The war-drums of Western intervention are beating ever louder against Assad, propelled by the 1,400 or more killed by the Syrian military’s chemical weapons attack in Damascus this week, in addition to perhaps 90,000 already killed in a vicious and seemingly endless civil war. But the contrast with Egypt is poignant. Despite the army’s brutal storming of two Muslim Brotherhood sit-ins in Cairo leaving hundreds dead this week, Obama refuses even to withhold the $1.3bn of military aid that the US regularly provides each year for the Egyptian armed forces. After the massacre at Rabaa the impasse between the two sides will remain unbridgeable for a long time ahead, yet both the US and UK have consciously stood by regardless. How is this explained? The Western powers want Assad to be driven out, though without letting the Islamists in if they can help it, but in the case of Egypt they want a Western-aligned military dictatorship rather than a democratically elected Muslim government whose allegiance to the West cannot be trusted.
Supposing Iran had done in the last few weeks what the military have done in Egypt. Suppose they had forcibly arrested the country’s elected president and put him and dozens of his colleagues, then closed down the radio and TV stations of the president’s party, then stormed the mosques and then massacred hundreds of grassroots supporters protesting in the street, and now proposes to ban the president’s movement and make it illegal to belong – would the US have watched heedless from the sidelines? Hardly; they would have used that as an unimpeachable justification for intervention. Contrast that with what has actually happened: John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, has proclaimed the army is merely “restoring democracy” – as though Morsi had not won the democratically elected post of president a year before by a clear majority of 3.4% and the Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice party, had not won all 5 elections following the toppling of Mubarak.
The coup was well planned and prepared over the last several months. It is frankly inconceivable that the Egyptian military would take such a huge unconstitutional step without at least the knowledge and tacit assent of the US. The US was thrown by the anti-Mubarak protests in 2011, dithered about supporting the protesters until Mubarak’s survival became patently untenable, and has now made only the most feeble response to a blatantly illegal coup. Why is the US not demanding that Morsi and his colleagues are released, that the Brotherhood’s TV and radio stations are reopened, and that new elections for the presidency and parliament are held within the next two months, with the Brotherhood given full right to take part – and if that is not immediately agreed, then all military aid will be suspended and travel bans and asset freezes put in place against the coup leaders?