Category Archives: Egypt

Muslim Ban? Fragile States?

 

Here’s Trump’s list of banned Muslim countries in red, and the ones where he has business interests are in gold. The unlabeled one at the uper right is Azerbaijan.

Trump's Muslim Ban Countries

Trump’s Muslim Ban Countries

And here’s a fragile states index for the region.

Fragile States Worst

Fragile States Worst

The banned countries are places where the governments have basically collapsed. People are complaining about the relationship between Trump businesses and the presence or absence of a ban. I’m not justifying, nor am I criticizing, I’m just noting that here is some data that hasn’t commonly appeared in conjunction with the coverage of the issue.

This map originally appeared in Fragile States Index 2016.

Decapitation At Home & Abroad

Classic counter-insurgency strategy involves identifying and neutralizing leadership of insurgent groups. Syria has failed disastrously in this and we’ll have to watch another six months to see how Russia and the Ukraine fare. The United States and Egypt are both engaged in similar exercises and are having some success.

Presaged by the January 13th arrest of girlfriend Diana Durand on election fraud charges, Congressman Michael Grimm was taken into custody April 28th. Not long after Durand’s arrest Dinesh D’Souza was indicted on similar charges.

Removing a best selling author and a sitting Congressman who retired from the FBI sends a high level message that the lawlessness that characterized the initial Tea Party ventures into U.S. politics will not be tolerated. Well connected players such as Jenny Beth Martin and Tea Party Patriots, sensing which way the wind is blowing, are looking more and more like the expensive yet ineffective firms that crowd inside the beltway.

The recent dust up between free range freeloader Cliven Bundy and the U.S. government, which led to a rally of armed ‘patriots’ sharpened the divide in what seems a very final fashion. The corporate friendly core of the GOP has no patience for a fringe that wants to crash the global banking system or engage in gunfights with federal agents.

Things are much more serious in Egypt, per the April 28th NightWatch:

Egypt: A court in Minya, in Upper Egypt, passed death sentences on 683 supporters of former president Mohamed Mursi, including leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Comment: These sentences ensure the decapitation of the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership for a generation. Their severity will have a chilling effect on future demonstrations by any party.

Arab Spring: Revolutions & Reform

Arab Spring: Revolutions & Reform

Arab Spring roiled all of North Africa and the Mideast, but the hopeful days of the crowds in Tahrir chasing away army helicopters with hundreds of laser pointers have given way to Libya pumping out weapons rather than oil and foreign fighters flocking to Syria. Nobody wants to see this happen in Egypt. Nobody.

Ten months ago I wrote about The Sinai Peninsula, noting the closure of the Suez Canal due to the 1973 Yom Kippur war. If this happens again the lower capacity shallow draft crude carriers that travel the Persian Gulf to Mediterranean route will be forced to compete with VLCC/ULCC tankers and round Cape Horn.

Chaos in Egypt would exacerbate an already troubling situation for Israel and Jordan. Eastern Mediterranean Gas Fields & Pipelines provides some detail on the production and transport of natural gas in the region. The cross-Sinai pipelines have been popular bombing targets.

Much like what is happening in the Ukraine, there is an underlying energy stability concern that is a component of Egypt’s move against their radicals. The U.S. moves in this area are curious to observe, because it’s the continuity and stability oriented center moving against radicals that were stirred up by the very largest of the players in the gas and oil industry. A mismatch like this will always lead to a realignment, but it’s difficult to see from where we stand today what form this might take.

Eastern Mediterranean Gas Fields & Pipelines

Eastern Mediterranean Gas Fields

Eastern Mediterranean Gas Fields

The eastern Mediterranean has natural gas resources but with the exception of Egyptian production this is rarely mentioned, almost never in the geopolitical press and only rarely in the energy specific trade press. The Oil Drum offers an excellent series of detailed articles tagged with ‘Israel’, but the style is dense and high context – you have to know the business to be able to interpret the content.

Eastern Mediterranean Gas Corridor

Eastern Mediterranean Gas Corridor

A third gas corridor: prospects for the East Med offers details on the construction of a pipeline from Israel to the European gas market.

The construction of this ‘East Med Pipeline’, which would connect Israel, Cyprus and Greece to Italy and the rest of Europe, is feasible but it will be costly, and can only be justly assessed when further exploration is concluded and additional gas deposits are confirmed. If, however, the scientifically estimated deposits are proven to exist, it is undoubtedly the best long-term option and solution, not only for the countries involved, but for the EU as well

The red lines in the first map denote the Arab Gas Pipeline. Here’s a more detailed view of it.

Arab Gas Pipeline

Arab Gas Pipeline

We find in the Wikipedia article an example of what The Oil Drum would call “above ground issues”:

The Egyptian pipeline carrying natural gas to Israel and Jordan, has been attacked 15 times since the start of the uprising in early 2011 and 21 July 2012. On November 13, Jordan Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said that “In the past 18 months of the Arab Spring, Jordan has lost between $4-5 billion at least as a result of oil stoppage, especially the Egyptian gas supplies”.

Turkey Pipeline Network

Turkey Pipeline Network

Russia is currently the dominant natural gas provider to Europe. The network of pipelines from the Caspian basin are theirs or European investments passing through Turkey. The European/Turkish facilities transit the perpetually simmering Caucasus and Kurdish eastern Turkey.

Some months ago I wrote The Only Red Line That Matters, which fitted together thoughts on the Russian naval supply station at the Syrian port of Tartus, the Cypriot bank collapse, the Syrian civil war, and other regional issues. The conclusion was that Russia would not permit another intervention like the one in Libya. Four months later the U.S. and Russia reached an agreement regarding handling of Syria’s chemical weapons.

Today, six months after publication, Syrian & Iraqi Conflict Merging, Possibly Spreading is a sadly accurate statement about Today’s Tripolar Power Struggle. Turkey, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are the regional powers and it is their opinions and moves that matter.

Where is Israel in all of this? Their most vocal supporters here in the U.S., The Militarist Galaxy, are attempting to stir trouble on the international front by whipping up domestic furor over the Benghazi nontroversy, while simultaneously attempting to crash the entire U.S. government with their ill considered shutdown.

The Groundswell members have been seen for what they are – a disloyal minority with an apocalyptic world view. The Democrats were already opposed and GOP strategists made things painfully clear, indicating they would no longer tolerate ‘stupid candidates’, and this was served up on Christmas day. The message to religiously motivated fringe right actors couldn’t be more clear. Most notable of all is this: Israel approves of this move.

A political splinter group that will risk demolishing the U.S. economy with one hand while promoting some “end times” battle in their backyard with the other isn’t very useful to a pragmatic Israeli administration trying to navigate choppy diplomatic seas. Those people are cut off from their former international support and the effects are visible on the domestic front, too. We’re seeing more talk of the suffering of minority Christian groups in the Mideast, and Egyptian Copts have become the cause of the moment for last year’s Israel Firsters.

This has interesting domestic implications. We already know how adept the Saudi and Qatari money men are at fomenting trouble in an arc from Mali to Pakistan. Given that Citizens United threw open U.S. elections to ‘dark money’, and the FEC already approved bitcoin as a funding method for PACs. Unsophisticated actors here are liable to end up pawns in games that conclude with them in federal custody, offering agents phone numbers that are disconnected, apartment addresses that have been abandoned, and names of individuals that simply don’t exist.

Syrian & Iraqi Conflict Merging, Possibly Spreading

UN envoy: Iraq and Syrian conflicts are merging

That headline appeared in my inbox earlier and I have been dreading it. The Syrian civil war has spilled over into Lebanon, it’s encroaching on Turkey’s territory, and it’s set off troubles in neighboring Iraq, which are now merging into an end to end regional threat.

Let’s take a look at how things got this way. The Ottoman empire laid claim to Syria and Iraq between 1512 and 1566.

Ottoman Empire 1300 1683

And they lost control of the area as a result of picking the wrong side during World War I.

Ottoman Losses 1807-1924

The territory was divided between the English and French via the Sykes-Picot Agreement, with approval from the Russians.

Sykes Picot Partition Of The Mideast 1916

Sykes Picot Partition Of The Mideast 1916

The French Syrian Mandate broke up with the loss of the Sanjak of Alexandretta back to Turkey in 1939 and the independence of Lebanon in 1943.

French Syrian Mandate Territory Losses

French Syrian Mandate Territory Losses

The British Mandate of Mesopotamia became Iraq, an independent monarchy in 1932 and a republic in 1958. Today’s ethnic map is consistent with the boundaries of the original territory. Yellow is for Sunni Arabs, green is Shia Arabs, and the Kurds are in blue.

Iraq Ethnic Groups

Iraq Ethnic Groups

I have written quite a bit about Syria’s patchwork of ethnic and religious groups. Summarizing – yellow are Sunni Arabs in the interior the dun colored areas are Kurds. The coastal region of Syria and Lebanon are very diverse and intermingled.

Syrian Ethnic Groups - Detailed Map

Syrian Ethnic Groups – Detailed Map

The Syrian conflict triggered the troubles in Iraq and the U.N. envoy now reports the two conflicts are merging. I noted that this conflict was also Spilling Into Lebanon. Refugee flows are a big part of that, as they put a support load on their neighbors.

Syrian Refugee Flows

Syrian Refugee Flows

Immediately outside the troubled trio of Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, are three regional powers vying for influence – Turkey, Iran, and the money men of Saudi Arabia and Qatar. I wrote about the underlying details in Today’s Tripolar Power Struggle.

Perians, Saudis/Qataris & Turks

Perians, Saudis/Qataris & Turks

Beyond the bounds of the regional players there are global concerns which include:

  • Israel’s ill advised obsession with Iran, somewhat backed by the U.S.
  • Russia’s longstanding relationship with Syria
  • Turkey’s membership in both the European Union and NATO
  • China and Russia’s disapproval of extreme sanctions against Iran
Mideast Regional Map

Mideast Regional Map

Let’s take stock of troubles in the region:

  • Egypt – military coup against Muslim Brotherhood, supported by democratic forces
  • Yemen – outright civil war
  • Bahrain – simmering discontent, sometimes violent
  • Syria – outright civil war
  • Lebanon – being sucked into Syria’s civil war
  • Iraq – being sucked into Syria’s civil war
  • Turkey – massive protests
  • Greece – bank crash, economic implosion
  • Cyprus – bank crash, U.N. brokered peace between Greeks & Turks
  • North Caucasus – long running insurgency, Chechen jihadis turning up in Syria
  • Iran – brand new government, same ol’ impossible sanctions

What, if anything, will the United States do about this?

The U.S. left Patriot missile batteries, F-16s, and 700 troops behind in Jordan this year after the annual Eager Lion exercise.

We seem to have just one aircraft carrier with its attendant carrier strike group in the region.

Information on the disposition of Expeditionary Strike Groups, which contain helicopter carriers, amphibious assault craft, and marines are not as readily available. I believe there is one on station at or near the 5th Fleet HQ in Bahrain and another active in the Mediterranean due to threats to diplomatic posts across North Africa.

We already have Bipartisan Opposition To Syrian Intervention. Today I saw further news to the effect that even the belated announcement we were going to arm the rebels faces Congressional disapproval.

President Obama is facing criticism for having an unclear strategy to resolve the Syrian conflict. Having spent the last ten years field testing neoconservative theories in the Mideast rather than applying pragmatic diplomacy, the White House’s apparent lack of strategy may be in and of itself a strategy. That last map and conflict list looks a bit like the Balkans a century ago, right before World War I engulfed Europe. Given our history in the region anything we attempt is liable to backfire badly.

The three regional powers I described in Today’s Tripolar Power Struggle each have a vision of what qualifies as good governance and only Turkey’s thinking would be vaguely familiar to American voters. “Bringing Democracy To Country X” sounds just grand, but in this part of the world we might want to substitute “a majoritarian blood bath” for the word democracy, and then see how palatable our plans sound. It’s time we listened to those who are there regarding what will and will not work.

A Streetcar Named Democracy

Ten years ago Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan famously quipped “Democracy is like a streetcar. When you come to your stop, you get off.” This was meant to prod Turks into thinking about their form of government, but the quote is applicable, albeit displeasingly so, for other situations in the Mideast.

Global Islam Sects

Global Islam Sects

The differences between the Sunni majority and the Shia and other related derivative sects are something of an analog to the split between Protestants and the Catholic church between four and five hundred years ago. Christendom fought it out, coming to the separation of church and state as a solution to the conflict. Islam is six hundred years newer than Christianity and they have not yet had such a resolution.

Our society, with the Wars of Reformation long over and four hundred years of English liberalism as a foundation, has an expectation of what democracy means – a pluralist government with regular elections that enforces the rule of the law. What we are seeing in Egypt today is that the Muslim Brotherhood viewed democracy in the way Erdogan represented it; they rode it past the removal of a compliant strongman, then wanted to hop off at the “majoritarian Islamist” stop. What happened there a few days ago fits the definition of a coup, but our definition might be in need of an update.

Syrian Alawites, facing a loss of control of the country and an aggressive, majoritarian Sunni insurgency funded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are suddenly interested in democracy – a peaceful, pluralist government strikes them as a better deal than payback for years of oppression at the hands of the Assad regime. If you ask any policy maker outside of the Arabian peninsula you would get a heartfelt “YES!” if you could point the way to achieving this. The conflict has already spilled into Lebanon, once part of Greater Syria, and it’s starting to draw would-be jihadis from across Europe, who can make it as far as Turkey without needing a visa. The border is porous and policy makers fret about radicalized jihadists returning home as hardened urban guerrillas after spending time in Syria.

Trying to see the Mideast as we saw eastern Europe during the Cold War – as a place that needed and wanted to be liberated, is fundamentally incorrect. Islam is the substrate upon which societies there are built, and we have to see things as they are, not through some simple minded lens of western rhetoric. Egypt’s coup may be the clean, well lit, safe stop for its people. If we insist on enforcing our idea of what democracy means we could well be compelling the Egyptians towards something similar to what is happening in Syria, and no one wants to face that.

I see varying opinions on this, some simple minded and knee jerk, while others are carefully measured positions by those who have traveled and worked in the region. The only consensus I see right now is that rushing to judgment could have grim consequences.

The Sinai Peninsula

The Sinai Peninsula, a West Virginia sized triangle of desert with a population of just 400,000 that connects Africa to the Mideast has been a scene of many conflicts through the ages, most recently the Israeli conquest in 1967, followed by a slow return to Egypt between 1975 and 1982.

Israel Conquers The Sinai Peninsula 1967

Israel Conquers The Sinai Peninsula 1967

Sinai Peninsula Withdrawal 1975 - 1982

Sinai Peninsula Withdrawal 1975 – 1982

Peace is maintained in the region by dividing it into four regions which are monitored by the Multinational Force & Observers. This is similar to Monitoring The Golan Heights, except that it’s governed by a separate treaty instead of the United Nations. This happened due to the Soviet Union’s indication they would veto such a force on behalf of their client state Syria.

Zone A is basically treated as part of Egypt and they can station up to a division of mechanized infantry there. Zone B has up to four battalions of Egyptian troops, Zone D has up to four battalions of Israeli troops, and a similar size force from the MFO is responsible for Zone C.

Sinai Security Zones

Sinai Security Zones

The Yom Kippur war in 1973, an Egyptian and Syrian attempt to reclaim the Sinai and the Golan Heights, ended badly for both aggressors. This war was a turning point in Egyptian/Israeli operations and a year later the ships of the Yellow Fleet, trapped in the Suez Canal‘s Great Bitter Lake since the Six Day War, were freed by Operation Nimbus Moon, which reopened the canal.

The Pirates Of Somalia are busy in the Gulf of Aden, the entry to the Red Sea, and tankers from Saudi Arabia have been taking the additional 2,700 mile jaunt around Africa to avoid the troubles. This has resulted in a 10% loss of total revenue for the Suez Canal Authority.

Indian Ocean Piracy

The Sinai is a sometimes contentious land bridge crossed by a globally important waterway that bears 8% of world trade including two thirds of Europe’s oil. The Rafah Crossing is the scene border closing/border crossing drama at times, and smuggling of weapons and other contraband into Gaza is a constant concern. Sinai has been simmering since the fall of Mubarak and Egypt‘s recent coup has heightened concerns.

I have some thoughts on what the troubles in the Sinai mean for the new Egyptian government, but this issue isn’t going to go away overnight, and I want to double check against other sources before I say anything.

State Department Briefing: Egypt

The State Department’s Jen Psaki faced a lot of questions on Egypt today.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. All right. I have nothing at the top. Happy Fourth of July Eve. Hopefully you all have fun plans. And we won’t make it a marathon today, I promise.

QUESTION: Good. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Matt.

QUESTION: Yeah. I got a couple things on Egypt, just to begin with.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One, what’s your understanding of the situation on the ground right now in Cairo and with the President and with the military?

And in anticipation of you saying it’s a very fluid situation and we don’t really know what’s going on, the second part of the question would be: What is your reaction, the Administration’s reaction, to President Morsy’s speech last night and your reaction, in turn, to the military’s response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first let me say – and I hate to disappoint, Matt, as always, but we do, of course, remain very concerned about what we’re seeing on the ground. And we do realize, of course, that this is an extremely tense and fast-moving situation in Egypt. We are monitoring it very closely, as you all know and as we’ve talked about in here, for the past several days and continue to believe that, of course, the Egyptian people deserve a peaceful, political solution to the current crisis.

We did, of course, watch this – or monitor the speech or have seen reports on the speech from last evening and felt there was an absence of significant, specific steps laid out in Mr. – President Morsy’s speech. We had said that he must do more to be truly responsive and representative to the justified concerns expressed by the Egyptian people, and unfortunately, that was not a part of what he talked about in his speech.

And a larger point here is, of course, that regardless of the contents of his speech, actions speak louder than words and any words that could be in a speech. And as the President as conveyed, as the Secretary has conveyed, and others have conveyed to their counterparts, it’s important for President Morsy to listen to the Egyptian people and to take steps to engage with all sides.

QUESTION: Okay. And your – then after the President finished speaking, the military had quite a interesting response. What’s your reaction to the military’s response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say broadly here that we believe all sides need to take steps to talk with each other, to engage with each other, to lower the level of violence, and call for an end to the violence, and we’re hopeful that that is something that can happen.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it sounds as though you were not pleased, to say the least, with what the President had to say. And your refusal to say anything, at least up to this point, in response to the military statement, which was basically – I believe basically just we’re going – not going to let fools or idiots ruin Egypt, that you’re unhappy with the President but you’re not so unhappy with the military.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t characterize it in that way, Matt. We think that all sides need to engage with each other and need to listen to the voices of the Egyptian people and what they are calling for and peacefully protesting about. And that’s a message we’ve conveyed at all levels, to all sides.

QUESTION: Well, which side, the President’s side or the military’s side, do you think is listening to the concerns of the Egyptian people? And just as – I want to make sure I understand this. You felt that Morsy’s speech, President Morsy’s speech, was not responsive to either the Egyptian people’s concerns or to President Obama’s encouragement of him to take specific steps.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: That is correct? Okay. So which side now – which side do you think is more – is being more responsive to the Egyptian people’s concerns and grievances, the President and the government or the military?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I appreciate the opportunity. I’m not going to rank the sides. We don’t take sides, as you know. But again, the President is the one who gave the speech, and so he had an opportunity to lay out some specific steps and he did not take the opportunity to do that.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t have anything negative to say about the military response, which —

MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, I think we’ve been very clear here —

QUESTION: — says volumes.

MS. PSAKI: — that we would like all sides to engage with each other. We think this – that a peaceful, political resolution of this is the preferred option and what’s best for the Egyptian people.

QUESTION: They just placed Morsy under house arrest. I don’t know if you’re aware.

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: The military just placed President Morsy under house arrest. He’s not allowed to make calls, he’s not allowed to receive guests or whatever or meet with anyone. Do you have any comment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I know – as I mentioned at the beginning, this is a very fluid situation. We don’t have any independent confirmation of a variety of reports, including that one, so I don’t have any comment specifically on it.

QUESTION: So do you consider this to be a military coup? I know the President warned against a military coup. Do you consider this to be a military coup?

MS. PSAKI: Again, Said, because this is a very fluid situation, we’re monitoring it closely. But I don’t have any independent confirmation of many of these reports that have been out in the last hour or so.

QUESTION: But I want to understand you correctly. And, I mean, in the diplomatic parlance, whenever the military takes the president, the democratically elected president, and places him under house arrest, is that considered a coup d’etat?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speak to reports that we don’t have confirmation of.

QUESTION: Has the – anyone from the Administration, perhaps Secretary Kerry and others, spoken to the military to sort of ask for clarification of the situation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, not specific to this report, which we don’t have independent confirmation of, but we have been in touch with all factions of the government, the military, the opposition in Egypt, over the last several days.

QUESTION: So to understand you correctly, the – sort of the control and command that the military currently exercises in Egypt is not considered a military rule or a coup?

MS. PSAKI: Again, you’re ahead of what we know to be confirmed information, so I think we’ve done what we can on this particular question. Do we have more on Egypt?

QUESTION: Are you likely to issue a statement on this particular incident, the placing of President Morsy under house arrest?

MS. PSAKI: Said, again, we’re monitoring it closely, and as situations warrant a statement, we certainly always consider that.

QUESTION: Specifically, have U.S. officials talked with – beyond the Secretary of Defense talking with General al-Sisi in the last 24 hours?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I read out yesterday a call that the Secretary did with the Foreign Minister yesterday, and you all are, of course, aware of the call the President did with President Morsy. Beyond that, of course, officials are in close contact on the ground, but I don’t have any other specific calls to read out to you.

QUESTION: Can you spell out specifically what Ambassador Patterson has been able to do? Has she been able to carry out her duties, given the millions of people who are now on the streets of Cairo?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, there’s a couple – let me address this a couple of ways. Obviously, as you all know and we talked about yesterday but I can confirm a little further now, we closed the Embassy yesterday. It will be closed for the coming days. So of course, that impacts any embassy’s ability to some degree.

But of course, Ambassador Patterson has been on the ground, as you know, for some time there. We do still have a number of personnel on the ground. We are, of course, continuing to review our security posture closely in light of the demonstrations and unrest. And as you know, here and anywhere else, we would take appropriate steps.

Just a couple – and I think we’ve talked about these, but just so everybody’s up to —

QUESTION: Can you just clarify? The Embassy was going to be closed tomorrow anyway?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, it was, but it was closed today.

QUESTION: And Friday?

MS. PSAKI: That’s right.

QUESTION: And Saturday? I mean —

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. It is. But it’s closed today. I know somebody asked about this yesterday. It’s closed for the coming days. Beyond that, I don’t have an update.

QUESTION: But it’s not – it was – it doesn’t have anything to do with the situation that the Embassy’s going to be closed tomorrow or Friday or Saturday.

MS. PSAKI: But it was closed today.

QUESTION: It was – it’s a holiday tomorrow.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes, it is.

QUESTION: And it’s – Friday and Saturday are the weekend.

MS. PSAKI: Is the weekend there, you’re right, but it is – it was closed today, and because of that, it will be closed for the coming days.

QUESTION: You don’t know if it’s going to reopen on Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on the reopening date yet.

QUESTION: But with whom has Ambassador Patterson talked or emailed in —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any readouts for you specifically in her contacts, but she has been, as have our senior officials there, been in close contact as needed in this case. And let me just quickly go through to make sure everybody knows the steps we’ve taken at the Embassy.

Prior to the start of major demonstrations, the Under Secretary for Management approved authorized departure, allowing U.S. citizen employees and their family members to temporarily depart Egypt until the situation stabilizes. As you know, we also issued a Travel Warning on June 28th to inform U.S. citizens of our authorized departure status and to warn U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Egypt to defer nonessential travel to Egypt at this time due to the continuing possibility of political and social unrest.

And as I mentioned, but given – as a precautionary measure, given the size of anticipated and ongoing protests, we closed Embassy Cairo and Consulate General Alexandria for additional days, as we just discussed.

QUESTION: Can we follow on Ambassador Patterson?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Among the anti-Morsy protestors, we’ve seen some signs and banners directly mentioning the Ambassador. I know you guys have been careful to say you’re not taking sides, but at least some of the protestors seem to perceive that the Ambassador is on the President’s side, and – what do you make of that? And, I mean, does that – them directly criticizing the Ambassador – complicate the Administration’s efforts to sort of be impartial and help them come to a peaceful resolution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke to this yesterday, and Patrick also spoke to this in the days before that. So let me just reiterate the points that we’ve made, which is that in the Ambassador’s complete comments, which I believe is what you’re referring to or what some of the opposition folks are referring to, she made clear that we fully support Egypt’s democratic transition and that we want the Egyptian people to fulfill their vision for their country.

We continue to support the right of all people to peacefully assemble and express themselves. And we have been clear in not taking sides in this case and certainly supporting the efforts of the opposition, of others, to peacefully protest. That’s a position the Ambassador shares, the President shares, the Secretary shares, and we’ve been conveying that and communicating that as clearly as possible.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. regret that it has not been able to work out, up until now, some sort of productive relationship with the Morsy government when it comes to the presence of NGOs? Because the larger question about why these protests are taking part is that the people who staged the first revolution didn’t have enough outside support and political society-building skills that the U.S. NGOs in particular had been able to provide. Do you regret that that sort of training hasn’t been able to be carried out so that you wouldn’t have this political crisis today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a couple of things raveled in there, and I don’t want to attribute the cause or the motivation for individuals who are peacefully protesting in Egypt and why they did or what caused them to. We’ve been very clear over the past several months and before that about our desire to have NGOs present and NGOs have access in Egypt. And we were very strong in our response to the court case just a couple of weeks ago and the findings that happened there.

So I don’t want to tie them all together as you did, but we have long believed that NGOs have a appropriate and a productive place and role to play in Egypt and have consistently felt that. But in terms of this specific – the specific events of the last couple of days, I don’t want to attribute that to any particular finding or any particular group not having access.

QUESTION: Are you going to take any steps to freeze military or economic aid to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s general – we talked about this a little bit yesterday, but let me just repeat so everybody has the accurate information. There’s general legislation applicable to any country to which we provide assistance as a part of the appropriations bill that takes a close look at this. With respect to the ongoing situation in Egypt, it’s premature to suggest that we have taken steps, we’re thinking about taking steps. I’m not going to get ahead of, of course, events on the ground, but clearly assessments would be made based on the facts on the ground and choices made by all parties, if needed.

QUESTION: In preparation for this briefing, you probably pulled the relevant part of the legislation. Can you say what that says?

MS. PSAKI: I believe I provided that to a number of you yesterday after the briefing. I don’t have it in front of me, but if anyone did not receive it, I’m happy to provide that again to all of you.

QUESTION: Jen, can you —

QUESTION: Jen, yesterday President Morsy stressed very emphatically several dozen times through his speech that he was the legitimate leader of Egypt, he was democratically elected. What is the U.S. position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that he was democratically elected. We are not taking sides in this case, as you know because we’ve talked about it quite a bit. And we have been very clear – the President has been, the Secretary has been; I think I was clear in my comments as well today – that there’s more that he needs to do. Democracy is not just about being elected through the ballot box. It’s also about allowing the voices of the people in your country to be heard, taking steps to work with all sides. And those are steps that we have not yet seen.

QUESTION: So does he have the right to stand behind that legitimacy if those steps are not taken?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we’ve called for those steps. We are hopeful he’ll take those steps. And he was the democratically elected president, but we’ve clearly called for him to do more.

QUESTION: Sorry, is there a reason that you’re using the past tense? He “was” the democratically elected president?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was elected. He was not – he’s not going – he was elected a year ago.

QUESTION: As far as you’re concerned, he still is —

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: — the democratically elected president, yes?

QUESTION: But so if the steps are not met, is – does the military have the legitimacy to remove him?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’re not taking sides in this. This is for the Egyptian people and all sides to work through together, and we’re hopeful that they can come to a political resolution.

QUESTION: At the same —

QUESTION: Just let me answer a couple of things.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You say that you’re – you’ve said over and over and over again that you’re not taking sides. Yet, you believe that at least some of the grievances that the protesters have are legitimate and should be addressed, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. You also believe – or you also told President Morsy – not you personally, but this government has told, from the President and others, that he needs to take steps to address those legitimate grievances.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And in his speech last night, you said that there was an absence of any significant specific steps and that it was unfortunate that that was the case. So you’re disappointed in that?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You have not taken or condemned the military’s ultimatum to the President, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So how are you able to say that you’re not taking sides?

MS. PSAKI: Well, President —

QUESTION: It seems pretty clear that you are on the side of the military and the protesters here, and not on the side of the President.

MS. PSAKI: It’s never been, Matt – I know we talked about this yesterday – about any one individual. This is a case where all sides need to work together and work through the challenges, the issues they have with each other. It’s not our job to, or our role, or the proper role of the United States, to determine the next steps, and we’re not going to do that.

QUESTION: Jen, there are many —

QUESTION: Millions of —

MS. PSAKI: Said, one more. Let’s – I’ll come to you right after, okay?

QUESTION: Millions of Egyptians had demonstrated, like, years ago – I mean two years ago, when they wanted to – the previous regime to be toppled.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right now, we’re seeing the same thing; the same scene is happening. Would you think that there are some similarities between what Morsy’s doing right now and the previous President Mubarak was doing and what the Syrian President is doing, disregarding what the people want?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to compare all different sides in different countries.

QUESTION: Is it the same thing?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve consistently supported the rights of the Egyptian people to peacefully protest. We did two years ago. We certainly do now. We know that democracy takes time and the processes take time, and we are – we have confidence in the Egyptian people in seeing that through. But beyond that, I’m not going to weigh in and compare the different sides. I’ll leave that to all of you. And I’ll read your piece.

QUESTION: The situation looks like —

QUESTION: Jen, on – you’re repeatedly —

QUESTION: Sorry. The situation looks like that there might be civil war. So are you in touch with anybody that you can stop if there’s a civil war? And also, what do you think the UN is doing, or any involvement?

MS. PSAKI: You’d have to talk to the UN about that. And we, again, have been in touch with all sides here, but I think you’re a little bit ahead of where the process is.

Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Jen, I’m sorry, I had missed the very top, but –

MS. PSAKI: No, no.

QUESTION: Could you tell us what Secretary Kerry specifically is doing, unless you’ve already answered that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I did a little bit. I don’t have any real new updates for you. He’s, of course, monitoring this very closely. He was in touch with the Foreign Minister yesterday, as I mentioned. You all know about, of course, the President’s call. And he receives regular updates from his team here as well.

QUESTION: And then in terms of just the Administration and how they’re handling this, how frequently are they meeting? What level are these meetings taking place at?

MS. PSAKI: It’s clear from the fact that the President and the Secretary made calls that individuals at the highest levels are, of course, engaged and involved in monitoring this closely. Of course, there are – there’s ongoing coordination and calls and meetings between different factions of the government, as is appropriate, but I’m not going to get into the specifics or the numbers of those.

QUESTION: There are factions of the government?

MS. PSAKI: Different components of the government.

QUESTION: So, okay. Well, okay, so you don’t want to say who was over at the White House for the SVTC this morning?

MS. PSAKI: I, typically —

QUESTION: Or did you —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to start confirming —

QUESTION: Did you get into —

MS. PSAKI: — agendas or attendees.

QUESTION: Did you ever answer who represented the State Department at yesterday’s DC meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I rely on your excellent reporting and sourcing to find out attendees at meetings.

QUESTION: On the – were – I mean, the concerns – I mean, what are the concerns of the United States regarding what’s happening, and if you can elaborate on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we’re clearly concerned about the violence on the ground. We’re concerned about the fact that this is an extremely tense and fast-moving situation. And we’re concerned specifically about the violence against women and the incidents we’ve seen of that. That’s something you saw in the readout of the President’s call he expressed directly.

We also are concerned about the fact that the – all sides, including President Morsy, haven’t taken steps to engage and work with each other, and we feel that’s a really important step in this process.

QUESTION: One more quickly. A number of ministers have resigned already and now, as they said, and they said that President is under house arrest. Do you think now this is the end of President Morsy’s administration, and are you calling on him to – and when you said take more steps means are you calling on him to now let the people decide what they want?

MS. PSAKI: No, we are calling on him to take more steps.

QUESTION: Jen, two years ago – you said you don’t want to compare, but two years ago there were emphatic and repeated warning to – issued from this podium and many other podiums in this town to the Egyptian military not to intervene, not to take over – take power in Egypt. But it seems to be lacking this time around. Why is that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I don’t want to compare now to two years ago. Obviously, we’re very concerned about the situation on the ground. And we were concerned, of course, naturally, two years ago, but we’re taking this day by day. We’re monitoring it closely. We are very focused at a high level and we’ll respond accordingly as needed.

QUESTION: So you remain – you remain principally opposed to the military takeover of power in Egypt, do you?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve been very clear to the point where you’re probably tired of me saying that we haven’t taken sides and don’t plan to take sides here.

QUESTION: But would the apparent lack of condemnation of the military’s statements today be considered the result of having watched SCAF run Egypt for about 18 months and not being overly displeased with how it ran the government, absent on-the-ground criticism of its policies at the time?

MS. PSAKI: I would not attribute that to be our analysis. This is a case where, again, it’s very fluid and we’re watching it every single day, monitoring it closely at the highest levels. But I would not – that may be your analysis, but that is not our analysis.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – yesterday we had quite a long conversation with Matt about specific steps that —

QUESTION: Conversation? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Don’t make it sound so lovely. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Dispute then – about the steps that could be taken by President Morsy. You’ve repeated that again, that he could do more.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And he needs to take more steps.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you tell us, beyond what you said about the violence and the violence against women, which obviously is very important, but what specific steps do you feel that President Morsy could take to resolve this crisis?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to prescribe specific – oh, that was a mouthful. We’re not going to prescribe specific steps from the podium or from here. Obviously, there are private conversations that go on at several levels. But again, it’s not the role of the U.S. to determine the prescription from here. We have been clear – and I know I’ve said these already, but let me just repeat again – that there are broad, immediate steps that can be taken – to call for an end to the violence, I know obviously I mentioned specifically against women and the incidents of that, and also to engage with all parties. And those are the broad steps that we are calling on him and others to take.

QUESTION: The President – President Morsy called for the formation of unity government. Do you think this could be a good solution for this situation right now, and should the opposition answer that call? That’s the first question.

The second question, I know you don’t want to speculate, but what sort of steps would amount to a military coup from your point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the first one first, as is natural in the order. This is something that President Morsy has called for in the past. In the past – it doesn’t take me stating this; you’ve seen from officials on the ground in the opposition and others – that that was not a satisfactory step. It is not for us to judge that, but it doesn’t seem like it’s a new step. And last night was an opportunity for him to propose steps or new steps, which he, as I mentioned near the beginning, did not.

And in terms of – I’m not going to get ahead. You are right; I’m not going to speculate, I’m not going to get ahead of where we are in the process or where things are on the ground.

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speculate about what’s going to happen in Egypt. I’m assuming the Administration has certain definition for a military coup that probably can be applicable everywhere in the world. What’s your definition? What’s the Administration definition of a military coup?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to get you that, but I wouldn’t ascribe specific words. Each scenario is different, and if you need our specific formal government definition, we’ll get that around to everybody.

QUESTION: If the military forced Morsy to step down, would that amount to a military coup?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speculate on events that have not yet happened.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, so —

QUESTION: Have you talked with officials in Israel in regard to the situation along the border? Is there any concern about the integrity of the Israeli-Egyptian border?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are in regular contact. I’m not – as you know. I’m not aware of recent calls regarding that specifically, but I’m happy to check for you and see if there’s anything to report back.

QUESTION: Please.

QUESTION: So Jen, you’re obviously saying that the unity government idea is not sufficient. Is the U.S. making that point to President Morsy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it’s not for us to make. But this is the same proposal that’s been proposed in the past and that others in Egypt have not supported or not felt was sufficient enough. So —

QUESTION: Is that U.S. message getting directly – or are you giving that message to President Morsy or his —

MS. PSAKI: It’s not – I am repeating what others —

QUESTION: I mean, you’re making the point here.

MS. PSAKI: — have stated on the ground in the past when this has been proposed. So it seems a challenging path to lead to this proposal that’s been proposed in the past and rejected to being a proposal that’s accepted on the ground, but I leave that – we leave that for those on the ground to determine and speak to, as I’m sure they will.

QUESTION: Shouldn’t Morsy be given a second chance in your opinion, on the —

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. Can you say that one more time?

QUESTION: Shouldn’t President Morsy be given a second chance to put his house in order?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he has an opportunity now to take steps that we’ve outlined. And he didn’t do that in his speech last night, but we’ll see.

Egypt?

QUESTION: When was your last contact with the —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: When was your last contact with the Egyptian Government?

MS. PSAKI: We’re – officials up and down the ranks here and in Egypt are in touch. So I don’t have a specific dateline of when the last contact, but just in regular contact in – over the course of the past couple of days.

QUESTION: But the last phone call of the Secretary of State – of Secretary Kerry, when was that, the last phone call?

MS. PSAKI: He spoke with the Foreign Minister yesterday.

QUESTION: That was – okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Not on Monday?

MS. PSAKI: I believe it was yesterday.

QUESTION: And do you know if the Foreign Minister resigned, or is he still in his position?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I have any independent confirmation of. I know there’s a variety of conflicting reports out there.

QUESTION: And one more question on —

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Oh, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did you mean to say that Ambassador Patterson cannot confirm if Morsy is under house arrest?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t have any – I didn’t have any independent confirmation of that. I know that it’s been stated, it’s been refuted in the press, so it’s not something for us to confirm or not from here.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have one more on Egypt?

QUESTION: Egypt, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: You mentioned more than one time that he can – President Morsy can do more.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And definitely he’s thinking that he’s doing enough. From your perspective, what’s missing? I mean, I know that you said you don’t want to give a prescription, you don’t want – it’s a fluid situation. But what is he can do more?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve said this a couple of times, but what he can do is clearly call for an end to the violence, specifically violence against women, and we’ve seen several incidents of that. And you know there have been reports of deaths in Egypt as well. And he can take steps to engage with the opposition and the military and work through this in a political fashion.

QUESTION: Yes, another question related to Egypt again.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll go to you right now.

QUESTION: You mentioned in answer to – answering a question by one of my colleagues about the concerns over there. Definitely, there are political concern, which is the concern of Egyptian people, and their security concern, which is – it’s an issue for the Egyptians and others. Do you think which is – the stability is related to political stability or security issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to rank one better than the other. Of course, we’re focused on stability, we’re focused on security. Those are both issues. We’re focused on freedom of speech and human rights. And all of these issues are issues that we’re focused on when it pertains to Egypt, but I’m not going to rank one over the other.

QUESTION: And you mentioned maybe five or six time, and yesterday another five or six time you are not taking sides.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And when you’re answering this question, taking sides usually is talking about either President Morsy or SCAF.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And – but the main issue is the Egyptian people.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, Egyptian people are the ground, and majority of them, they are considering that it’s who – the American Government is supporting or Morsy or SCAF. So what’s your answer? I mean, I cannot say to the Egyptian people I’m not taking sides and they are having demands.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I said this yesterday, and that we’re on the side of the Egyptian people. We want their voices to be heard. We want all sides to engage with each other and work through a political solution, but it’s not the place of the U.S., the United States, to take a role or take a side between those particular sides.

QUESTION: Another point. Another point.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. have any role in the —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. One more and then, I’m sorry, I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: One of the languages or the lingos you used in this building and other parts of this city, it’s “green light,” or, let’s say, “redline.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is green line to say okay, that what was done is enough by Morsy as a green light, or what is the redline that we say okay, U.S. has to do something or talk about it publicly and in details?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to set redlines. I’ve been in this town long enough to know not to do that. But in terms of steps that can be taken —

QUESTION: Except in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: In terms of steps that can be taken, I’ve outlined those. Those are steps that can be taken by President Morsy. All sides can decide to engage with one another, to call for an end to the violence, and I would say those are the first green light steps. I don’t know if I’m following the same analogy as you, but I’m trying. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Did the —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I was – he has been very patient. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Jen, (inaudible) follow up on his question, because you keep talking about the Egyptian people. I’m sorry, but you keep talking about the Egyptian people.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think that the elected President, Morsy, has any popular support in Egypt, and does he represent part of the Egyptian people? Because it seems there’s, like, division within society. So when you keep – so when you say, repeating, “Egyptian people,” what about that part of the Egyptian people that supports President Morsy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to make an evaluation on their behalf. That’s why we’ve been so supportive of their ability to speak freely and protest freely and express their views on a range of these issues. We know – and I said this before, but it’s worth restating in this case – that democracy takes time. And there’s a transition that Egypt is going through. Obviously, they participated in a democratic process, and right now we’re just hopeful their voices can be heard through all of the sides.

QUESTION: But the contrast, though – I mean, you believe that some of the Egyptian – that some of the people, the opposition, have legitimate grievances, and you think that those should be addressed. And you do not believe that Morsy and his supporters who say – who have offered these kind of half-measures or unsatisfactory measures, you don’t support them. You don’t think that they’re taking the right steps. So this idea that —

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s a little more black-and-white, Matt, than I have been here, but —

QUESTION: Well, it may be, but that’s the case, and your words – your comments and your response to the two speeches from – or the two statements from last night are pretty clear that the United States stands with the protesters who are opposing Morsy and wanting their grievances to be addressed, because you said over and over again that you believe that at least some of those grievances are legitimate. And at the same time, you said that the President’s response, his address to the nation, wasn’t satisfactory.

MS. PSAKI: I have said those things —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — but I was not taking the side —

QUESTION: Well, okay, so do you know what a syllogism is?

MS. PSAKI: — of one side over the other. You can still ask one side to take more steps, and you can ask – encourage one side to be able to be heard. That doesn’t mean that you are taking one side over the other.