By William Tucker
In a preplanned protest, members of the more radical factions of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood scaled the walls of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The protesters removed the U.S. flag and returned to the outside of the compound. Because the protest was advertised in advance, most embassy employees were sent home beforehand. Embassy guards did fire warning volleys into the air to disperse the protesters that scaled the wall. According to reports, only 20 of the 2000 plus protesters participated in the breach. Although the breach of the compound walls was a short lived event, it was still an assault on sovereign U.S. soil. Considering the domestic political environments in the U.S. and Egypt, this event will play more to local crowds rather than complicating relations between the two nations.
Although the White House was slow to support the protests that ultimately led to the military coup that ousted former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, the administration would support the political transition that led to the current government of president Mohamed Mursi. Despite concerns over Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood roots, the new president has maintained a rather pragmatic foreign policy. In response, the U.S. is still planning on delivering some much needed aid to Egypt. The challenge’s remain, of course, although both Washington and Cairo have a need to maintain amicable ties. This recent event, however, will likely pressure the relationship, but more in the vein of domestic political jockeying. The U.S. is well underway in its next election cycle, while Mursi is still consolidating power within his party and amongst the still strong Egyptian military. In other words, both the U.S. administration and Mursi are going to move quickly to put this event in the background.