Obama’s Impotence in the Face of Muslim Brotherhood Coup

Events in Egypt continue to deteriorate. On Wednesday, rival groups of protesters clashed outside the presidential palace in Cairo, when Muslim Brotherhood supporters of President Mohamed Morsi confronted 300 opposition members who were staging a sit-in. The protesters were initially routed, but after a lull in fighting, hundreds of young Egyptians returned to the scene and a violent exchange of firebombs and rocks ensued. Gunshots were also fired, and more than 211 were injured, medical sources reported. The violence marks the worst outbreak of unrest in the deepening crisis centered on Egypt’s new draft constitution, scheduled to be put to a vote December 15.

By nightfall Wednesday, more than 10,000 members of the Muslim Brotherhood had massed around the palace, setting up metal barricades to keep traffic off a stretch of road that runs parallel to the palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis district. A banner saying, “May God protect Egypt and its president,” was posted on a truck the Brotherhood brought with them. On top of the truck, a man with a loudspeaker began reciting verses from the Quran. Chants from the Islamist crowd also began to fill the air. “The people want to cleanse the square” and “Morsi has legitimacy,” they intoned, according to AFP news agency. The fighting extended into Thursday morning, after riot police tried and failed to separate opposing forces. When police failed to ease tension on the streets, residents took matters into their own hands, erecting makeshift road blocks to check passers-by.

The latest round of protests is apparently an escalation of Tuesday’s violence, when anti-Morsi supporters descended on the palace, and police fired tear gas to stop their approach. Morsi was inside conducting business, but he left when the crowds “grew bigger,” according to a presidential official who spoke on condition of anonymity. By Wednesday, the protests had spread beyond Cairo, and offices of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party in Ismailia and Suez were torched.

The protests were labeled “The Last Warning,” by opposition forces, who are increasingly angered by a draft constitution that was rushed through parliament without proper consultation, and does not do enough to protect political and religious freedoms, or the rights of women and minorities. That anger is further exacerbated by Morsi’s November 15 decree, granting himself sweeping new powers absent judicial oversight. Shortly thereafter, an Islamist-dominated constitutional panel passed a draft constitution without representatives speaking for liberals and Christians....

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