Egypt's military faces the fallout of Cairo bloodshed
Egypt's image of civilian governance has evaporated after yesterday's clashes, but the military said its actions headed off an even greater disaster.
The true toll of yesterday's crackdown on two protest camps became more apparent today as the number of dead rose above 500.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Continued Turmoil in Egypt
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While the military oversaw cleanup of the smoldering debris at the site where thousands of supporters of the former President Mohamed Morsi had camped for a month and a half, and where more than 200 people were killed yesterday, the interim government began to deal with the repercussions of the crackdown.
Nobel laureate and interim deputy vice president Mohamed ElBaradei, who opposed a violent crackdown on the protesters, resigned yesterday, and US President Barack Obama interrupted his vacation to criticize Egypt's actions and announce the cancellation of joint military exercises.
Egypt's government appeared to be losing the sheen of civilian credibility it had worked hard to project after the military deposed Mr. Morsi in response to massive protests against the former president.
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“The unfortunate aspect of the June 30 protests and July 3 coup is that this was always a military push to assert its authority and basically rid any civilian competitors from challenging its power,” says Joshua Stacher, a professor and Egypt expert at Kent State University who recently published a book on autocratic rule in Egypt and Syria.
But while that may not have been apparent to some a month and a half ago, it is now, he says. “It doesn't mater how many civilians they dress it up with, it's incredibly clear and naked now who's running the show in Cairo.”
Facing the consequences
Security forces attacked the two protest camps yesterday after weeks of warnings that they would forcibly clear them. The Ministry of Health said 638 people were killed in the operation and the ensuing wave of violence across the country, which included attacks by angry citizens on police stations and churches. The death toll is expected to rise further.
The interim president, Adly Mansour, today accepted the resignation of Mr. ElBaradei, who had been a key source of international credibility for the government. And President Obama, speaking from Massachusetts's Martha's Vineyard, announced that the biannual joint military exercises called Bright Star will be canceled and said his national security team would evaluate possible further action. US aid to Egypt (around $1.5 billion every year, most of it military aid) will still flow, at least for now.
After the military deposed Morsi, “there remained a chance for reconciliation and an opportunity to pursue a democratic path. Instead, we've seen a more dangerous path taken,” Obama said.
The US “strongly condemns the steps that have been taken by Egypt's interim government and security forces,” including violence against civilians, he said, and criticized the Egyptian government's declaration of emergency law. “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.”
But the cancellation of the joint military exercises, which were scheduled to take place next month, was not a significant step, says Mr. Stacher. The military exercises, he says, are essentially a trade show for US military hardware, so the cancellation "probably costs the US arms manufacturers some business, but overall the joint military exercises didn't happen in 2011, so it's not he first time they've been canceled." Given the level of instability in Egypt, it would likely be difficult to hold the exercises anyway, he says.