John King analysis: Obama's losing bet in Egypt
August 15th, 2013
04:31 PM ET
1 year ago

John King analysis: Obama's losing bet in Egypt

Washington (CNN) – President Obama on Thursday sharply criticized the Egyptian military's deadly crackdown. In doing so, he also acknowledged an administration bet gone bad.

No, the administration still won't use the term "coup" to describe the forced ouster of Egypt's democratically elected government. But, in the president's words, "the United States strongly condemns" the action of an interim government it was counting on to take a measured path after seizing power.

"Instead we've seen a more dangerous path taken through arbitrary arrests, a broad crackdown on Mr. Morsy's associates and supporters and now, tragically, violence that's taken the lives of hundreds of people and wounded thousands more," the president said Thursday morning during a break from his August vacation.

A day earlier, it was Secretary of State John Kerry delivering the criticism of the military-led interim government. To the tough rhetoric the president added this: a decision to cancel planned joint military exercises next month.

That sanction is one of the modest options the administration has as it tries to hastily reposition its Egypt policy. The bigger message would be to suspend the $1 billion plus in annual US aid to Egypt, a step the administration is loathe to take because it believes that crucial support is part of its leverage in a diplomatic crisis like this.

But calls for revoking that aid are already increasing, and will even more so if the military government does not find a way to diffuse the crisis.

"The law is very clear," Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said Thursday. "Everyone here in Congress can read. They recognize that the law says when there is a military coup, the aid must end."

The administration says that aid is "under review," and is hoping the situation on the ground improves before the push to impose more meaningful sanctions gains more momentum.

President Obama put it this way: "While we want to sustain our relationship with Egypt, our traditional cooperation cannot continue as usual when civilians are being killed in the streets and rights are being rolled back."

In that same statement, the president said, "We don't take sides with any particular party or political figure."

But the administration in essence had taken sides – with the military it is now condemning.

Not long ago, there was cautious optimism in the senior Obama administration ranks, as more moderate figures agreed to take prominent roles in a transitional government and US regional allies, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates chief among them, tried to broker between and among the competing Egyptian political factions.

But the violent crackdown in recent days, and the administration's attempt at repositioning itself now is evidence those hopes for moderation and a clear path to new elections were perhaps unrealistic.

"Who are we kidding here," says veteran Middle East diplomatic hand Aaron David Miller. "We are looking for a Hollywood ending. There is no Hollywood ending here."

After 30 years of an autocratic Mubarak regime, Miller believes the Egyptian military is too powerful and entrenched to embrace major democratic reforms, and the society too fractured and without the history or the political institutions to sort through its current crisis peacefully.

And so Miller sees few good options for what he describes as a consistently "risk averse" American president in the Middle East whether the issue be Egypt, Syria, Iran or the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"This is not an easy one," Miller said. "You want clarity, find another region."


Filed under: Egypt • President Obama
soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. waleed

    The Egyptian people support the the implementation of the emergency law and support President Adly Mansour,our army and our police in all measures taken against the terrorist group "Muslim Brotherhood" to ensure the safety and security of our beloved country. It is an internal affair please ask your president to stop interfering in our choices .. America supports terrorism

    August 15, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  2. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    How is he losing a bet? He was behind the people who wanted to get rid of a dictator. What happens is out of his, or anyone else's control.

    August 15, 2013 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    John King analysis: [Insert gratuitous superficial pandering to Teatroll talking points]

    Never fails.

    August 15, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    tom l.

    Lol. I have to say that those on the left are brilliant spinmasters. So, just for the record, the sequester was Obama's idea. And he was given the opportunity to prioritize what gets paid first and in what order. So if something like EIGHTY SEVEN jurisdictions are complaining, perhaps the complaints should go to the man that created the sequester and decided NOT to sign a bill that was passed by Congress allowing the president to prioritize.

    You guys are amazing. Oh, and let's not forget that it wasn't a cut in the spending, it was a cut in the increase. But why let facts get in the way of your good story.
    ************************
    Be honest. Every time Obama agreed with the GOP on anything, even their own ideas, they backtracked. Every. Single. Time. No point in negotiating with people who don't want to deal. You seem intelligent, so how can you possibly be happy with the performance of Boehner and McConnell? They are being led, rather than leading.

    August 15, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Sniffit

    "So, just for the record, the sequester was Obama's idea."

    And then nothing at all happened in between!!!! There were no attempts to convince the GOP/Teatrolls to compromise and they didn't blow up the negotiations because they calculated that they could use the Sequester as a "new baseline" for the new budget and they didn't prove that calucaltion by then trying to do exactly that!!! No no!!! It just went from "suggestion" to law in the blink of an eye!

    "And he was given the opportunity to prioritize what gets paid first and in what order."

    Translation: The GOP/Teatrolls attempted to avoid doing the job that they have been assigned in Congress...you know, coming up with a budget and allocating all the expenditures therein...so they could then blame Obama for what ended up being done, claiming, as they tried to do anyway, that "he's cutting everything to make it as painful as possible." Instead, Obama didn't take the bait, told them that they should do their jobs instead of trying to pass it off on the executive branch and thereby undermined their claims that "he's cutting whatever is most painful" because everyone knew he had no authority to choose what and how everything gets cut under the Sequester. Yeah...too bad the ploy was too obvious and he wouldn't take the bait, eh?

    August 15, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  6. PJ

    Well, thank you John King for lecturing us on how you would run things. You are not, however, in any position
    to advise or consent.
    If the President decides to call this tragedy a "coup", will you then write that he has "abandoned Israel"? Will
    you flip and flop over the peace treaty Egypt has with Israel, or will you accept that those who are trying to save
    this delicate alliance will make the best decision for America and her allies? Never mind, I don't care what
    you think.

    August 15, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. MBahy

    There is no fracture in Egypt, there's a terrorist group (namely muslim brotherhood the rest of islamists), which's like 1% of the population, that's terrorising & threatening the majority of Egyptians. Muslim brotherhood want to either get back in power or continue to terrorise and kill Egyptians. Western media has been misleading about Egyptian events, and apparently following an agenda that only serves their huge investment in the muslim brotherhood. Try, just try to be fair people, that is if u insist on meddling in other peoples' business!

    August 15, 2013 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  8. ryche

    HAHAH>.. Obamas a losing bet for America... liberal scmbags have broken the bank... but im sure they think their messiah will dig them out of the ashes.. hahahah good luck..

    August 15, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  9. Lynda/Minnesota

    Perhaps I missed the point John King was trying to make in this article?

    August 15, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  10. tom l.

    @The Real TP,
    "Be honest. Every time Obama agreed with the GOP on anything, even their own ideas, they backtracked. Every. Single. Time. No point in negotiating with people who don't want to deal. You seem intelligent, so how can you possibly be happy with the performance of Boehner and McConnell? They are being led, rather than leading."

    I can be totally honest and say that I don't like anything the GOP does other than stop what I feel are bad decisions for the country. I just don't believe in the ability of the govt. Sorry but that's the way I feel and I believe I have many many instances where I can back that up. I just don't trust the govt. No matter whether a dem is in office or a repub. Are Boehner and McConnell leading? Of course not. They are politicians and don't lead...they look to see which way the wind blows and tries to follow it. Was it smart for McConnell to say he wanted to make Obama a one term president? No. Was it an honest answer? Yes. Do democrats feel the same way when Bush was in office? Yes. Please tell me how many people on this board will still say that Bush didn't win the election as if that's not demeaning and disrespectful. It's a good thing that Bush isn't African American otherwise wouldn't it be fair to accuse those that said that of racism? How is that any different than what repubs do today? It's not.

    But if you think Obama has led I think that you are sadly mistaken. It is impossible to compromise when someone says things like "elections have consequences" and "punish your enemies and reward your friends" and "you need to sit in the back seat since you drove the car into the ditch" and blah blah blah. Those are not the words of someone who wants to compromise and those are not the words of someone that I (and I bet you, too) would want to work with. Those are the words of an enemy who wants to take you down. And do anything politically motivated to do it. And people like PD Sniffit, rs, Mallory Archer, Marie and many others have been brainwashed into believing that dems care just because they say they do. I mean, seriously, he stopped White House tours and blamed it on the sequester. How lame is that? And how political was that? That's all it is for Obama and his followers...a big game. I'm not into it. That's why I find Rand Paul to be so refreshing. He certainly doesn't do/say everything that a repub would want to hear. He actually thinks for himself.

    August 15, 2013 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  11. Data Driven

    Mr. King seems to be under the impression that Morsi was Obama's handpicked successor to Mubarak or something, judging from the headline.

    Fratboy journalism at its finest.

    August 15, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  12. tom l.

    @PD Sniffit
    "Translation: The GOP/Teatrolls attempted to avoid doing the job that they have been assigned in Congress...you know, coming up with a budget and allocating all the expenditures therein...so they could then blame Obama for what ended up being done, claiming, as they tried to do anyway, that "he's cutting everything to make it as painful as possible." Instead, Obama didn't take the bait, told them that they should do their jobs instead of trying to pass it off on the executive branch and thereby undermined their claims that "he's cutting whatever is most painful" because everyone knew he had no authority to choose what and how everything gets cut under the Sequester. Yeah...too bad the ploy was too obvious and he wouldn't take the bait, eh?"

    I hate to say it but the repubs in Congress have passed a budget. It just hasn't been taken up by the senate. It's ok. I know you think it's a big game of gotcha and proving how bad the other side is. It's a sorry way to live life. Wouldn't it be good for the country if Obama had taken up the offer to prioritize? Wouldn't that have been better than to not prioritize? Of course it would have been. But then it wouldn't have scored political points for you and your team and that's just not a good thing for the dems. You have zero awareness and this just proves it again.

    August 15, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  13. Tom

    What losing bet would that be? That Obama could ever say anything that might receive Republican approval? Withdraw aid to Egypt for all I care. But if you do, don't complain if Egypt turns into another Yemen - just on Israel's doorstep. The Morsi government was a sham. It sure seems like the majority of Egyptians want a legitimate democratically-elected government. Other than invading Egypt and setting up a U.S. puppet government, how do you suggest solving this problem? The Egyptian people have to sort this out. This whole article is another example of the typical Republican philosophy - whine that Obama is wrong, but offer nothing in the way of an alternate proposal.

    August 15, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  14. rs

    So, just for the record, the sequester was Obama's idea. And he was given the opportunity to prioritize what gets paid first and in what order. So if something like EIGHTY SEVEN jurisdictions are complaining,
    _____________________________
    Sorry, Tom, NO ONE except perhaps the most delusional lay the Sequester at the President's feet. It was written in the House, and passed by the House and Senate. It simply was never meant to be law- just a threat- then the Republicans decided they'd much rather have the U.S. default on its obligations- and so it passed. Even the GOP skewed Politifacts doesn't give the President responsibility for the Sequester.

    As far as a "Republican Budget- the Ryan one I presume- it was about 12 pages of useless guidelines filled fat with blank pages- even Newt Gingrich called it trash.

    You know, you'll never get out of your rut without some research- repeating the Right-Wing echo chamber talking points won't make them fact.

    August 15, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "I hate to say it but the repubs in Congress have passed a budget."

    Right, which is precisely what I was referring to. It was a budget that attempts to set the Sequester as the "baseline." And guess what? With the THUD bill failing to pass committee, it was proven that they can't even get their own caucus to vote for it because the KNOW just how damaging their nonsense really is. It the House congress dogmatically thinking they can just play any games they want for political gain because they have the majority AND the people who actually do have some sort of clue just get themselves led around by the nose by those people, because they dug themselves into a hole radicalizing the entire base.

    August 15, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  16. rs

    But if you think Obama has led I think that you are sadly mistaken. It is impossible to compromise when someone says things like "elections have consequences" and "punish your enemies and reward your friends" and "you need to sit in the back seat since you drove the car into the ditch" and blah blah blah.
    ______________
    Nice try Tom, now for equal time analyze what the faux patriots of the Right have called the President. I hope your stomach churns with the bile spilled from the TEA Party crowd. Now, remind me again about negotiating?

    August 15, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  17. Sniffit

    Eidt:

    We've got like 40+ ideologue Teatroll neophytes IN the House thinking they can just play any games they want for political gain because they have the majority AND the GOPers who actually do have some sort of clue just get themselves led around by the nose by those people, because they dug themselves into a hole radicalizing the entire base and now they are have to kowtow to it.

    August 15, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Sniffit

    "Wouldn't it be good for the country if Obama had taken up the offer to prioritize?"

    Absolutely not. Precedent should NEVER be set that Congress can just pass its responsibility to enact a budget off to the POTUS and simply hand it off to the executive branch to decide how everything gets allocated. NEVER. EVER. That is NOT how it's supposed to work. That is NOT how the Constitution organized out government. IT was nothing more than a cynical ploy from the GOPers/Teatrolls to set up the argument you're making OR, if Obama took the poisoned pill offer, to set up the argument that he was "cutting everything to make it more painful." They tried the latter anyway, because he left them nothing else....and it didn't work because the Sequester LEFT NO DISCRETION for him to do what they were accusing him of doing.

    August 15, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. tom l.

    @rs
    You keep referring to me as right wing and fail to realize that I am a libertarian. For some unknown reason you think I watch Fox News and listen to Rush all day but then why would I be on a site like CNN if that's all I did. I like to listen to all viewpoints and then base my personal thoughts after educating myself from many points of view. Something you sorely lack as you have to go to your democratic echo chamber and spout off the talking points that are so tired and worn out. It's sad that you think that you think for yourself when, in all reality, you haven't had an original thought since I have read your posts. At least PD Sniffit is entertaining with his 25-cent words and total vitriol and racism. You are a monotone regurgitator.

    August 15, 2013 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  20. ghostwriter

    toml. are you referring to the sequester in which Boehner said he got 98% of what he wanted? I seem to remember republicans trying to take credit for that deal. Right until it started hitting the fan.

    I honestly think both sides are enjoying this WWE like fighting. Neither side has to do much other than defend itself. They sure don't have to govern. Liberals (read: anyone not conservative) for the most part aren't just following as we are told. The problem is that many conservative complaints are unfounded. How much time have we wasted on hearings and investigations into Fast and Furious, Solyndra, birth certificates, Benghazi, the IRS, the NSA, etc? I say wasted because no matter how you feel about those issues, nothing of significance has come out of it.

    Yes, republicans have passed budgets, bills, etc that get no where in the senate. However, those budgets, bills and even their ideas on health care don't get good grades by the CBO or any other body tasked with analysis. All the yelling they are doing on the Keystone pipeline and all that will happen is that a Canadian company will make money, we'll get a few thousand jobs (maybe) and the oil will go on the market. Heck, democrats tried to make a deal to move forward on the pipeline IF the oil stayed here. Republicans, who are screaming about energy independence (or at least getting off of middle eastern oil) said no.

    August 15, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  21. Akintola Mojeed

    Quick action must be taken to avert the killings in Egypt.

    August 15, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  22. Guest

    you always miss the point...excluding saturday night of course.

    August 15, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  23. tom l.

    @PD Sniffit,
    "Absolutely not. Precedent should NEVER be set that Congress can just pass its responsibility to enact a budget off to the POTUS"

    You mean things like cancelling White House tours due to the sequester? You are so lost in your dem vs repub battle that you can't even see straight. My goodness. You are terrific at talking out of both sides of your mouth. Just like a hard core right winger only the opposite way. You are no better.

    August 15, 2013 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  24. Sniffit

    "It was written in the House, and passed by the House and Senate."

    Indeed. And passed in a bipartisan manner. The vote in the House was 269-161, with 174 Republicans in favor. trying to lay it at Obama's feet because he suggested it and then they ran with it, abused it and tried to turn it into a means to get what they want, which is to say causing the Sequester by blowing up negotiations so that it would do the predicted damage to the economy and they could try to blame it on Obama, then insisting that the Sequester level spending should constitute the "new normal"...that's just disingenuous BS. THEY VOTED FOR IT IN GREATER NUMBERS THAN THE DEMS DID.

    August 15, 2013 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. tom l.

    @ghost
    I appreciate your thoughtful response. You are so correct it is just like WWE. That's all it is. And the politicians win because the masses get distracted by the finger pointing and lack of any type of leadership on either side.

    I would have to guess that, as you said you are a liberal, you would have freaked out about the IRS, the NSA, Fast and the Furious and Benghazi had there been a guy in office that you didn't implicitly trust. You really would have called all of those issues non-events had Bush been in office? Be honest there. You didn't trust him, and rightfully so, therefore your skepticism would have taken over. Those on the left have absolutely lost any skepticism they had for the govt for some reason (well, for one reason only...their guy is in office now).

    Let me know if you want my thoughts on Keystone and mideast oil (I know the two are not really related other than they both deal with oil) and i would be happy to provide you with a thoughtful response to that.

    And, I want to make sure this is perfectly clear, I am a libertarian and voted for Ron Paul.

    August 15, 2013 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
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