Zogby to Newsmax: Obama Administration Faces 'Tough Call' on Egypt

Wednesday, 03 Jul 2013 04:50 PM

By Todd Beamon and Kathleen Walter

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Now that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has been ousted by the military, “the less we say, the better,” prominent Middle East expert Dr. James Zogby tells Newsmax TV.

“Certainly, those who are saying that we ought to be cutting aid to the military is the wrong message at this time,” Zogby, founder and president of the Arab American Institute, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview as the drama in Egypt was unfolding. “This is a tough call. It's not the call the military wanted to make. But we ought to have a look at the bigger picture of what's playing out here than just we don’t like a coup.”

Story continues below video.

Egyptian Army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi announced on Wednesday that Morsi had been removed and was replaced with the chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court. He also called for early presidential elections and suspended the Islamist-backed constitution.

The announcement set off celebrations in the streets throughout the country, as millions of supporters cheered and shot off fireworks — while Morsi’s supporters elsewhere in Cairo chanted "No to military rule."

Morsi’s ouster as the nation’s first elected leader comes two years after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak in another popular uprising.

The Arab world's most populous nation has been in turmoil since the fall of Mubarak as Arab Spring uprisings took hold in early 2011, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.

“It's pretty clear that whatever it's called, it is a coup — and I don't think that the president left the country a choice,” Zogby tells Newsmax. “You had a demonstration that was probably larger than any other public demonstration of this sort in history.

“There were millions of people making it clear that this Muslim Brotherhood group had exhausted the patience of the public with their overreach, with their failure to deliver.

“But by rushing through a constitution, by giving the president the power to overrule the courts and by taking complete control of all the reins of power in the country, they were creating a situation in which future democracy was going to be impossible — and, therefore, they wanted to put the brakes on.

“That's what the military decided to do: not to overthrow Morsi but to put the brakes on their overreach and say, ‘There needs to be consensus for us to govern this country,’” he says.

It’s clear that the any new Egyptian constitution reflects the diversity of the country.

“The military is looking for a coalition government that represents different factions,” Zogby tells Newsmax. “It's interesting that the Salafi part that is the right of the Muslim Brotherhood has broken with the Brotherhood over the behavior of the president.

“There are a lot of people to pick from, including some of the folks that lost the last election but who represent forces that need to be brought into the mix.

“They can be used to construct a coalition governance system and prepare the way for new elections for a real parliament and for a Constitution that is not written by one group but is written by the coalition of forces that represent all the factions in the country.”

But, still, the military must tread carefully, Zogby cautions.

“If you watch the crowds on TV, they're calling for the military to come back, but they'll put the military on a very short rein,” he says. “What is really quite interesting about this is that people call it the second revolution in Egypt. No, it's not. It's just a continuation of the first.

“People have been empowered. They had an election. A guy won who actually won 51 percent of the vote. But only 50 percent voted, so he got about 26 percent. That's about what his support base is right now in a situation with revolutionary ferment and so many competing groups.

“It was incumbent upon [Morsi] to say: ‘I'm a 26-percent president; I can't govern unless the other 70-plus percent are brought into the tent.’

“He didn’t do that, and so people are saying: ‘Military, please come in, put a check on this situation, and let's start the situation over again,’” Zogby says.

“That can happen — but if the military stays too long, takes too much power for itself, then we're going to have some trouble and you'll see people back in the streets again.”

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