As Egypt's top brass flirts with a military coup, the Obama
administration's reluctant support of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood is exposing it to
attacks from the right.
For months, liberal Egyptians have complained that the
United States treated President Mohamed Morsy's government with kid gloves as
it implemented increasingly authoritarian reforms, from delaying parliamentary elections to forcing through a new constitution. Now, as
the Muslim Brotherhood refuses to back down, Republicans are hammering the
Obama administration for its Egypt policy. But they're hitting from different
angles: some don't like what they see as administration support of an increasingly-authoritarian
government in Cairo; others want to increase the amount of military aid to
Egypt; while a third, fringe faction is sure that the Muslim Brotherhood has
infiltrated the White House.
For a number of top Republicans in the House, it's the White House's tacit support of Morsy. "The Egyptian turmoil stems from the Morsy government's
predictable power grab, which the Obama Administration has been far too
accepting of," Rep, Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
tells The Cable. "U.S. aid has failed
to compel the Morsy government to undertake the political and economic reforms
needed to avert this crisis."
Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security
Committee, offered a similar condemnation. "Unfortunately, the Obama
administration thinks it can woo Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood just as it thinks it
can negotiate with Iran's Ayatollah," he told The Cable. "The United States must stand firm on its values and
make clear our objectives in the region."
An early target in this week's turmoil is U.S. ambassador to
Egypt Anne Patterson, who was denounced by anti-government activists last month
after criticizing street protests and defending U.S.
relations with Morsy.
"Some say that street action will produce better results
than elections. To be honest, my government and I are deeply skeptical,"
Patterson said at a seminar in Cairo. "Egypt needs stability to get its
economic house in order, and more violence on the streets will do little more
than add new names to the lists of martyrs."
On Sunday, demonstrators held signs of Patterson's face
crossed out with red lines with the word "Hayzaboon," an insult akin to the
word "crone." Now miffed Egyptian protesters aren't the only ones Patterson
will have to contend with. Republicans are sounding off too.
"The Ambassador's remarks [were] a reflection of President
Obama's complete disregard for political reality and his administration's
failure to leverage our contacts within Egypt's military and support efforts to
steer Egypt away from Islamist radicalism," McCaul told The Cable.
Patterson, who is reportedly in line for a promotion as
assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, also came under
criticism from Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), who said she appeared to "offer support
for a regime with a rather checkered record of support for democratic processes
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment,
but at Monday's daily briefing, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell
acknowledged the anti-Patterson protest signs. "We find it abhorrent and
reprehensible," Ventrell said. "The ambassador has very much stated U.S.
policies." He added that "we don't take sides," and that U.S. policy is
"focused on the broader goal of reconciliation between the two groups."
Since Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, the U.S.
has committed to a $1.3 billion annual package of military assistance to
Egypt. Increasingly, this long-standing
relationship has divided the neoconservative and anti-interventionist wings of
the Republican foreign policy establishment. On the one side is Sens. John
McCain and Lindsey Graham, who just months ago lobbied for an additional $480 million in
budget assistance to Egypt. On the other side, is Sen. Rand Paul and a growing
cadre of Republicans advocating for deeper cuts to foreign aid, with Egypt at
top of the list.
"How can we have influence in troubled parts of the world when
we cuddle up to regimes responsible for much of the trouble?" Paul said in a
statement Monday. "The Obama administration announced in March that we no
longer had enough money to continue giving White House tours due to the
sequester. That same month, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Morsy and
pledged $250 million in additional aid to Egypt."
Lastly, a fringe element of the Republican Party is opposed to
Obama's Egypt policy for a third reason: The insidious influence of Muslim
Brotherhood "advisors" inside the White House. "Since this administration is
advised by Muslim Brothers then of course they're going to promote those in the
Muslim Brotherhood," Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert told The Cable. Gohmert did not recycle his discredited allegation that former Clinton
Aide Huma Abedin is in cahoots with the Brotherhood, but he did mention others
who allegedly explain why the "government is supporting the wrong people." Some
conspiracy theories die hard.