Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy currently faces widespread disapproval from both Egyptian citizens and the international community after declaring immunity from any judicial checks and balances while the country’s new constitution is being drafted. Morsy made the move, which may grant him unlimited power, just one day after helping to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas following eight days of air strikes and rocket-fire along the Gaza Strip last week.
He will meet today with Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, where he'll address criticisms and protests to the new expansion of his powers. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State under Bill Clinton Jamie Rubin comes to “Starting Point” to discuss the Egyptian leader’s undemocratic power grab. Rubin is current Counselor to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Tim Roemer, foreign policy advisor for the Obama campaign, weighs in on the American politics of the unrest in the Middle East, arguing that unlike Mitt Romney, President Barack Obama did not make the violent protests political.
Roemer also responds to criticism of the president's statement that Egypt is not a U.S. ally, explaining that he thinks that Obama "was feeling some frustration...given the tragic loss of our ambassador and our other three American family members."
Regarding Romney's approach to the unrest in the Middle East, Roemer says,“Governor Romney has made a score of mistakes in his foreign policy. I think he wants to harken back to the playbook during the Bush years of everything can be solved by intervention of our military.”
On Starting Point today, Jamie Rubin, former U.S. assistant Secretary of State, and Robin Wright, a Middle East analyst at the Woodrow Wilson Center, weigh in on the violent protests that have occurred in Egypt and explain what the protests might signal for the future of the nation.
“On the streets in Egypt – you’re seeing in a sense – the first wave of protests was democracy, the second wave of protests is Islamic extremism. And it’s those two forces that will determine how they interact, how they develop, who wins,” Rubin says. “The battles of the politics of extremism inside Egypt will determine for us whether Egypt ends up a success story or not. But, so far they seem to be moving in the right direction.”
Wright adds that the big question for Egypt is how the Muslim Brotherhood responds to the protests.
“So far, I think the thing that’s striking is the numbers that have turned out in the streets are still comparatively small. This is a stark contrast to tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands — in some countries millions of people – who actually put their lives on the line to challenge autocrats,” Wright explains. “That means that the majority of people have actually signaled that they want no part in this kind of demonstration [and] that they’re looking for a different kind of era – the post-revolutionary phase.”
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, weighs in on the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Libya and on the unrest in Egypt.
“I was glad to hear President [Mohamed] Morsy condemned these attacks,” McCain says of the Egyptian president’s response to the protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. But, McCain adds that the U.S. should be able to demand certain responsibilities from the Egyptian government.
“They have a pretty big army and they could have protected our embassy,” the Republican senator adds. “It’s understandable why colleagues and friends of mine and Americans are very upset. But, I also would like to point out again that Egypt is critical and we have to be very careful and measured in our response.”
The Arizona senator also argues that the U.S. needs to continue to offer support to Libya. “They need our assistance, not our money,” he says. “Yes we are [helping them]. We need to train their police and military, but again it’s not expenditure of American tax dollars, it’s providing the kind of assistance that any country that is forming up after being the subject of a brutal dictatorship for so many years.”
McCain also addresses the controversy over GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney's statement on Libya, which has received criticism for its timing.
"The tick-tock back and forth is something, frankly, I didn't pay attention to, but I do know this, that Americans are outraged when our embassy is attacked and the Egyptian government does not take the proper measures to protect it," McCain says.
When pressed on the point, McCain jokes, "the one thing I don't do, because I'm the loser...is advise people. You don't want a loser to advise."
U.S. President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he directed his administration to increase embassy security around the world after the attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three staffers.
The death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and the staffers came amid protests at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Demonstrators also attacked the U.S. embassy in Cairo where they tore down the U.S. flag. Protesters in both countries were apparently angry about an online film considered offensive to Islam.
Fmr. Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke says the two protests seemed planned. “It seems like such a coincidence that these two protests that were going on in two different places happened at the same time,” says Clarke. “It happened on 9/11. To me it sounds like there was more planning then just a random mob.”
Clarke, who served through three presidential administrations went on to add “it is very very important for our government, for our senior officials to be making strong statements condemning the violence… encouraging, urging the Egyptian government, the Libyan government to get to the bottom of this and make sure the people who did this are brought to justice.”
On the topic of where the U.S. is on foreign policy in the region Clarke says she does not know “what it is we’re trying to accomplish.” “I hear that we’re trying to help them set up democratic forms of government great. How are we doing that? I hear that there’s a bit of… maybe there are plenty of things going on on the ground and things going on behind the scenes but I think we need and very very strong and clear discussion of what we’re trying to accomplish. And maybe then we can better access how we’re doing,” concludes Clarke.
CNN is following the story of attacks on U.S. Embassies in Benghazi, Libya and Cairo, Egypt from all angles this morning. A rocket attack borne out of anti-American sentiment took the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other members of the U.S. Consulate in Libya. Protesters scaled the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and tore up the American flag. The outrage is stemming from an amateur online film produced in America that’s offended millions of Muslims. Fmr. Assistant Secretary of State Jamie Rubin joins Brooke Baldwin on “Starting Point” this morning to discuss the political implications of the attacks.
Baldwin mentions the issue discussed last year over who would fill the vacuum in countries of dictators ousted during the Arab Spring, either Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, or Hosni Mubarak in Egypt. Those dictators had kept the radicals in their respective countries under control, “and now that they are gone, here they are,” Baldwin says about the radicals. “That was the argument that was given, and is still given to some degree, by some of the monarchies in the Persian Gulf, the Saudis, the Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates. They say, ‘Look if you didn’t have us, you would have either chaos, you would have Islamic extremism,’” Rubin says. “What we’re seeing is that some of the things that they worried about were true, but some are not true.”
Rubin points out Egypt’s democratically elected President Mohamed Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood. “He has been relatively calm, relatively measured. He condemned the Iranian president recently.” Morsi has yet to speak out on last night’s protests in Cairo, however. “We’re waiting to see what he’s going to do about Egypt now,” Rubin says. “And I think that will be a big test of how he sees his country’s responsibilities to protect foreign embassies.”
“The place where the Mubarak and Gadhafi and the other dictators’ arguments were correct is they had a terribly effective secret police,” Rubin says. “There was a degree of control of these areas that allowed for some quote “security” that had its benefits, and we’re losing some of that.” Rubin says the situation in Libya is particularly tragic, because not enough has been done to help them develop “the institutions and the support to develop real security” after they won their freedom.
Baldwin finally asks Rubin about a possible post-al-Assad Syria in comparison to Libya and Egypt. Rubin says Syria is “even more difficult, because the ethnic tensions between the Sunni, Alawite and others are very, very strong in Syria,” he says. “The failure to stop this war early, and with each month that passes, that risk of real civil war in Syria, where you have neighborhood by neighborhood, block by block, going on for many, many years may happen.” While there currently is a civil war, Rubin says it may reach the next level and resemble the decade-long war in Beirut, Lebanon. “And I think we’re all hoping that doesn’t happen in Syria.”
This morning on "Starting Point," Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) weighs in on the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens and the wave of violence in Libya and Egypt.
"There's no question that this is a tragic situation. Our hearts go out to the families involved here," Rep. Forbes says. "We need to take the time to pause, get all the facts, and examine our policies and look at them and see if there's anything different we need to be doing."
CNN's John Berman asks Rep. Forbes about a statement released by the Romney campaign before the violence started in Libya, which condemned attacks in Libya and called out the Obama administration for not condemning the attacks.
"Well, John, I think one of the things that you're not suggesting is that Mitt Romney could somehow see into the future and predict this," Rep Forbes says. "I think what Mitt Romney was doing is recognizing that, you know, this is an administration whose foreign policy certainly is collapsing in many parts around the world," Rep. Forbes adds. "And to simply attack the Romney campaign for a single statement but not examine the foreign policy flaws of this administration had doesn't seem correct for me to do."
"I just think though at some particular point in time, after today, after tomorrow, after we've assessed these facts, we need to examine our foreign policy and ask if we're making the right decisions in the Middle East. And I think in many situations we're not," he says.
CNN contributor Fran Townsend weighs in on the death of American ambassador Chris Stevens in Libya following attacks Tuesday on the U.S. consulate in Libya and the embassy in Egypt.
“Chris Stevens had a particular sort of affinity for Benghazi,” says Townsend, the former Homeland Security advisor to the Bush administration. “At the height of the fighting, he was with the rebels in Benghazi before there was sort of an official consulate, an establishment there, and that’s prior of course to being appointed ambassador. He knew Benghazi. He knew the rebels in Benghazi. He felt very comfortable there. This is a guy who was a real professional who rolled his sleeves up. He wanted to help the Libyans get the freedom that they had fought for and so it’s an extraordinary loss not only for the state department, and obviously Chris’ family, it’s a loss to the country.”
Townsend adds that the international community has turned its attention away from Libya and that there needs to be a commitment to developing institutions and establishments in the country. “Libya has been in a very fragile security situation and really needs the attention and support of the international community,” she says. “Unfortunately, it will now get the attention it needed before this tragedy, it will get it now because of this.”
This morning on "Starting Point," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich suggests there may be a connection between the US compound attacks in Egypt and Libya.
"You don’t get, simultaneously, attacks in Benghazi and Cairo, in Libya and Egypt on a purely local basis," he says. "And you don’t get them on 9/11, a day we’re already honoring terrorist attacks against the United States, without a fair amount of collusion and a fair amount of planning. I think you have to look at this in a larger context…. There’s a substantial faction, particularly in Benghazi, which was sending people to Iraq to kill Americans. There’s a substantial faction in Egypt which wants to defeat the United States and destroy Israel. That faction looks for opportunities to do things to hurt the United States and yesterday was the example of an attack that’s part of a very long war that we’re going to be at for a very long time.”
CNN Anchor John Berman presses Gingrich if he has proof of a connection between demonstrations and attacks in Egypt and Libya. Gingrich admits that though he has not seen internal documents, he argues that anyone who studies terrorism would agree there had to be a connection.
"Anybody who’s ever studied terrorism will tell you, there’s almost certainly a link," he adds. "This is a lot like the Danish cartoon outrage a few years ago. We are faced with enemies who want to defeat the United States and impose their radical views. How can the US government apologize for a film no one has seen, which is what the Embassy in Cairo did yesterday. It’s not just about an event in Libya. It’s about a longer war, part of which we were being reminded of yesterday on 9/11.”
Gingrich also addresses GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement Tuesday that says President Obama sympathizes with attackers before condemning the events.
Barbara Starr reports on US Marine reinforcements moving to Tripoli after the US Ambassador to Libya was killed.