Two days after Secretary of State John Kerry made a controversial remark about the Egyptian military “restoring democracy” when it ousted the country’s first popularly elected president, the comment has gone largely unchecked by official Washington, and looms large in a country tense from weeks of political wrangling and violence.
The uproar began on Thursday, when Kerry, in the midst of a multi-nation tour across the Middle East and South Asia, said that in the judgement of his aides, the military had acted with a legitimate mandate from the people when it removed from power President Mohammed Morsi, of the Muslim Brotherhood, and later arrested him.
“The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence,” Kerry told a television interviewer on Pakistan’s Geo TV. “And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgment, so far. To run the country, there’s a civilian government. In effect, they were restoring democracy.”
The remarks were quickly denounced by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which faces the ongoing threat of being dismantled by force by the military-backed government. Its anti-military sit-ins in Cairo have twice been the site of deadly clashes with security forces.
“Such rhetoric is very alarming,” said Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, in a statement on Friday that also accused the United States of being “complicit in the military coup” against Morsi’s government.
Many analysts say that Kerry’s remarks do not seem to square with the policy of the Obama administration, which has sought to strike a fragile balance with the Egyptian military — neither rejecting the overthrow of a democratically elected president, nor endorsing the sometimes-brutal tactics of the new regime.
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