McCain Says He Sees Long Period of Unrest in Egypt

Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona predicted “a long period” of unrest and repression in Egypt in the face of U.S. inaction following the Egyptian military’s coup that deposed President Mohamed Mursi.

“We have no credibility,” after failing to follow through on the Democratic Obama administration’s threat to cut off aid, McCain, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

With U.S.-supplied “Apache helicopters flying overhead, nothing is more symbolic of the United States of America siding with the generals,” McCain said.

Senators McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, have led a push for the U.S. to suspend all aid to Egypt to pressure authorities to halt a civil conflict that, over four days, has killed more than 800 people, including 173 since Aug. 16, and injured thousands.

Graham said Egypt is going to become a “failed state.” He said the U.S. should suspend aid because “we can’t support the reaction of the military.” He said aid should be suspended until there is a democratic transition.

“Where are we headed? We’re headed for Algeria,” Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “The Brotherhood will go underground. Al-Qaeda will come to their aid. And you’re going to have an armed insurgency, not protesters on your hands, in the next six -- 60 days or 90 days. And we’re going to have a failed state in Egypt.”

Senators Rebuffed

With the approval of U.S. President Barack Obama, McCain and Graham visited Cairo earlier this month and met with top officials including army chief Abdelfatah al-Seesi, who led the overthrow of Mursi, the elected president, on July 3. The senators asked Egypt’s government to release Mursi and other political prisoners in order to diffuse tensions. Their suggestion was rebuffed by interim President Adly Mansour.

McCain said that, with “Iraq unraveling,” chemical weapons being used in Syria, and Iran pursuing its nuclear program, the U.S. has become “more hated, less respected” in the region.

“We are losing all across the region,” McCain said on CNN. “There is no policy; there is no strategy.”

American Weakness

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, said the U.S. should end aid to Egypt because it is not “buying any love of the Egyptian people.”

“It has to end,” Paul said on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “We don’t have it and it’s counterproductive and it shows nothing but American weakness to continue it.”

Obama on Aug. 15 announced the cancellation joint military exercises between the U.S. and Egypt scheduled for next month and said his national security team will assess “further steps that we may take as necessary.” Obama, though condemning the violent crackdown, left intact $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid.

While the administration has so far declined to call Mursi’s ouster a coup d’etat, shielding Egypt from a U.S. law that would mandate an aid cutoff, the Washington Post reported officials are considering whether to show their displeasure by halting a delivery of Apache AH-64D aircraft scheduled for next month. The helicopters are part of an $820 million, 12-aircraft order dating from 2009, the newspaper said.

Leverage Overestimated

Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, said the U.S. has “overestimated what our leverage was,” and that it’s “time for us to recalibrate and look at what is our national interest.”

Representative Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said aid should be released in blocks conditioned on certain steps, while Republican Peter King of New York said the U.S. “certainly shouldn’t cut off all aid.”

“I would be reluctant to be cutting off aid,” King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Fox. “Obviously we should use as a bargaining wedge; we should lean on the military to the extent as we can.”

Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed with King on ABC’s “This Week” program.

“Egypt’s an important country, and I think we have to be very, very careful before we willy-nilly just cut off aid,” he said on ABC.

Minaret Gunman

Egyptian police and troops yesterday fired tear gas into the al-Fath Mosque in Ramses Square in central Cairo, where hundreds of Mursi supporters were holed up, in scenes televised live by Al Jazeera. Forces were also shown firing at gunmen atop one the mosque’s minarets.

The military-backed government said yesterday it would seek a “legal framework” to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization started in the 1920s of which Mursi has been a leader. Egyptian forces also arrested 56 Brotherhood members yesterday across the country, MENA reported.

The National Coalition for Legitimacy, made up of the Brotherhood and its Islamist supporters, said in an e-mailed statement that protests would take place at the court.

The military attacks against the country’s main Islamist group are part of campaign that began last week which has killed at least 800 people and injured thousands, according to the Health Ministry. Among the dead is Ammar Badie, the son of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Supreme Guide Mohammed Badie, the group’s political arm said in a statement.

The violence was sparked by the Aug. 14 storming by police of two pro-Mursi protest camps. Before the crackdown, about 200 people had been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since Mursi’s ouster and detention by the army.

The military assumed responsibility for order as a state of emergency and curfews were declared after the raids. The government authorized security forces to use live ammunition to repel attacks on personnel or government buildings, and says it won’t allow any more sit-ins.

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