President Barack Obama rhetorically washed his hands of Egypt today, announcing, “Americans cannot determine the future of Egypt — that’s a task for the Egyptian people.”
After his statement, the president went golfing on Martha’s Vinyard, where he’s on vacation.
The statement came 49 months after Obama chose Cairo University in Egypt, under then-strongman Hosni Mubarak, as the site of his chief foreign policy initiative.
“I have come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect,” he declared in June 2009 to an enthusiastic reception from American progressives and establishment media.
The U.S.-Egypt relationship, he announced to an audience that included invited members of the Muslim Brotherhood party, would be “one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive… They overlap, and share common principles — principles of justice and progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”
Obama later pointedly declined to back Mubarak amid popular protests in early 2011. He then endorsed the elected government of Muslim Brotherhood Islamists after they won parliamentary and presidential votes in 2011 and 2012.
This July, amid massive public protests against the tightening Islamist rule of Brotherhood-affiliated president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s military removed the brotherhood from power.
The July protests were spurred by the nation’s crashing economy, the brotherhood’s oppression of women and Christians, and violent attacks on pro-democracy protestors.
Obama used his statement today to issue boilerplate calls for peace and reconciliation, but he made only one brief reference to elections.
That’s a change from Wednesday, when his spokesman and his Secretary of State repeatedly urged the military to quickly schedule new elections. “When the interim government took power [in July], we expressed our concern about the need for a prompt transition back to a democratically elected civilian government,” deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said August 14. (RELATED: Obama pushes to give Muslim Brotherhood another chance in elections)
But on Thursday, Obama only made a passing reference to elections.