Crisis in Egypt: Hundreds Dead, President Obama Condemns Violence Against Protesters

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The death toll from Egypt’s wave of violence on Wednesday climbed to at least 525, fueling anger and deepening the political cleavages in the Arab world’s most populous nation.

Cairo’s streets were mostly calm Thursday morning in neighborhoods not affected by violence the previous day, as the overnight military curfew kept many people at home. But funerals for dead demonstrators and security officials that kicked off in the afternoon, as well as plans by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood to restart their demonstrations, are likely to inflame tensions later in the day.”

In a statement made this morning, President Obama condemned the violence rocking the North African nation and announced that the US was cancelling a joint military exercise with the Egyptian armed forces that was scheduled for next month. He also said that he and his national security team will review aid to and cooperation with the Egyptian military in light of current events.

It is now abundantly clear that Egypt is on the verge of civil war. When you have hundreds, possibly thousands, of people dying in the streets, you have the potential for a wider nationwide armed struggle between Morsi supporters and the Egyptian military.

When the military overthrew the elected President Mohamed Morsi, they claimed to be abiding by the will of the people. And in their defense, the fact that there were millions of people demonstrating in Tahrir Square demanding his resignation is a good indication that what they did was the right move. But where the military erred was in deciding to engage in a harsh crackdown on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, whom they believe have the potential destabilize the country.

As irony would have it, it has not been the Muslim Brotherhood but rather the actions of the military that have brought Egypt to the precipice of an armed insurrection. Now that the blood of hundreds flows in the streets of Cairo, it is unclear as to whether what has been set motion can be stopped. It would take a concerted effort by the military to reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood and to hold those who caused this bloodshed accountable.

Unfortunately, the military has given no indication that it is interested in any form of reconciliation. Not even the civilian Vice President Mohamad¬†ElBaradei, who resigned in protest yesterday, was able to prod the military towards a softer stance on the opposition. Any hope of avoiding civil war rests on the military’s instinct for self-preservation. Eventually, they will realize that violence cannot end this unrest and that the use of force can only go so far in protecting their power. The sooner they understand this, the greater the hope for peace will be.


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