World View: Hundreds of Casualties in Clashes in Egypt

This morning's key headlines from

  • Hundreds of casualties in clashes in Egypt
  • Egypt declares curfew and month-long state of emergency
  • Mohamed ElBaradei resigns from Egypt's government over violence
  • Egypt's chaos further muddles U.S. Mideast foreign policy
  • North and South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong industrial complex

Hundreds of casualties in clashes in Egypt

Egyptian security forces clear a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Cairo (AP)
Egyptian security forces clear a Muslim Brotherhood sit-in in Cairo (AP)

Egypt's Interior Ministry is saying that almost 100 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between the security forces and Muslim Brotherhood (MB) supporters on Wednesday, while MB activists put the numbers at triple that figure. After six weeks of sit-ins by tens of thousands of supporters, following the July 3 ouster of president Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government, the new army-led interim government finally carried through on its repeated threats to "disperse" the protesters.

Others are complaining that angry mobs of MB supporters attacked and torched a number of Christian churches, monasteries, schools and shops in Alexandria, Suez and other cities.

MB activists are claiming that deaths were all caused by live fire by the Army and police. The Interior Ministry says that, although almost all MB protesters were peaceful, some fired at the police from hidden positions, in order to provoke return fire.

Most reports point to polls that show that most of the population are sick and tired of the MB. They got into office a year ago, governed the country as dictators, imposing a version of Sharia law that few wanted, while the country's economy got worse and worse. And then, when Morsi was ousted, they refused every compromise, and created political chaos.

However, the MB is still an extremely powerful force in Egypt's politics, with some 30% of the population belonging to the organization. Al-Ahram (Cairo)

Egypt declares curfew and month-long state of emergency

Egypt's people are quite used to living under a state of emergency. The last one was declared in 1981 after the assassination of president Anwar Sadat, and was not lifted until Hosni Mubarak was deposed two years ago. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood was an illegal organization under Mubarak, and so the current status of its members is familiar territory to them. In fact, probably the reason why they went so crazy with power when Mohamed Morsi was president is that they didn't know how to handle it.

So today's government declaration of a month-long state of emergency is quite familiar to Egyptians. What's new today is that the government has also imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Cairo and 10 other provinces, allowing the army to arrest and detain indefinitely anyone who violates the curfew. Anti-government activists in Cairo claimed police and soldiers aided by self-styled "popular committees" of civilian vigilantes armed with clubs and machetes enforced the curfew, searching cars and checking identity cards of people passing through makeshift checkpoints made of tires and concrete blocks. Reuters

Mohamed ElBaradei resigns from Egypt's government over violence

Mohamed ElBaradei, who won the Nobel Peace Prize several years ago for his work with the United Nations atomic energy agency, had joined the government at the request of the Army, as a moderate-liberal-secular voice. On Wednesday he resigned, saying:

"It has become hard for me to keep bearing responsibility for decisions that I did not approve of and warned against their consequences. I cannot be responsible before God for a single drop of blood.

It was hoped that the people's uprising of 30 June would steer the country back into the path of achieving the revolution's goals after the dominating, exclusionary policies practiced by the groups that ruled the country for one of its worst years. This is what drove me to accept a government position, but things took a different direction where polarization and division reached more dangerous levels and the social fabric faced disintegration.

I believed that there were acceptable peaceful alternatives to resolve our societal confrontation that could have stood a chance at achieving national reconciliation. Violence begets violence, and mark my words, the only beneficiaries from what happened today are extremist groups."

Several analysts said that the interim government should simply have allowed the sit-in to continue for as many weeks or months as they wanted, with no need for violence. Al-Ahram

Egypt's chaos further muddles U.S. Mideast foreign policy

Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to the State Dept.'s press briefing room on Wednesday, and read a statement excerpted below:

"The United States strongly condemns today’s violence and bloodshed across Egypt. It’s a serious blow to reconciliation and the Egyptian people’s hopes for a transition towards democracy and inclusion. ...

Today’s events are deplorable and they run counter to Egyptian aspirations for peace, inclusion, and genuine democracy. Egyptians inside and outside of the government need to take a step back. They need to calm the situation and avoid further loss of life. ...

Violence is simply not a solution in Egypt or anywhere else."

This is the kind of banal silliness that we've come to expect from Kerry, at a time when America's credibility in the Mideast is at an all time low. Last month, Kerry announced an Afghan "peace process" that collapsed within a day; his Mideast "peace process" is a joke; the Administration's handling of the violence in Syria, setting one "red line" after another, and then doing nothing when it's crossed, is a farce; and then there's Benghazi.

Kerry's statement is being viewed with contempt in Egypt because it say anything about the one question that everyone wants to know: Is it the opinion of the Obama administration that the July 3 ouster was a "coup," or not? If it was a coup, then American law requires that aid to Egypt be terminated. Egyptians on both sides are furious with Obama for not taking sides, though I would argue that not taking sides is the right thing for Obama to do at this time. State Department

North and South Korea agree to reopen Kaesong industrial complex

North and South Korea agreed in principle Wednesday to reopen their joing Kaesong industrial complex, after it was closed in April by a temper tantrum from North Korea's child dictator, Kim Jong-un. However, no date was set for the reopening. North Korea had wanted to reopen Kaesong earlier, without any conditions, because it's a lucrative source of hard currency for the North. South Korea apparently at least got some sort of promise from the North that they would not shut it down again "under any circumstances." At the insistence of the South, they also agreed to allow foreign investors to operate in Kaesong, because the South believes that the presence of foreign companies will make it more difficult to shut it down again. Yonhap (Seoul)

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