiments.
REHMAnd what about Israel?
HATEMI think it certainly has influence over the prospects of a Palestinian-Israeli resolution of some kind. I mean, after all, Hamas stood to gain from the fact that President Morsi was an Islamist. In fact, Hamas is also a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
HATEMAnd the collapse, certainly the forcing out of Mohammed Morsi, is going to impact Hamas and the ability -- I mean, they're already demanding that the Rafah, basically a passage point to Gaza, be open because Palestinians all over the world are tracked -- trapped, basically, at airports, not being able to return to Gaza. And therefore -- I mean, what we haven't been looking at because focus has been on Cairo and what's happening there is what's happening in Sinai.
HATEMAnd Sinai right now is absolutely out of control. There are jihadi groups, as well as supporters of former President Mohammed Morsi, who are basically starting very, very large protest against the Egyptian military and the government in Cairo. And that definitely is affected by the present political strife.
REHMVery briefly, Samer.
SHEHATAAnd using violence: blowing up the pipeline, attacking military personnel and police personnel and, you know, inciting more violence. The thing that I think that is really important, however, is any democratic government in Egypt is going to be more supportive of the Palestinians.
REHMSamer Shehata, he's associate professor of Middle East politics at the University of Oklahoma. When we come back, we'll open the phones.
REHMAnd welcome back. Time to open the phones. First to Pittsburgh, Pa. Good morning, Tom.
TOMHi. I just wanted to stress something that a lot of interviewers miss. I don't know about the people there that talked about the fiat. The United States and Egyptians both have to stay on point about principle. The coup here was really Morsi. Just imagine if George Washington became president and then appointed himself king. This isn't really about unhappiness.
TOMThe average Egyptian is really concerned about democracy and not just food. It's very important not to cast this in overly simplistic terms. Democracy is really more radical than that and is really a fundamental concern in Egypt. That's what really been at stake with the Morsi regime. It's this internal coup that took place. That was the coup. This has not really been a coup. This has been a defense of the government.
SHEHATAWell, I mean, I am sympathetic to the caller's intent. I don't think I would characterize it precisely that way. I mean, there was a real concern in Egypt. Growing numbers of Egyptians felt that Mr. Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood were entrenching them in power and in the state in way that would make their defeat at the ballot box impossible in the future.
SHEHATAAnd certainly that is part of it. And the fact that the Lower House was dissolved and could not engage in any kind of impeachment procedures also left protesters with little recourse other than to go on the street and call for early elections or Mr. Morsi's downfall.
REHMAll right. To Silver Spring, Md. Good morning, Chris.
CHRISHi, Diane. Thank you very much for taking my call here.
CHRISI love your show.
CHRISIt's wonderful. You know, I've been following this closely, and in many ways, I think there's a fundamental flaw in our thinking. And it's this idea that we equate democracy with freedom. You know, you can go far back as read Plato's "Republic." And in "The Republic," Plato deemed democracy one of the four worst forms of government. I mean, even take our own American experiment. It took a civil war to end what the American democracy put in place.
ROSSWell, I think, it's certainly true that any transition from authoritarian -- an authoritarian government regime to a representative form of government is going to be a difficult one. It's going to take time. It's not going to...
REHMIt takes time.
ROSSYes. And it's not going to move in a linear progression, meaning, it's going to have advances and it's going to have setbacks. But I want to pick up with what Samer said. I think what he said is exactly right. There was a sense, I think, among many Egyptians that they had no recourse. If they had a recourse, we wouldn't have seen this. But they felt they had no recourses. For them, this is almost like a course correction. And the military -- I don't think the military -- I don't think Sisi was keen to intervene.
ROSSIt isn't to say they didn't take advantage of the moment, but I don't think they were keen to intervene. But I think they felt they had to intervene. You listen to some Egyptians, many of whom I have -- I used to -- I have dealt with in the past who are now -- people like Nabil Fahmy, who were saying, look, it was a choice between this or chaos.
ROSSAnd so I think you have a reality where this is a transition that's going to take unfortunately a long time. To use a word you were using, Diane, off-mic, it's a real mess. And somehow, you know, we and others -- we're not going to be the authors of the change, but we have to try to use our influences as much as we can to try to direct it in a favorable direction as possible.
REHMTwo points. First, it is Egypt's first attempt at democracy. Second, the chaos you speak off could lead to more chaos down the line. We have no way of knowing where the chaos in which Egyptians find themselves is going to be resolved. Mervat.
HATEMBut chaos is at this point is not really the primary preoccupation of the protesters. They've lived with this for, like, 2 1/2 years, and they were still ready to come out in huge numbers in support of a correction because they felt that the revolution was basically being hijacked by the Brotherhood and that it was not on course to what it is that they hoped would be a realization of the principles of liberty, social justice as well as human dignity.
HATEMAnd therefore, they're determined to stay in the square until at least a new government is in place that would begin the implementation of what they see are the goals of the revolution. They don't trust the military. They say that we've seen what the military was capable of doing for a year and a half, and that it is important for them to stay in the squares and to stay with the protest movement to make sure that the military is going to deliver on the wishes of the protest movement.
REHMAnd my concern is about the military and the number of killings thus far. Are we going to see an escalation, Samer?
SHEHATAWell, we could. I mean, if neither side backs down and if there isn't enough pressure exerted on the military in condemning the, you know, exaggerated use of force against protesters, we could see them attempt to clear the square that the Brotherhood protesters are in and so on. I mean, I think your instincts, Diane, are right on.
SHEHATAThe generals have an abysmal record with regard to human rights, with regard to the use of force against protesters, whether they're Brotherhood protesters or young revolutionary youth. They are, unfortunately in Egypt, a non-democratic force, and this is going to be another issue that we have to deal with for possibly a generation to come.
REHMTo Dallas, Texas. Hi, Andrew. You're on the air.
ANDREWGood morning, and thanks for the excellent program. I'm wondering if there is any justification for the killing of the Coptic Christians in the middle -- in the midst of the turmoil in Egypt?
ROSSWell, the answer is no. I think one of the reasons that there's been and certainly among the Coptic Christians a profound fear is that they look to the Muslim Brotherhood and they saw -- whatever the words were, they saw not just exclusion, they saw an environment being created of greater intolerance. And so I think, you know, the concerns they've had were quite real and, by the way, not misplaced.
REHMChapel Hill, North Carolina. Steve, you're on the air.
STEVEI'm calling from Carol Woods Retirement Community, and every year, we -- on the Fourth of July, we read the Declaration of Independence. And I read it and (unintelligible) think it's relevant to what's going on in Egypt. And one of the paragraphs says, we're – we believe in "unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
STEVEAnd then just say, "Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness."
REHMAnd, of course, that is our own Constitution. To what extent is the Egyptian constitution as written, how similar is it to the American Constitution, Samer?
SHEHATAWell, it's not very similar. But that being said, it is the case that Mr. Morsi, in his first speech in Tahrir after he was coronated as president, said to the people, if I betray you and if I betray the revolution and so on, you have to unseat me. No one is above the law, and no one is above the constitution. Of course, I don't think he envisioned this. And the caller is correct. But most of the time, we have institutional rules in place that allow us to engage in politics in a way without resorting to the street or violence, and that's what we hope happens eventually in Egypt.
REHMWhat is likely to happen to Mr. Morsi?
SHEHATAWell, what's happened already to a number of other Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Freedom and Justice Party, is that they have been incarcerated and charged with inciting violence, that is the charges that they've called on their people both before the soft coup or people supported coup to protest to contest this and so on. I think Mr. Morsi's case is quite more charged, but I wouldn't be surprised if in the end he is charged with inciting violence and charged with other crimes against the constitution and so on.
REHMAll right. Let's take a call from Boston, Mass. Hi there, Daniel.
DANIELHi. My comment is based on my perception that the Brotherhood is being blamed. And while I'm no fan of the Brotherhood's values, it seems to me that for the better part of 40 years, they were brutalized and kept down and imprisoned.
DANIELAnd after a single year of -- in one year that they had -- that Morsi had as president and with the forces then arrayed against him, all of the remaining Mubarak forces -- the judiciary, the army, the police, the bureaucracy -- he was given just one year in which to make a new government work, and now we're blaming the Brotherhood and Morsi for his failure?
HATEMI think I agree with the caller. I want to play the devil's advocate here. The Brotherhood is, at present, being demonized as responsible for all the problems of the transition. The fact of the matter is the problems in Egypt are much, much bigger than anything that one can clean was the result of the Brotherhood being in power simply for a year. They're sort of like accused of having monopolized all political power and have been also basically responsible for the chaos, inciting violence right now.
HATEMAnd the fact of the matter is that what exactly would you expect a party like the Freedom and Justice Party to do after being kicked out of power after one year of being there? And I think the best thing for Egypt would have been to let them basically finish the turmoil of office, and in this way, institute a democratic form of process, a democratic form of government and acceptance of the Brotherhood as another partner in the political process that is being created.
HATEMThe fact of the matter is, however, that there was a great deal of distrust of the Brotherhood. And therefore, many Egyptians, certainly the 22 million who are said to have signed these petitions that sort of asked for early elections, didn't want to wait because they distrusted the Brotherhood. They thought that they were going to take over all the levers of government and basically would then be very difficult to dislodge from power.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Plus, Dennis Ross, the financial disaster that was taking place for the people themselves.
ROSSWell, there's no doubt about that. And I do think the point on distrust is the key point to emphasize here. The distrust didn't come from nowhere. The fact of the matter is many of the people who are in the square and many of the people who were -- who had voted for Morsi were the people now backed in the square.
ROSSAnd they were there precisely because what they saw was behavior that suggested that the Brotherhood was exclusive, not inclusive, that the Brotherhood and President Morsi were determined to control all the levers of power and that basically they would change the rules of the games so that nobody else would have a chance.
ROSSSo it's not that there's no basis for the narrative that the Muslim Brotherhood has, that they were only given a year and look at the remnants of the regime, but the fact is the distrusts that was created was largely a function of the Brotherhood's own behavior and their inability to share power.
REHMDennis Ross, here's an email regarding the aid that has been given to Egypt since Jimmy Carter brokered that Egypt-Israel peace treaty. How would suspending aid to Egypt have an impact on the security of Israel?
ROSSWell, I think right now my focus would be more on the question of does it affect our ability to influence the military's behavior at this point. I think the biggest concern that the Israelis probably have right now is the instability within the Sinai. Now, the Sinai has been largely a lawless place for a long time even during Mubarak's period as well. And it was not exactly particularly well-governed over the last couple years either.
ROSSThe -- what we heard a little earlier, what we talked about a little earlier is that we see a lot of Jihadi forces within the Sinai becoming more active in attacking the Egyptian military. But I suspect, from an Israeli standpoint, the greatest single concern is what happens with those forces, and do they begin to launch attacks against the Israelis.
REHMAnd here's a final question from Andy in Cleveland. He says, "I am heartbroken at the military coup in Egypt. I thought if democracy can bloom anywhere in the Middle East, it is Egypt. Recent events give me no hope for Syria, Iraq, Tunisia or any other country in the reason -- in the region. Is there any reason to hope that the people will eventually have self-rule?" Samer.
SHEHATAI think there's a tremendous reason to think that the people are going to have self-rule. We've seen huge amounts of popular mobilization over the last several years against tyrants, against military regimes, and that's not going to stop. And I think that, again, as my colleagues have said, democracy does not take shape overnight.
SHEHATAWe look at our own history to realize that. It's a difficult process. And I think in Tunisia and in Egypt that's likely to be the outcome. And these countries are very, very different. Iraq and Syria, its demographic make-up, its political history and so on are very, very different. And so I'm still optimistic in the long term.
REHMHow soon would you hope or expect elections to take place, Mervat?
HATEMI mean, I think most of the liberal political opposition in Egypt is insisting that the military set a date for this because a date would bind the military to basically returning to the barracks and would basically create alternative forces -- political forces of power.
REHMHow soon, Dennis?
ROSSI hope within a matter of a few months. I think that's important.
REHMDennis Ross of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mervat Hatem of Howard University, Samer Shehata of the University of Oklahoma. Thank you all.
SHEHATAThank you very much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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