John Bolton: 'Like It or Not,' US Should Back Egyptian Army

Tuesday, 20 Aug 2013 10:19 PM

By Paul Scicchitano

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Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton insists that "like it or not," the time has come for the United States to pick a side in the monthlong conflict that has bloodied the streets of longtime ally Egypt, and it should back the Egyptian army.

"If the Muslim Brotherhood wins, say good-bye to the peace treaty with Israel and stability in Sinai," Bolton penned in an op-ed that appeared Tuesday in The Wall Street Journal.

"Egypt has not yet succumbed to all-out civil war, as Syria has, but it's getting close," he explained. "So are Lebanon, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. Tensions are more than simmering in Nigeria, Mali, Algeria and Sudan, and there is no guarantee that Tunisia, Jordan, Bahrain and Pakistan will remain stable."

The Egyptian military toppled the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohammed Morsi in a July 3 coup after barely a year in office.

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In the weeks that followed, enraged brotherhood supporters attacked police stations and government buildings, as well as churches, homes, and businesses of minority Christians nationwide in an attempt to spread chaos and force the police to vanish as they did in the face of the mass protests of the 2011 uprising against the United States-supported government of Hosni Mubarak.

The United States "cannot pretend" the Egyptian conflict is capable of being resolved through political compromise and a representative government, according to Bolton.

"Such conditions do not exist," he stated. "The Muslim Brotherhood is not a normal political party as Westerners understand that term. It is an armed ideology — a militia that fires on its opponents and burns down churches."

Bolton, who was appointed to the United Nations by then-President George W. Bush and served for 16 months, believes Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood "desires confrontation" with the country's military leaders, who acted to remove the Egypt's first democratically elected leader from power only after millions of Egyptians took to the streets in mostly peaceful demonstrations.

"The brotherhood, therefore, shares full blame for the continuing carnage," according to Bolton. "Should it ever regain power, whether through free elections or otherwise, it will never let go, as Mohammed Morsi was busy demonstrating in his year as president."

Bolton described the Morsi opposition as "Egypt's military and a collection of citizens who refuse to live under an authoritarian theocracy: Coptic Christians, pro-democracy intellectuals, a middle class that desires a functioning economy, and women who do not yearn for the burqa."

He noted, however, that without the military's support, "this group would be hopelessly outmatched."

The son of a Baltimore firefighter, Bolton, who graduated from Yale and went on to Yale Law School where he studied under Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork, said, "like it or not," the United States must choose a side in the conflict.

"Hand-wringing about abstract political theories or calling on all sides to exercise restraint is divorced from Egypt's reality," he said. "Such rhetoric doesn't advance U.S. interests, and earns America the contempt of Egyptians across the board."

He noted that President Barack Obama has appeared in recent days to be hedging his support toward the Muslim Brotherhood by calling off joint U.S.-Egyptian military exercises planned for next month and by "secretly halting aid" to the country, an assertion that he attributes to Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and adds that it is denied by the Obama administration.

He argues that the Egyptian military, "even with its obvious flaws," is more likely to support "palpable United States interests" in the future than the Muslim Brotherhood.

Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the United States has three primary interests in the region: upholding the Camp David Accords with Israel, preventing terrorists from using the area as a "haven and a highway for smuggling arms to Gaza," and keeping open the Suez Canal, through which some 14 percent of global shipping and 30 percent of oil supplies pass each year.

He warned that Russia’s Vladimir Putin could step in to fill any void in the annual $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to Egypt.

"There are no certainties here, only odds," Bolton acknowledged. "But this is a real decision point for the Obama administration, not a time for half-measures."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.


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