WASHINGTON : The Obama administration is turning to top officials to tout democracy, political transparency and peaceful protest for Egypt, a message that took on a hollow tone as the Egyptian military installed a new leader for the country and began rounding up its ousted president and his supporters.
Tens of thousands of supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi marched in Cairo on Friday, and gunfire and stone-throwing marked clashes taking place after dark. Across Egypt, at least 30 people were reported killed and more than 200 wounded.
In Washington, the State Department condemned the violence and called on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and to prevent further violence among their supporters.
“The voices of all who are protesting peacefully must be heard – including those who welcomed the events of earlier this week and those who supported President Morsi,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement. “The Egyptian people must come together to resolve their differences peacefully, without recourse to violence or the use of force.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Friday called Israel’s military chief, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, for a second time in as many days. The Pentagon said Dempsey had spoken earlier with Lt. Gen. Sedki Sobhi, the chief of staff of Egypt’s military, although the Pentagon wouldn’t disclose details about any of the calls.
High-level diplomacy consultations took place Thursday when Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and national security adviser Susan Rice briefed President Barack Obama on their calls to counterparts in Egypt, Israel, Turkey and other U.S. partners in the region.
That round of calls conveyed “the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible,” Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, said at the time. The U.S. officials also pushed for what Meehan called “a transparent political process that is inclusive of all parties and groups” and urged all parties to avoid violence, she said in a statement.
Behind the scenes, the U.S. was signaling to Egypt and its allies that it accepts the military’s decision to depose Morsi, and was hoping that what fills the vacuum of power would be more favorable to U.S. interests and values than Morsi’s Islamist government. But those hopes were tempered by very real concerns that a newly emboldened military would deal violently with the Muslim Brotherhood, sending Egyptian society further into chaos and making reconciliation more difficult.