The White House signaled guarded support for the Egyptian military’s takeover on Monday, partly by refusing to label the takeover as a coup.
“I’m trying to be very candid here — this is a very complex situation and it is not in our interest to move unnecessarily quickly in making a determination like that,” White House spokesman Jay Carney.
“We are monitoring the situation in Egypt, we’re taking the time necessary to make the determination… what to label it,” he said.
The label is critical, because if the takeover is labelled as a “coup,” federal law would bar further U.S. aid to Egypt. Current aid amounts to roughly $1.5 billion a year.
“It would not be in the interests of the United States to immediately change our assistance process,” he said.
Carney repeatedly called for a return to democracy, but suggested that’s a long-term goal. “We don’t support a group, we don’t support a party, we support a process,” he said.
Carney also seemed to tilt its policy away from its two-year support for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate for president — Mohammed Morsi — won a narrow election victory in June 2012.
Morsi was deposed last week by the military amid massive street demonstrations, which were partly caused by shortages of fuel and food.
Carney repeatedly called all groups to avoid violence, but only named the brotherhood as fomenting violence. “We can on all sides to exercise restraint, we call on the military to exercise restraint,” he said repeatedly, in various forms.
“We also condemn the explicit calls to violence made by the Muslim Brotherhood,” he said, clearly pushing some of the blame for the street violence onto the Islamist group.
The brotherhood’s charter calls for Egypt and other Arab countries to be ruled as Muslim theocracies.
The movement’s documents also call for the creation of a “Caliph” to govern all Muslim countries. Under Islamic law, the caliph is required to expand Muslim rule to Europe and other territories.
The last caliph was deposed by Turkey and European powers at the end of World War I.