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Senator Graham Makes Effort To Stop Bloodshed In Egypt

August 18, 2013

I am mindful there are people who wonder why Senator Graham gets so much face time on the Sunday morning talk shows.   Why give the Republican from South Carolina such a forum so often?  I am not always in agreement with the senator, and that might be way to subtle a point to make, but I find him to be over and over a useful guide to gaining insight into the topic being discussed.  This morning it was Egypt.

The backstory as to why he makes a great guest, and why he is an important member of congress might be summed up with the following account.  I have always liked the guy, and other than the fact he still lives in the closet, find him to be rather impressive.

As thousands of Islamist supporters of the ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, braced for a crackdown by the military-imposed government, a senior European diplomat, Bernardino León, told the Islamists of “indications” from the leadership that within hours it would free two imprisoned opposition leaders. In turn, the Islamists had agreed to reduce the size of two protest camps by about half.       

An hour passed, and nothing happened. Another hour passed, and still no one had been released.       

The Americans heightened the pressure. Two senators visiting Cairo, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, met with Gen. Abdul-Fattah el-Sisi, the officer who ousted Mr. Morsi and appointed the new government, and the interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi, and pushed for the release of the two prisoners. But the Egyptians brushed them off.       

“You could tell people were itching for a fight,” Mr. Graham recalled in an interview. “The prime minister was a disaster. He kept preaching to me: ‘You can’t negotiate with these people. They’ve got to get out of the streets and respect the rule of law.’ I said: ‘Mr. Prime Minister, it’s pretty hard for you to lecture anyone on the rule of law. How many votes did you get? Oh, yeah, you didn’t have an election.’ ”       

General Sisi, Mr. Graham said, seemed “a little bit intoxicated by power.”

The senators walked out that day, Aug. 6, gloomy and convinced that a violent showdown was looming. But the diplomats still held out hope, believing they had persuaded Egypt’s government at least not to declare the talks a failure.       

The next morning, the government issued a statement declaring that diplomatic efforts had been exhausted and blaming the Islamists for any casualties from the coming crackdown. A week later, Egyptian forces opened a ferocious assault that so far has killed more than 1,000 protesters.

Mr. McCain and Mr. Graham arrived in Cairo amid increasing tensions. They went first to see Ambassador Anne W. Patterson. “You could see it on her face, that nobody’s listening,” Mr. Graham said. He said administration officials asked them to press for the release of the two Islamists.

When the senators asked government officials to release the Islamist leaders, one woman on the Egyptian side stormed out. The senators warned that the United States would ultimately cut off aid if the military did not set elections and amend the Constitution.       

Mr. Graham recalled arguing with General Sisi. “If Morsi had to stand for re-election anytime soon, he’d lose badly,” the senator remembered saying. “Do you agree?”       

“Oh, absolutely,” the general answered.       

“Then what you’re doing now is making him a martyr,” Mr. Graham said. “It’s no longer about how badly they ruled the country and how they marginalized the democratic institutions. It’s now about you.”       

The meeting with the prime minister was even tenser. As they walked out, Mr. Graham said, he told Mr. McCain, “If this guy’s voice is indicative of the attitude, there’s no pulling out of this thing.”

2 Comments
  1. August 19, 2013 6:16 PM

    But the prime minister was not elected, and had no votes to support him, and the senator was correct about that. This was after all a coup.

  2. tom permalink
    August 19, 2013 6:00 PM

    I said: ‘Mr. Prime Minister, it’s pretty hard for you to lecture anyone on the rule of law. How many votes did you get? Oh, yeah, you didn’t have an election.’ ” Clearly disrespectful. If this is the quality of what passes for diplomat these days…..

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