It Was All Going Swimmingly Until Morsi Committed to Freeing the Blind Sheikh

This is the kind of international landmine that I’ve been fearing could influence November’s elections.

In his first public speech addressing tens of thousands of mostly Islamist supporters, [Egyptian President-elect Mohammed] Morsi promised Saturday to work to free Omar Abdel-Rahman, the spiritual leader of men convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Congress is off to march in their local Fourth of July parades next week, but I would assume a call to withhold Egypt’s aid will be at the top of the agenda when they come back. The threat of losing US funding will provide yet another incentive for the Egyptian military to crack down (though Morsi also promised to free protestors held under the military system).

And I expect Romney advisors like John Bolton to use this as an opportunity to accuse Obama of having lost the Arab Spring.

Which could make things … interesting.

And all that’s before you consider the effect any backlash from us will have on the Egyptian people.

6 replies
  1. phred says:

    I wonder what leverage Morsi imagines that he has that he thinks he can do anything at all to get Abdel-Rahman out of a US prison? He might have more luck with prying a few guys out of Guantanamo, but I wouldn’t hold my breath there either.

    I know it was just a speech to his supporters in Tahrir, but given everything else that must be on his to do list, I’m surprised he made that particular promise. But, what do I know, maybe this gets discussed in Cairo all the time, so perhaps it was a necessary thing to say there. Like Bush-the-Ellder’s “no new taxes”.

  2. phred says:

    @phred: Ah here we go… from Al Jazeera English:

    “His pledge was most likely a sop to the salafi groups which have made Abdel Rahman’s release a prominent issue.”

    So it was a “no new taxes” item. That shouldn’t really raise any eyebrows among any politicians anywhere, but I’m sure there will be come here who make a big stink out of it — not because of Abdel-Rahman, but because they are scared witless of populists.

    {Sorry no link, the editing buttons are not appearing in my browser.}

  3. Charles D says:

    I would conclude that the arm of the United States government that has had a long-term relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood does not support Obama’s re-election.

  4. mlnw says:

    Pepe Escobar made an interesting point in his June 30th interview with Scott Horton, namely that Morsi also urged that there be a return to previously normal relations between the Arab countries and Iran, and he believes that even though Morsi withdrew the statement, he was articulating the Qatar position- as opposed to that of the Saudis who want Iran brought down. He also believes that Qatar is now the major player with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and in North African countries like Libya, as well as with the Sunni rebels in Syria. His interview is at:

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