America's response to the Egyptian crisis must be "very, very muted" at this time, former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra tells Newsmax TV.
"We've been wrong on Egypt now for the last three years — as we were wrong in Iran, as we were wrong in Libya, and as it appears we may be on the wrong side in Syria," the Michigan Republican tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "It's very difficult for the U.S. to influence these events.
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"Clearly, it's turned into not a very great regime," Hoekstra adds. "It's a bad regime. It's bad for the people of Egypt. It's bad for the religious minorities in Egypt — and it's been a bad relationship for the Unite States. The military coming in and exercising a coup and perhaps moving back toward a government that is more representative of a larger group of the Egyptian people, may be a positive thing.
"The outcome is very, very uncertain."
Egypt's army leaders vowed on Tuesday to push President Mohamed Morsi aside and suspend the government’s constitution unless the Islamic president agrees to share power within 24 hours, Reuters reports.
The threat of a potential civil war has sent tens of thousands of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters into the streets, clashing with opponents in several towns. But they appeared to be dwarfed by anti-government protesters who turned out in hundreds of thousands across the nation.
The unrest has killed seven people in the Cairo suburbs, while hundreds have been wounded in the Egyptian provinces.
For his part, Morsi told Egyptians in a televised address on Tuesday that he would defend the legitimacy of his elected office with his life and urged them to reject challenges to the legal order.
Hoekstra served eight terms in the House before leaving office to run unsuccessfully for Michigan governor in 2010. He chaired the Intelligence Committee from 2004 to 2007, and currently serves on the Advisory Board for Lignet.com.
Despite being Egypt's first freely elected leader, Morsi did not represent democracy because his regime persecuted religious minorities.
"The Coptics, the Christians in Egypt, have been terribly persecuted under this regime," Hoekstra tells Newsmax. "They've not been protected by the regime — and so democracy, freedom, it's more than just an election and clearly Egypt is going through something major.
"Let’s hope these are growing pains and let's hope the other side of Morsi is more positive than what the last couple of years have been."
And, it goes without saying that the Egyptian president is living on extremely borrowed time.
"That some of his cabinet, some of his closest advisers, have fled him — they are no longer supporting him — tells me there's a very, very good possibility that within the next 24 to 36 hours, the military will have taken over that government,” Hoekstra says. “When your friends start leaving you — and you start looking behind, and you're the leader and you turn around and you don't have as many followers as what you had before, that's when you start getting worried.
"Morsi is very, very worried."
Turning his attention to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, Hoekstra says that Russian President Vladimir Putin's admonishment that the former contractor give up his "anti-American activity" is only for show.
Snowden, 30, who revealed the secret U.S. electronic surveillance program Prism, has applied for political asylum in more than a dozen countries in his search for safety from the espionage charges in the United States.
"The bottom line: The Russians have taken a look at what Snowden, the information that he had — just like the Chinese took a look at the information," Hoekstra says. "Putin at this point has not become a friend of the United States. He recognizes that whatever other information Snowden may have is of no value to the Russians.
"There's nothing that he has that would be news to them — and so he's an irritant to the Russians. It's not worthwhile to have Snowden be the irritant between the United States and Russia. There are plenty of other issues.
"He’s looking at this totally in self-interest,” Hoekstra says of the Russian president. “He comes across looking like the good guy, saying Snowden has to stop leaking this stuff. Bottom line: He's of no value to the Russians from their perspective; just get him out of here."
Likewise with China.
"From an intelligence-values standpoint, there is nothing that Snowden has in his possession that the Russians or the Chinese believe is of any value at this point," he says.
And the European Union.
"This much ado about nothing. They do surveillance on the United States. We may do some surveillance on them — but it's kind of, like, there's nothing new here."
But not, however, with Islamic terrorists, Hoekstra tells Newsmax.
"They may have learned some things. Parts of the radical Islamic, radical jihadist movement who were not as disciplined on communications and our ability to do electronic eavesdropping, we probably heightened their awareness to these capabilities.
"They're going to be more careful now," he adds. "For those kinds of groups, I'm sure that we lost capability — and we lost the ability to capture some information that sometime in the future is going to be very important to us."
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