Kerry’s tightrope

Egypt stop highlights America’s difficulties Mideast nation


Secretary of State John Kerry’s stop in Egypt this week underscored America’s difficulties in that Mideast nation.

The Arab Spring of 2010 toppled President Hosni Mubarak and seemed to signal a new day for democracy in Egypt, a key U.S. ally. The election of Mohamed Morsi as president in 2012 complicated U.S.-Egyptian relations.

The elections were democratic, but Mr. Morsi was the candidate of the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood. Some Egyptians grew disaffected with what they called an excessively Islamic trend in the president’s policies. They included Egypt’s military, which he sought to bring under civilian authority.

The Egyptian military overthrew Mr. Morsi in July. Washington has reduced, but not cut off, military and other aid to Egypt, pretending that what occurred was not a coup, which under U.S. law would have required an end to aid.

U.S. allies in the region, notably Israel and Saudi Arabia, supported Mr. Mubarak. In Saudi Arabia this week, Mr. Kerry sought to calm rulers’ anger at the United States on several matters, including its initial support of Mr. Morsi’s election.

Mr. Kerry went to Egypt first to talk with its generals. He reportedly urged them to stick to what they call their road map back to democracy, including a new constitution and elections next spring.

The real point was the legitimacy he gave their rule. Eventually, President Obama will have to figure out what he really thinks about Mideast democracy.

In the meantime, the United States continues to try to have things both ways.