The spring bloom is off the Cairo rose. Egypt is locked in a heated standoff after millions of protesters took to the streets this weekend demanding that Islamist President Mohamed Morsi resign.
During the protests, the Muslim Brotherhood’s headquarters was set on fire and seven people, including a 21-year-old American college student, were killed in the clashes. Hundreds more were wounded, and at least 46 women, including a foreign journalist, suffered sexual assaults by gangs of men during the Tahrir Square rally.
Young revolutionaries united with liberal and leftist opposition parties in a massive show of defiance on the first anniversary of Mr. Morsi’s inauguration on Sunday, chanting “the people demand the fall of the regime.” While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, at least seven people died in clashes between the two groups.
The demonstrations, which brought half a million people to Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and a similar crowd in the second city, Alexandria, were easily the largest since the Arab Spring uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Mr. Morsi, the nation’s first freely elected leader, stayed out of sight but acknowledged through a spokesman that he had made mistakes while adding that he was working to fix them and was open to dialogue. He showed no sign of resigning.
The massive protests showed that the ruling Muslim Brotherhood has not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule but has also angered millions of ordinary Egyptians with economic mismanagement.
Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat.
The army has remained neutral so far while some uniformed policemen marched among protestors in Cairo and Alexandria, chanting “the police and the people are one.” This cast doubt on whether Morsi could rely on security forces to clear the streets if he gave the order.
The demonstrators maintain that Morsi has become a power-hungry autocrat who wants to make the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt’s ruling party. They also blame the Obama Administration and U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson for propping up Morsi and allowing the Muslim Brotherhood to grab power in Egypt.
“We are very critical of the Obama administration because they have been supporting the Brotherhood like no one has ever supported them,” Shadi Al Ghazali Harb, a 24-year-old member of Egypt’s Revolutionary Youth Coalition, told the Washington Free Beacon.
The White House is “the main supporter of the Brotherhood,” he said. “If it wasn’t for the American support this president would have fallen months ago.”
Al Ghazali Harb called Patterson “the first enemy of the revolution,” saying “she is hated even more than Morsi.” Activists hung pictures of Patterson with a red “X” drawn across her face at Egypt’s Defense Ministry Friday.
“She’s done a lot to harm our relations with the United States,” Al Ghazali Harb said.
Pro-democracy activists such as Al Ghazali Harb said the June 30 demonstrations have even attracted the support of those who originally voted for Morsi in Egypt’s elections.
“We’re treating the Brotherhood as an occupation,” he said, noting that nearly 20 million Egyptians have signed onto an anti-Morsi petition. “Our whole country is at stake.”
The Obama Administration has also angered many Egyptians by siding with Morsi against the Coptic Christians, who have suffered under Morsi’s rule.
More troubling is that the U.S. ambassador to Egypt is also trying to prevent Egyptians from protesting—including the Copts. The June 18th edition of Sadi al-Balad reports that lawyer Ramses Naggar, the Coptic Church’s legal counsel, said that during Patterson’s June 17 meeting with Pope Tawadros, she “asked him to urge the Copts not to participate” in the demonstrations against Morsi and the Brotherhood.
Western experts say the Obama Administration’s efforts to normalize relations with Morsi and provide him with money and military aid have aggravated the pro-democracy activists.
“The administration believed that it could influence the Brotherhood to act democratically through friendly ‘engagement,’ and this meant not criticizing the Brotherhood too publicly or harshly when it began acting autocratically, including when Brotherhood cadres violently attacked opposition protesters in December,” Eric Trager, an Egypt expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Free Beacon.
“The opposition thus concluded that the administration was totally supportive of the Brotherhood’s behavior — which it wasn’t,” Trager said. “Ultimately, the administration failed to manage perceptions.”
Failed to manage perceptions indeed. The entire “Arab Spring” has been a failure. But will Obama be connected to it? Probably not. Like everything else, he’ll get a pass. He spoke of “a new beginning” when, after his election, he stood before an audience in Cairo like a god from on high and promised never to tolerate extremists. So much for new beginnings. So much for not tolerating extremists, particularly those who treat Christians like chattel. Egypt is repeating history and is probably heading for civil war.