The United Nations has recently come under attack for its handling of both the Ebola outbreak and the war in Syria. It has prompted some to question what the role of the U.N. should be on the international stage. We look at the relevance of the U.N., 70 years after its creation.
Scores have been killed in Egypt’s crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. A panel joins Diane for an update on the state of emergency and international reactions to it.
- Nancy Youssef Middle East bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.
- Robin Wright analyst and joint fellow, U.S. Institute of Peace and Woodrow Wilson International Center author of "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World."
- Mike Giglio correspondent at The Daily Beast.
- Vali Nasr dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a former senior Obama administration adviser.
- Samer Shehata associate professor of Middle East politics at the University of Oklahoma and author of "Islamist Politics in the Middle East: Movements and Change."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Egypt is in a state of chaos today in the wake of a violent crackdown on supporters of deposed President Mohammed Morsi. Egyptian authorities put the death toll at more than 500 people. Thousands more were injured. The violence occurred as the military used force to break up Muslim Brotherhood protest camps. The brotherhood said it will not back down.
MS. DIANE REHMJoining me to talk about what's happening in Egypt and the U.S. response, Robin Wright of the Woodrow Wilson International Center and Vali Nasr of Johns Hopkins University. Joining us from the studios of KGOW in Norman, Okla., Samer Shehata of the University of Oklahoma. First, we have Nancy Youssef of McClatchy Newspapers. She joins us by phone from Cairo. Nancy, tell us what's happening now.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFWell, the streets of Cairo and the country at large are relatively quiet as the death toll numbers continue to rise, and there's a feeling that we won't know the total number for some days as the government is only counting those who came from the morgue and the hospital. And, of course, there were scores and scores of bodies at the site, right now, 525 dead and thousands -- 3,000 injured.
MS. NANCY YOUSSEFAnd there's a real feeling of sort of shock and confusion on the streets. The most prevailing thing I hear is this had to happen because the brotherhood wouldn't back down, and yet, there's tremendous sadness on what's happened. They're numbers that shock even the most hardened Egyptians. For most families here, what's happened is something that affects all families. Everybody here knows somebody who was either killed or injured in yesterday's clashes. So it's become a very personal crisis, if you will, in the nation.
REHMNancy, the government had claimed it was not using live ammunition. How could this be?
YOUSSEFWell, that's a great question because all evidence to the -- there's all evidence to the contrary. I was there yesterday, was shot at by the police, and they weren't using just teargas or rubber bullets. It was live ammunition. I think what's happening now, frankly, is Egypt is returning to a militarized state. And you have politicians who are operating in the way they did before 2011 where they can make statements that weren't really questioned by the public.
YOUSSEFBut there isn't no real questioning that's happening, the sense of public accountability in terms of what they say to the public. And so the minister of interior, who by the way was appointed under the Morsi government, came out yesterday and not only said that they hadn't live ammunition but that all sit-ins would be banned going forward.
YOUSSEFAnd yet Egypt continues to be a revolutionary country, a democratic country and one that adheres to the will of the people. So there are a lot of unexplainable, if you will, things said yesterday that really spoke to a nation that frankly is moving away from one that answers to the will of the people and one that is being defined by the demands and the political needs of the military.
REHMAnd what are you hearing about the attacks on the Christians and churches?
YOUSSEFWell, those are particularly heartbreaking, and that those churches, some of them are centuries old. And around the nation, we went to one today and to see the charred inside. The pews are charred. It's really devastating. If you ask the Brotherhood, they say that they were set up by the state, security forces, as a way to sort of put all the blame on their shoulders. Remember in 2011 during the uprising then and the weeks leading up to it, the churches were set ablaze.
YOUSSEFAnd people suspected at the time that it was the Egyptian police. And so the Brotherhood are charging that the police are trying to put all the mistakes of the past few years on this shoulders and set them up. And, of course, the government says that this was part of a campaign by the brotherhood to destroy everything in retaliation for the crackdown that happened on their citizens yesterday. And so as of most things in Egypt, there are two very different, very polarized versions of events.
REHMFinal question, Nancy. We heard yesterday that three reporters had been killed. How are you able to move around the city? You said you were shot at yesterday.
YOUSSEFYeah. You know, I have a different experience than most Western reporters operating here, and I think my experience is that it's closer to the one that the Gulf reporter had in that I have the ability to blend in. So where Western reporters were questioned and in some cases arrested and beaten, the threat that I face in a way is being treated like other Egyptians where weapons are pointed at you and threats are made that you can be killed anytime about repercussions.
YOUSSEFAnd so that's the experience that I've had. Yesterday, when we were shot at, the advantage of being an Egyptian came in handy because we went to this sort of ramshackle building, and the owner let us in because we were Egyptian. He opened the gate, let us in, and we sat there for 15 minutes just hearing bullets raining down and people screaming in English and protesters throw at them and the smell of teargas and women wailing.
YOUSSEFAnd we just sat there until it calmed down because we couldn't have run fast enough to get away from them. And so I guess I don't know other than you have to be keenly aware of everything that's happening around you and know that in this Egypt things can change literally in an instant.
REHMNancy Youssef, she's Cairo bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers. Nancy, stay safe.
YOUSSEFThank you so much.
REHMAll right. Thanks for being with us. And to you, Vali Nasr. Tell me why you believe this is happening now. Why did the military decide to use real live ammunition and mow these people down?
MR. VALI NASRWell, I think, first of all, the military had sent a signal that it was willing to use violence before. It was not the first time that the brotherhood have been killed. In the past, 50, 80 people had been killed. The hope then was then the brotherhood would take that as a signal and back down. The brotherhood has dug its heels. And I think the military did not have, as Nancy said, any choice but to see this through.
MR. VALI NASRI mean once the coup happened the hope was that this would be a smooth coup that there would be a transition government that would come in. The rhetoric of this is a restoration of democracy and the military is implementing the will of the people, which also even Secretary Kerry bought into this in his comments he gave in Pakistan, everybody hoped that this would be what would happen.
MR. VALI NASRIn some ways, the Muslim Brotherhood ruined this narrative, and the military either had to deal with the brotherhood, means they have to compromise, let Morsi go free, allow them back into the political process, risk that the brotherhood would do well in the next election or had to really push through. And, you know, coups can unravel if the military is not able to get control of a situation. The coups can unravel. I think there was a sense that that would be also disastrous for Egypt. So they decided they had to push with this kind of
REHMRobin Wright, Vali Nasr just used the word coup, the word that thus far the president of the United States has not used. He is to speak in this hour about the situation in Egypt. Did the military go in with the intention to clear protesters peacefully, or did they go in to shoot?
MS. ROBIN WRIGHTWell, they claimed that they were going in without using live ammunition, but all the evidence indicates that there were extraordinary use of force. The death toll, the injury toll, it's quite clear that this was a scene of kind of unprecedented violence. There were more people who have died in the last month under this alleged interim transition to democracy government than died during the uprising against Hosni Mubarak.
MS. ROBIN WRIGHTThere were over 800 killed in -- during those 18 days, and yesterday, the death toll alone was at least 525 with many claiming that it could far exceed that. Look, we -- Egypt has now gone back to an era of military repression. It is prepared to take whatever action it feels necessary to entrench its rule, its preferences and to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from either returning or being a major factor in political power.
REHMSamer Shehata, did the government of the military have any other options?
PROF. SAMER SHEHATAWell, they did have options, and that's why there were negotiations taking place and mediation efforts by Catherine Ashton of the European Union, by Sen. McCain, by Egyptians like Mohammed Salim Basindawa and Tariq. And there were options, but, of course, the terms of a negotiated settlement weren't acceptable to it seems the present regime and they certainly I think did have options.
PROF. SAMER SHEHATANow, I think I agree completely with everything that's been said. I mean this outrageous amount of violence used to clear the protesters, and I think what also needs to be said is that this is not going to produce the results that they desire. I mean the results that they desire are some kind of eradication or elimination of the Muslim Brotherhood and some resumption of some semi-stable politics. And I don't think, unfortunately, with calls today for marches and protests, and we're likely to see other types of actions in the future that they're going to achieve even the goals that they wanted to.
REHMAnd, of course, the government is defending its own actions by claiming its forces had been attacked and that they used only teargas and not live ammunition. Short break here, and we'll keep you up to date as to what is happening and when the president speaks.
REHMAnd we're talking about the ongoing strife in Egypt. Yesterday, some 525 people were killed, many thousands injured. The president is expected to speak within the hour on the U.S. position in regard to what's happening there. Robin Wright, what is President Obama expected to say?
WRIGHTWell, the United States is expected to talk again, as Secretary of State Kerry did yesterday, about how complicated this process is, how deplorable the use of violence is. The big issue is whether he will suspend military exercises with the Egyptians scheduled for next month. But the U.S. is also looking forward looking at what happens next in this tricky transition. The new constitution is expected to be announced next Wednesday.
WRIGHTAfter that date, it is then referred to a 50-member committee to see if there are other proposals for changing and adapting it if it's acceptable. That 50-member committee has not been announced yet. And then elections are supposed to be held, both for parliament and the president, within six months. And that's supposed to be the transition.
REHMSamer Shehata, supposed to be but you're shaking your head.
SHEHATAWell, I'm shaking my head because I think that the situation is much graver than the political roadmap that has supposedly been put up. I mean, what kind of a constitution and what kind of elections can you have with this level of violence? And with the exclusion of significant elements of the political body politick from, you know, participating in politics. So all of that, I think, you know, becomes secondary. And it'd be exceedingly difficult for people to buy in, I think, reasonable people.
SHEHATAAnd this is another dilemma to buy into the roadmap. I think the other tragedy of all of this, Diane, is that many Egyptians, possibly the majority have bought into the regime's narrative that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization, that they were threatening national security, that this is a war against terrorism, that they brought it on themselves. And that is also tragic because it makes politics, reasonable politics, peaceful politics that much less likely.
NASRWell, I agree with Samer in the sense that it's very difficult to have normal politics when the military has used violence as its principal way of managing the system. Secondly, this coup from the beginning was not against Morsi alone. It was not against a president that was mismanaging the country. It was against the Brotherhood. The regional power that supported the coup in the Gulf wanted Muslim Brotherhood out of Middle East politics. This is really a coup that is designed to exclude the Brotherhood to try to sanitize Egyptian politics except it's gone badly.
NASRAnd I think the military's challenge is how to be able to create a certain degree of normalcy in Egypt while it's still committed to forcibly remove the Brotherhood out of the political system. And I think the challenge for the United States is that this is not about Egypt alone anymore. It is also about the Arab Spring as a whole. For instance, we see that Bahrain immediately yesterday adopted the same rhetoric as the Egyptian military in dealing with protests that were scheduled for today and tomorrow.
REHMAgainst the Brotherhood.
NASRWell, no, against their own opposition. In other words, these are terrorists. We're not going to tolerate them in the streets. We're going to ban any kind of...
NASR...public display of political opinion. And if the United States allows this to stand, if the president's message is not very clear today vis-a-vis what happened yesterday, it could be construed as a method of dealing with the Brotherhood and also the anti-regime forces in the region.
REHMHow significant, Vali Nasr, was the resignation of Mohamed ElBaradei?
NASRI think it is significant in two ways. One is that ElBaradei can at least become a figure who could in the end be the compromise for Egypt. So he's removing himself from the actions of the military. He's creating, if you would, at least the possibility of an alternate voice in Egypt. But also, it's important, I think, for the liberal voices in Egypt to have a significant person present a critique of what happened yesterday and not literally support the heavy-handed way in which the military is managing the country.
WRIGHTI actually thought that ElBaradei's resignation was very telling of the fact that the government appointed by the military didn't even know what the military was going to do. It was only after the use of force and the beginning of the deaths that ElBaradei resigned.
REHMHow could he not know what the government was going to do, Robin?
WRIGHTThe military is in now total power, and it has figureheads that it is appointed to run a government. But it is clearly now making all the important decisions, not just about security but about politics.
SHEHATAWell, that's -- I think that's largely correct. I mean, we saw recently the appointment of governor's for the different provinces across Egypt and the vast majority of them were ex-military officials, and this is supposed to be a civilian government. I agree completely with what Vali said about Mohamed ElBaradei.
SHEHATAThe sad part of the story, again, is that Mohamed ElBaradei has been vilified over the last few weeks in the Egyptian media and by Egyptian politicos because he has showed some reasonableness, some common sense and some principles that violence shouldn't be the first method of dealing with political opponents. And so, again, that gets at the psychological state of the vast -- of the majority of Egyptians who are glorifying Mr. El-Sissi, the defense minister, and are looking at this as a necessary step in order for Egypt to move forward.
REHMAnd joining us now from Cairo is correspondent for The Daily Beast Mike Giglio. He was arrested and taken to a sports arena yesterday. Mike, how are you today?
MR. MIKE GIGLIOI'm fine. Thanks. Thank you for having me.
REHMAnd I gather you were taken to a sports arena. Tell me what happened.
GIGLIOWell, I was right behind police lines from the moment that they descended on a specific entrance at the main encampment at Rabaa and was there for about an hour and a half reporting, taking notes, taking photos, as they fired into the crowd, as they used tear gas and just basically dispersed the frontlines of the demonstration. And after a while, they arrested me, and they arrested a couple of other photographers who had been there on the scene as well. And they took us to a detention center with the people that they had also rounded up from the protests.
REHMDo you think journalists were actually targeted?
GIGLIOI don't know about intentions. I mean, I think the best I can say is that it was very clear to them that I and my colleagues were journalists when we were being arrested and in the case of the three of us also when we were being beaten by the security forces. That was established first, and the heavy-handed tactics came after that.
REHMDo you believe there is an anti-Western press sentiment right now?
GIGLIOYeah. I think there is an intense paranoia in Egypt right now about the Western press in particular. And, you know, the government is feeling that. Politicians are feeling that. Anti-Morsi activists are feeling that. And the media, really, is feeling that. And I think it's because what's being reported is not always in line with what the government wants the narrative to be, and that narrative is very important to them right now...
GIGLIO...but with their challenging voices that go against it.
REHMWe are told that at least three journalists were killed yesterday. Why do you think they let you go?
GIGLIOI mean, this is -- again, I don't want to go too far and ascribe an intent to what happened when people were attacked or killed. In my own case as well, I think -- I can say for sure that the people who arrested me were senior officers and that they then, you know, they knew I was a journalist. It wasn't a mistake.
GIGLIOOnce I went through the system about four hours later, I was eventually released with apologies, which is more the kind of treatment you would expect for a journalist. You know, they were insisting it must have been some kind of mistake, and, you know, they let me and colleagues go albeit without giving us our equipment back.
REHMMike Giglio of The Daily Beast. He joined us from Cairo. Mike, stay safe.
GIGLIOThanks very much.
REHMAnd we have callers waiting. We'll take those in just a few moments. We're told that President Obama is at Martha's Vineyard, and he is making an audio statement now. We'll get something to you as quickly as possible. And do we know, Vali Nasr, where President Morsi is now?
NASRWell, he's in protective custody, and he's likely to remain there in all military coups of this kind. Usually, you want to keep the protagonist away from the political arena to control what can say to his followers. And in addition, I think Morsi is a point of negotiations as these -- discussions were going on between the opposition -- between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. I actually think that the future for Morsi doesn't look bright.
NASRI wouldn't be surprised if he weren't to try, given the way that the military is going that he wouldn't be executed for crimes against the state. We saw this happen with prime minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Two years after the coup, we saw this happen with Adnan Menderes, a Turkish prime minister in the 1960s in Turkey. And I think the direction that is going doesn't look good for Morsi.
WRIGHTI was in Algeria 20 years ago for a democratic election. It was supposed to be the first in the Arab world. Fifty four parties were running, and I'll never forget the night before the election, the coups -- the tanks rolling though the capital of Algiers. And it was at that moment when the military wrapped up all of the leaders of the Islamist party that was on the verge of winning parliament that you saw the fact that democracy was not seen as a viable option for a lot of these people.
WRIGHTAnd as a result, a militant group broke away and started attacks, and that began a civil war that lasted for a decade and killed an estimated 200,000 people. There's a real danger that the polarization in Egypt today has gotten to the point, which I hadn't thought even a week ago what happened, but it's gotten to a point that when -- people are excluded. If Morsi is tried for murder incitement or any of a number of other crimes that there are those who are operating already in Sinai, some extremist factions, take on a national agenda and really threaten the daily security of Egypt.
REHMSamer, the -- President Morsi, the elected president, is in jail as we know or being held somewhere. So who's negotiating with the government? Who is negotiating with the military? And are these negotiations, in any way, able to move forward?
SHEHATAWell, I think right now, of course, no negotiations are taking place. We believe that Mr. Morsi is in a military facility outside of Cairo, and he has been moved three times. We know that. Today, they announced that he would be held for another 30 days under some charges. I think that he will not be executed. He'll certainly be put on trial for different things, but I can't imagine him being executed.
SHEHATAThe answer to your question, specifically, is there have been some Brotherhood leaders, who, including some former cabinet ministers like Amr Darrag, the minister of international cooperation, who have been meeting with the visiting dignitaries like Catherine Ashton and others and been relaying the concerns of the Brotherhood through them, and then those individuals have been talking to members of the Egyptian government. Of course, I think, right now, that's not happening, and I don't think it's going to happen in the future.
REHMAll right. And we do have some word about what President Obama is saying. Major Garrett of CBS says that -- he has said the U.S. is concerned about the violence. He notes the complexities and says the Morsi government was not included. A tweet from Peter Baker at The New York Times, president announces that the U.S. has cancelled next month's U.S. military exercise with Egypt and goes on to say the Egyptian people deserve better than what we've seen. Robin Wright.
WRIGHTOne of the most interesting thing -- things President Obama said was that traditional cooperation with Egypt can't continue. And that indicates that it's not just the issue of military exercises next month, that this puts into question aid and a whole package of relations. And this, of course, is important for a lot of different reasons because Egypt is the largest and most important Arab country, but is also the cornerstone of the peace process. It's been the U.S. closest Arab ally since the 1970s. This really is a far-reaching statement.
NASRI agree. And Egypt is probably the most important Arab country for varieties of reasons, and a great deal of U.S. cooperation and particularly military assistance with Egypt was meant to build the relationship between the United States and the Egyptian military not only to provide security within Egypt, but to create a security architecture that was very important to Israel and to protect the Camp David Accord.
NASRNow, these sets of events, if it pushes the United States' hand to take these things off the table, then the question becomes what about the reasons why this security arrangement was created -- namely security of Israel, namely Camp David Accord, namely Egypt's support for the Palestinian peace process? We're right now engaged in pushing for this. So, you know, it remains to be seen how the Egyptian military would react to this.
REHMAnd, Samer, your reaction.
SHEHATAWell, I think it's, of course, a necessary step, the cancellation of the Bright Star exercises. And I think that when one thinks deeply about the Egyptian-Israeli relationship, for example, one realizes that the Egyptians have as much interest in preserving peace on that border as the Israelis do. And, in fact, the Israelis are more comfortable dealing with an Egyptian military-led government than they are with the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamists who have been hostile to them, who have not had a heavy hand with regard to violent extremists in Sinai and so on.
SHEHATAAnd, in fact, there were rumors that the Israelis were trying to buffer the calls of softness towards the protesters because they would have, you know, preferred that the Islamists be dealt with in a heavy hand.
REHMSo at this point, what do you see as next, Vali Nasr?
NASRWell, I think Egypt is going to be in a -- for a rough ride for some period of time. When you have this kind of spasm of violence, things go -- don't go back to normal very quickly. It partly remains to be seen whether the Brotherhood would continue to resist, and there has to be more violence. There will be more violence in order to deal with them. And also it greatly depends on how the United States manages this beyond just the pronouncements of the president.
REHMVali Nasr, who is dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Short break. Your calls when we come back.
REHMAnd as we talk about what's currently unfolding in Egypt as well as President Obama's statement, which include "America will work with all those in Egypt who support a future of stability that rests on the foundation of justice and peace." Let's go first to Pittsburgh, Pa. Doreen, you're on the air.
DOREENGood morning, Diane. I really love your show.
DOREENI have a lot of concerns about the reporting of the Western media. I'm a naturalized American, and I believe in freedom for all people including the Egyptian people who have risen to seek the same rights as the American people. I'm a Coptic Christian as well, and I'm very disturbed with the killings of Christians. But I'm equally disturbed at the killings of regular, secular and devout Muslim people. I grew up -- I'm a secular person. All my friends are Muslims. We never grew up saying Muslim or Christian.
DOREENThe academic group, I mean, I respect your guests, but they're totally academic. I'm in touch with realities on the streets in Cairo, in Alexandria, in the South of Egypt, Upper Egypt. There is lack of security. Finally, there's a technocratic government running the country. The only way that 33 million people who rose on June 30 -- if your group knows anything about the rebel group, there was total lack of security. The only way they could have risen is with the aid of the army. This is not a coup. We need to stop talking about the coup.
REHMAll right. Thank you so much, Doreen. Your reaction, Samer?
SHEHATAWell, I mean, the last point that she made is somewhat correct, which is, I think -- and we've talked about this before. I mean, this is not a classic coup when one thinks of coups in the 1960s, three military officers shooting a president and coming to power. I mean, clearly there were millions of Egyptians who protested, not the absurd 33 million figure -- that's been disproven.
SHEHATAOf course, that's part of the narrative of the anti-Morsi group -- but the millions of people and certainly more than came out during the anti- Mubarak protests. There's also been information that's come out and excellent reporting that shows that, to some extent, this was coordinated or with the help of the military, ex-Mubarak supporters and so on, so not simply a coup.
REHMLet's hear a bit of what President Obama had to say today.
PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMAGiven the depths of our partnership with Egypt, our national security interest in this pivotal part of the world and our belief that engagement can support a transition back to a democratically elected civilian government, we've sustained our commitment to Egypt and its people. But while we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back.
PRESIDENT BARRACK OBAMAAs a result, this morning we notified the Egyptian government that we are canceling our biannual joint military exercise, which was scheduled for next month. Going forward, I've asked my national security team to assess the implications of the actions taken by the interim government and further steps that we may take as necessary with respect to the U.S.-Egyptian relationship.
REHMWhat does that mean, Robin, further steps?
WRIGHTWell, I think, it means aid particularly and the military equipment that the United States provides the military that is now empowering Egypt. My gut reaction, though, is that I doubt the Egyptian military actually cares. Their priorities are at home. Their priorities are power. Their priorities are to make sure that, you know, the Brotherhood makes no comeback and that it has -- is not able to play to the sympathy card that they're the victims of a coup or, you know, the current unrest.
NASRI think Robin is correct, but I would also add that the U.S. government does not want to see violence, does not want to see the situation in Egypt disintegrate into mayhem. But at the same time, they are worried that the coup does not unravel in a way that creates another set of problems. So the generals came in. Maybe it was not a good idea. Maybe it was -- maybe Washington was comfortable with it, with the generals taking over was unhappy with Morsi.
NASRWhatever it is, once the coup happened, the question is what comes next? So if the military, given where it is, given the way that it has dealt with the situation, was to lose control, if it was to fail, if it was forced to backtrack into a situation that is not clear to Washington what that would be, that's not desirable because at the end of the day the United States wants stability in Egypt. That's the single most important national interest we have there, that Egypt does not become a sinkhole in the Middle East that's going to create violence, terrorism, instability all around the region.
REHMAnd here's an email, Samer Shehata, from Robert in Van Buren, Ind. "What would be the difference between what's happening now in Egypt and what happened in Syria?"
SHEHATAWell, major differences, of course. I mean, one, the tension and polarization in Egypt is not based on -- largely not based on ethnic or sectarian lines. This isn't Sunni, Shia, Christian, Kurd and so on. These are largely ideological and political splits. So that's the first difference. The second difference, of course, is that Egypt doesn't have the same history of political violence as Syria and other countries.
SHEHATASo it is quite -- or Algeria for that matter. So it's quite unlikely, hopefully, that Egypt will descend into that kind of turmoil. But Robin is right that, at the level of discourse -- and this is fascinating -- the othering, the dehumanization of each side is really incredible, and the type of language that's being used is really quite worrying.
REHMAnd what about the effects on Islamists in neighboring countries, Turkey, for example, Vali Nasr?
NASRWell, in many ways just before the military intervention, it looked like the Arab Spring had favored Islamists everywhere, whether it was the opposition in Syria, the government in Tunisia, and the hope was that these Islamists would then look to a Turkish model of moderation, capitalism, engagement with the world economy.
NASRNow, the narrative of the military intervention in Egypt supported by some regional governments, particularly in the Gulf, is that there is no place for Islamists in Middle East politics and that there will not be a Turkish model, that it's impossible for Morsi to find his way to become Erdogan. And if -- and they can't manage, they can't govern, and they are ideologically opposed to civil rights, to minority rights.
NASRAnd they have to be removed from politics by force. Now, in the case of Turkey, it does create a certain pressure domestically for Turkey because Turkey happen to be facing its own domestic clash with its secularist opposition, and Prime Minister Erdogan is under pressure. It creates a worry as to whether the liberals in that country are to ally themselves with the military in some form against the elected government.
NASRBut also beyond Turkey, you have Tunisia, you have Libya, you have Jordan. Not in all of these cases Islamists are in power, the Brotherhood is in power. But the question becomes whether instead of having a Turkish model for the future of the Middle East, we're going to have an Egyptian model for the future of the Middle East, which is decisive secularist action out of the turrets of a gun.
WRIGHTThe Islamists may be down, but they are not out. They are still among the most organized political forces in the region, even in Egypt. And if you had elections tomorrow in Egypt, I bet that the Muslim Brotherhood would get maybe 20 percent, maybe even a little bit more.
WRIGHTThere are also Salafis and other different kind of Islamists that, you know, we -- one of the great problems in the Middle East and one of the reasons I think the military stepped in is that you don't have the kind of liberal, nationalist, secular political forces that have coalesced into viable alternatives and that you have simply the choices of the military versus the Muslim Brotherhood.
WRIGHTAnd there's almost nothing in between, that whether it's ego, ineptitude, the fact that they have their own little agendas, they all feel empowered and feel they should have roles and they can't come together with a common agenda. There's no sense of common good in many of these transition countries, and so it's easy to say, yes, the Muslim Brotherhood has been pushed from power in Egypt. But that doesn't necessarily mean they've lost their followers and won't be a political force down the road.
REHMTo Lakeland, Fla. Hi there, Tyler.
TYLERYes, ma'am. I was stationed in -- and thank you for taking my call.
TYLERI was stationed in Iran in '75, '76, and this is very similar to what played out there. But what had ended up playing out there was, once the Iranian government was under the control of the Islamic party, the military was basically tore apart at the top. I lost some friends that were basically executed that were in the military. So I think the military, looking at what happened in Iran and taking a page, say, you know, we cannot allow Egypt to become another Iran, and they stepped in. So I appreciate the time and let's -- I'll take the comments off the air.
REHMThank you for calling. Samer.
SHEHATAWell, I mean, I think the differences are quite significant. I mean Mr. Morsi was democratically elected, right? Although it was an imperfect democracy and there were hostile discourse towards minorities and women and so on, it was not anything like Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran. And so I think that's the kind of limit of the comparison.
REHMAll right. To Houston, Texas. Muhammad, you're on the air.
MUHAMMADYes, good morning. Thank you very much for taking my call.
MUHAMMADWith all my respect to your guests but I totally disagree with their opinion that confirmed that any outrage is a coup. The Egyptian people, we saw them, they all get into the streets in millions, asking the military to take action and to protect their own country from the violence of these groups. And I believe that the Muslim Brotherhood -- I'm a Muslim myself. I'm an Egyptian too.
MUHAMMADThe Muslim Brotherhood as a group has terrifying history, full of blood and very good in flipping facts. So what we are seeing right now, they are also flipping the fact as they are very good on it. And if we wonder on what happened in Jan. 28, 2011 is -- in both days, they are sharing the same principle. They are burning and setting fire into the country.
REHMAll right. Sir, thanks for calling. Vali Nasr.
NASRWell, you know, the coup is a very sort of a neutral turn that describes a certain political process. It doesn't matter whether it's popular, it is good, it is bad, it is unpopular. When military steps in, often ends a political process for whatever reason is a coup. It's kind of like saying, when you have a tumor, it's called cancer. I mean, if you put it -- you can call it anything else you want for whatever reason.
NASRIf your insurance company won't pay, if you call your cancer, cancer, let's call it something else. So we're sort of going around the fact that in the end, for whatever reason, the military intervened in Egypt, put -- set aside their political process that was in place legally and decided to set a reset button, and that's what it is. Call it whatever it is.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." There is a tweet asking, "Has the Egyptian military already received its military aid from the U.S. for 2013? And what is the next decision point for 2014?" Robin.
WRIGHTWe probably saw the same tweet. Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast is putting out tweets saying that, in fact, all of the military aid for 2013 has been delivered, and that the next big decision point is not until April 2014. Well, there -- the United States has already slowed the delivery of a handful of F-16 warplanes. It can do other things like that, but a lot of that money already is in the pipeline. And one of the ironies of U.S. aid to Egypt is that a lot of that money actually ends up back in the United States because it buys military hardware from U.S. companies.
SHEHATAWell, that's completely correct. And also, there's a great deal of time between now and April. And if the U.S. were to, say, suspend the aid or end the aid, there are other issues that have to be considered, you know, which was, what that aid gets the United States? Expedited passage of U.S. naval vessels through the Suez Canal, over flight rights over Egypt, intelligence sharing having to do with extremists and violent groups and so on.
SHEHATASo the question then would be the calculation, would the Egyptian government and the military then reduce the benefits that the United States gets as a result of that relationship?
NASRThat's right. But also, whether the Egyptian military gets F-16s or not right now is not of great importance. They're not to go to war with a neighboring country. This is largely symbolic, as to say, whether the current government of Egypt is getting international support and sanction for its domestic political actions or not.
REHMHow much money does Egypt receive from tourism? Do we know?
NASRWell, it's gone down after 2011 at any rate.
NASRSo the hope was that by creating stability that the economy could rebound, tourists can go back. Also, beyond tourists, direct foreign investment could go back to Egypt. And in some ways, the Brotherhood is actually holding a trump card over the military because it's following a policy that's keeping Egypt on a -- in a situation of instability.
NASRThe military's forced to take actions that it actually will hurt tourism and the direct foreign investment further. And there is a certain degree of pressure on the military to stabilize the economy rapidly. This was one of the big issues about Morsi, that Egypt's economy was in a freefall, so if the military is not able to do that, then...
REHMHow long did they have?
NASRWell, technically, they have longer than Morsi because there's been an injection of cash coming from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. But that won't replace the idea of a sustainable economy that can provide jobs to Egyptians and create a sort of normal economic circumstances. So there is certain pressure on the military to get things back to normal. And one of the reasons they took the actions they did is basically to get to the stability that they promised when they came in.
REHMRobin, how quickly do you think they can do that?
WRIGHTOh, I think the odds of the military being able to deliver, whether it is security or on the economy, is very small. And you have to remember just a year ago, people were demonstrating against the military itself because they felt that it had over exercised its own power. And that was before the coup.
REHMRobin Wright, she's with the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson International Center. Vali Nasr is dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and Samer Shehata, associate professor of Middle East politics at the University of Oklahoma. Thank you all so much. Thanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
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