Events in Egypt are spiraling out of control. Security forces of the military-controlled interim government are cracking down violently on Muslim Brotherhood members and other supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
Disorder is reported not just in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, but across the country. By Thursday, 525 civilians and police officers were reported killed and 3,700 people were injured. The death toll is expected to climb much higher. The interim regime declared a month-long state of emergency, imposing martial law and suspending due process.
Two years of political upheaval formed the backdrop to the latest violence. In 2011, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown. Democratic elections were held in 2012 and Mr. Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood, won the presidency in what was considered a free and fair contest.
Subsequent discontent with his rule by former Mubarak supporters and other advocates of more-secular government provided the pretext for the Egyptian military to seize power last month.
The military, which ruled Egypt from 1952 until Mr. Morsi’s election, named a civilian as interim president, but invested real power since the July coup d’etat under the leadership of Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The military has declared a timetable for elections and a return to civilian rule, while Mr. Morsi remains under military detention.
The United States remains reluctant to call the military’s overthrow of President Morsi a coup, even though the interim government has named generals to 19 of the country’s 25 provincial governor positions. A coup declaration would mean that $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Egypt would have to be cut off.
That’s not likely to happen, because the money is used to pay U.S. companies that make tanks and planes for Egypt. On Thursday, President Obama canceled a planned military exercise with Egypt next month.
U.S. efforts to mediate among competing Egyptian elements have come to nothing. A threat to cut off the aid is probably insufficient to achieve movement, because neither the pro-Morsi Islamist faction nor the Egyptian military is eager to be seen yielding to U.S. or other international pressure.
In the meantime, damage to the Egyptian economy, particularly tourism, continues. For now, the rest of the world can only wait for Egyptians to see reason and stop killing each other.