White House downplays Egyptian protesters

On Monday, President Barack Obama’s spokesman distanced the White House from Egypt’s democracy advocates who are now protesting an emerging Islamist coup in the country of 72 million people.

“The transition to democracy will be achieved by the Egyptian people, not by the manner which we raise concerns. … It’s important to take a longer view here,” spokesman Jay Carney announced at the Nov. 26 daily press conference.

Carney refused to criticize Egypt’s Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, who gave himself dictatorial powers in a Nov. 22 edict.

Obama has not called Morsi, but “we’ve raised concerns,” Carney told reporters at the press event.

“We support democracy, we believe in a government in Egypt ought to reflect the will of the people, and the Egyptian people have to decide what that government will look like,” Carney said.

Carney’s comments followed appeals from Egypt’s democracy advocates for support from the U.S. president.

“I am waiting to see, I hope soon, a very strong statement of condemnation by the U.S., by Europe and by everybody who really cares about human dignity,” Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the country’s more visible non-Islamist politicians, said Nov. 24.

Carney also, however, read out some White House talking points that could be described as support for the pro-democracy protests.

“One of the aspirations of the Egyptian revolution was to ensure that power not be overly concentrated. … Democracy depends on strong institutions and on checks and balances. … We call for calm and we encourage all parties to work together,” he read.

The surprise crisis began one day after Obama worked with Morsi on Nov. 21 to stop the Israeli counterattack against Hamas’ rocket-firing jihadis in Gaza.

“We have decided … [that presidential decisions] are final and binding and cannot be appealed by any way or to any entity,” said Morsi’s Nov. 22 statute, which also re-assembled the Islamist-dominated parliament that was dissolved in the summer by the judiciary.

Obama was not embarrassed by Morsi’s power grab immediately after the imposed ceasefire, Carney said. “We see those as separate issues,” he said.

But Morsi’s takeover threatens to shift Egypt’s populist, Islam-friendly democratic “Arab Spring” into a hardline Islamist theocracy, similar to Iran, that is hostile to democracy and peace with Israel.

Under Islam’s Shariah law, Western-style rights are supplanted by imams’ edicts, which give Muslim men power over Muslim women, Christians and Jews. An Islamic theocracy would also be hostile to non-Muslim states, especially to the nearby Jewish-majority state of Israel.