Washington, July 4 — Striking a cautious balance, President Barack Obama called Wednesday for a quick restoration of democracy in Egypt, but stopped short of condemning Egyptian military’s removal of President Mohamed Morsi.
Saying he is “deeply concerned” about the removal of Morsi and suspension of Egypt’s constitution, Obama urged all parties to work together and called on the military “to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters.”
“I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process,” he said in a statement.
“The United States continues to believe firmly that the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties-secular and religious, civilian and military,” Obama said.
Obama’s written statement followed a meeting of national security officials, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey and CIA Director John Brennan at the White House.
“The situation in Cairo created an uncomfortable policy scenario for a US government and president that champion democratic principles,” CNN said.
Obama had refused to choose sides during the Arab Spring protests in Cairo that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and his administration adopted a similarly neutral stance ahead of the military’s decision Wednesday to remove Morsi, the news channel noted.
But the influential New York Times editorially endorsed Obama’s cautious stand saying “fewer countries are more invested in Egypt than the United States, which relies on Cairo to uphold the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.”
“Still, the Obama administration has little leverage over either Morsi or the opposition, which more often than not held Washington at arm’s length,” it said noting, “it has somewhat more influence with the military to whom it provides $1.3 billion in annual aid.”
“Given this complex dynamic, President Obama has reacted with appropriate caution to Morsi’s ouster,” the Times said.
Frida Ghitis, a world affairs columnist for The Miami Herald and World Politics Review, disagreed saying, “the 2011 Arab uprisings presented the United States with a historic opportunity to take a clear stand on the side of freedom and democracy and strengthen its own standing in the process.”
“Incredibly, the Obama administration has blundered and stumbled, with a response marked by timidity and caution,” she wrote. “As a result, America appears weaker, less influential and less trusted, while the Arab Middle East continues to seethe with instability and violence.”
Washington’s intelligence think tank Stratfor felt “the overthrow of Egypt’s moderate Islamist government undermines the international efforts to bring radical Islamists into the political mainstream in the wider Arab and Muslim world.”
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])