Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham urged members of Egypt’s military and the nation’s former leading political party, the Muslim Brotherhood, to negotiate in order to preserve Egypt’s fledgling democracy, during meetings in Cairo Tuesday.
“If Egypt fails and becomes a failed state–that is my worst nightmare,” Graham said Tuesday. “This is the heart and soul of the Arab world. There are many in my country who believe democracy is not possible in the Mideast. I disagree profoundly.”
Sent to Cairo at President Obama’s behest, the two Republican senators–both critics of the Obama administration’s foreign policy–met with interim President Adly Mansour, Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and interim Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy. The senators met separately with Muslim Brotherhood leadership.
The two sides have clashed since large-scale protests succeeded in overthrowing the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, just one year into his term. More than 200 Egyptians have died in protests and clashes since the revolution on July 3. Similar uprisings during the “Arab Spring” that proceeded Morsi’s election resulted in the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for three decades.
Both McCain and Graham maintained in the days leading up to their visit that the July 3rd protests that forced Morsi out of office constituted a “coup”–a distinction that would force the United States by law to withhold the more than $1.3 billion aid package destined for Egypt. The Egyptian military removed Morsi after thousands of Egyptians gathered in the streets, maintaining that they were carrying out the will of the people. Morsi and his aides in the Muslim Brotherhood have been held since the start of last month. The senators urged their release.
McCain and Graham seemed to soften their stance on the “coup” semantics (a distinction that the U.S. is not required by law to make) on the ground in Cairo.
“There are some in Congress who want to sever this relationship,” Graham said. “We want to maintain it because it is so important to our two nations.”