Riots in Tahrir Square
Egypt Pitches US ‘Strike 2’ on Arab Democracy

Morsi’s power grab is “Strike 2” for US efforts to make democracy safe for the Middle East. Seven years ago, Hamas won US-backed elections.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu ,

A protester runs to throw a tear gas canister
A protester runs to throw a tear gas canister

The U.S. State Dept is dancing on pins and needles in an attempt to avoid saying that “democracy” has failed in Egypt following Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s latest power grab, which bars the judiciary from challenging his decisions.

Morsi’s Islamic fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood party, outlawed in the days of Hosni Mubarak, was elected in democratic elections encouraged by the United States after it helped usher Mubarak out of power last year.

Morsi indicated Monday he is willing to soften his decision to take almost absolute power, but a spokesman’s statement that only “acts of sovereignty’ would take precedence over judicial power is not likely to appease increasingly vocal opponents.

At least one person has died and nearly 1,000 have been injured in violent clashes between protesters and police.

U.S. State Department spokesman Olivia Nuland told reporters Monday, ,”We were concerned that there would be violence, that there were competing demonstrations, et cetera… Obviously we want to see this issue resolved in a way that meets the standards and principles that we’ve been supporting all the way through, since the Egyptian revolution began.”

However, when asked if Morsi’s power grab was non-democratic, Nuland treed to dodge the question, saying that “our statement speaks for our view on this and the various concerns that we had.”

The events in Egypt are “Strike Two” for American attempts at introducing democracy to Israel’s neighbors. Seven years ago, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was exuberant over the first democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority.

“Strike One” came in the middle of the night, when a phone call woke her up and she was informed that Hamas had won.

Ironically, but perhaps not coincidentally, Strike Two involves the Muslim Brotherhood, which created Hamas.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration is forever hopeful. A reporter at Monday’s daily press meeting told Nuland that Morsi seems to be “basically saying, ‘Trust me; it’ll work out the good way.’ And this money and U.S. support would be contingent on that. At heart, do you trust him that it’ll come out the good way?”

Nuland repeated that his power grab raises “concerns” but the “very murky, uncertain period in terms of the legal and constitutional underpinnings… makes it all the more important that the process proceed on the basis of democratic dialogue and consultation.”

The dialogue so far is taking place through violence. Early Tuesday afternoon, protesters returned to Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of the demonstrations that led to the ouster of Mubarak.

Protesters clashed with police and threw Molotov cocktails and stones in anger against Morsi’s power grab.

His Muslim Brotherhood movement had planned to rally in Cairo on Tuesday in support of the president but later called off the event to avoid confrontation.