The plot thickens in Egypt

I’ve been expecting the Egyptian military to demand that President Morsi reach some sort of accommodation with the anti-government protest movement. I wasn’t confident, though, this would happen right away.

But today comes word that the military has issued an ultimatum to the government and, as I read its statement, to the opposition: resolve the current crisis that has generated massive protests or the military will announce its own solution. Moreover, the military has given the parties only 48 hours to accomplish this seemingly improbable feat.

This is how military commander Abdel Fatah al-Sissi put it on national television:

The armed forces reiterates its call to meet the demands of the people, and it gives everyone 48 hours as a last chance to carry the burden of the ongoing historic circumstances that the country is going through.

If the demands of the people are not met within the given period of time, [the military] will be compelled by its national and historic responsibilities, and in respect for the demands of Egypt’s great people, to announce a roadmap for the future, and procedures that it will supervise involving the participation of all the factions and groups.

As I understand it, the underlying demand of the protesters is that Morsi resign. Morsi obviously will not comply. Moreover, it’s not clear why the opposition would deal at all with Morsi if it believes the military will move against him in the absence of a deal. Presumably, it expects a better deal from the military than from the Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It may be, therefore, that the military has decided to make its move, and that by the “demands of people,” Sissi really means the desires of the military. The main desire of the military, I continue to believe, is stability.

Meanwhile, the opposition has scheduled more protests for tomorrow, and has given Morsi 24 hours to step down.

Where does President Obama stand in all of this? He’s backing Morsi, but now says the Egyptian president should compromise:

What is clear right now is that although Mr. Morsi was elected democratically, there’s more work to be done to create the conditions in which everybody feels that their voices are heard and that the government is responsive and truly representative.

If the situation is going to resolve itself for the benefit of Egypt over the long term, then all the parties there have to step back from maximalist positions. Democracies don’t work when everybody says it’s all the other person’s fault and I want 100 percent of what I want.

Barack (“I won”) Obama would never undermine our democracy by demanding 100 percent of what he wants. He’s more of a 95 percenter.

As for Egypt, perhaps Obama should have pushed his pluralistic vision on Morsi sooner and harder, instead of tilting so strongly in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood man. As it stands now, this looks like a case of “more mush from the wimp.”


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