CAIRO, Egypt– Last Thursday, during a press briefing in Washington, DC, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf accused Egypt of using military weapons “against their own people.” Badr Abdel-Atti, spokesman for Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, fired back, describing the comments as “sheer fantasy,” noting that they “fall short and are completely ignorant of realities of matters in Egypt.”
He asked for specific examples of “the suppression of protestors using U.S. military aid.”
The comments from the State Department’s spokeswoman are not only flagrantly inaccurate and naïve, but dangerous.
Transcript of Briefing:
QUESTION: But Marie, on a – from a policy perspective, when you just said in answer to Elise’s question how different it is from Egypt, can you explain how it is? Because at the time, I remember State Department saying that we have a very strong military-military relationship with the Egyptian military, it’s very specific as to what we give them and the purposes for –
MS. HARF: Right.
QUESTION: — the foreign military sales and how they’re structured.
MS. HARF: It’s wholly different.
QUESTION: But it took – the Administration took a long time and then finally suspended delivery of items specifically because they were upset about how those items were being used against a civilian population.
QUESTION: But how – why is it wholly different from what we’re looking at now in terms of weapons being used against a civilian population, which you’ve said is a concern to the Administration?
MS. HARF: Well, in Egypt, they were using them against their own people. In Israel, they are using them against a terrorist organization to fight a terrorist organization, which we believe is in legitimate self-defense. That’s different, say
MS. HARF: I understand the crux of your question, but they’re not comparable situations. In Egypt, you had a government cracking down on its own people. In Israel, you have a government fighting an external threat that’s coming from Gaza that is from a terrorist organization. Those are in no way equivalent situations.
The Egyptian military prevented a civil war and protected the people of Egypt after 33 million Egyptians went to the streets on June 30, 2013 calling for the removal of the Muslim Brotherhood government. Millions of Egyptians went to the streets again on July 26th when President Sisi asked people to give the army a mandate to fight “violence” and “terrorism.” There were no “peaceful protestors” after the removal of Morsi; the protestors used machine guns, explosives and heavy weapons against the security forces.
The Egyptian military and police protected “their people” from the terrorist organization of the Muslim Brotherhood and have since been fighting the same terrorist organizations that America has been at war with for over a decade. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, Muslim Brotherhood and AQ-linked Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis (ABM) have all issued statements against the Egyptian military. The State Department themselves designated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis a foreign terrorist organization last April.
Just two weeks ago, 21 Egyptian soldiers were killed by Islamist militants in the western desert region near Libya. Almost everyday there is an attack from militants against the Egyptian security forces. Over 500 Egyptian military and policemen have been killed by Islamist militants since the removal of Morsi. The Egyptian military and security risk their lives everyday to protect the civilians of Egypt. The Egyptian military need the Apaches and military support from the United States to fight an Islamist insurgency– the same terrorist groups, with the same ideology, as Hamas, ISIS, al Nusra, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda.
A letter was sent to President Obama in July signed by over twenty national security experts asking the President to send the Apaches and support Egypt in their war on terrorism. Egypt has been America’s strongest ally in the Arab world for almost 40 years. Ms. Harf’s ignorant comments further jeopardize the strategic relationship between the two countries. She should either provide the evidence to back up her remarks or apologize for the mistake.