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Egyptian Military Ousts President Morsy

Aired July 3, 2013 - 15:30   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Are they simply going to give up right now and walk away and say, never mind?

EDWARD DJEREJIAN, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS (via telephone): No. I think in your discussion with Fareed, the Muslim Brotherhood may react violently.

If you look at the television screens as they're being portrayed, the Muslim Brotherhood demonstrations are sullen. They are resentful. And the question is what action are they going to take? And that can lead to some violence in Egypt, which would be really a very negative development.

But you'll remember, remember 1992 when the Algerian military moved in to deny the Islamic Salvation Front from taking over in the parliamentary elections where they were sure to win, and they eliminated them?

And at the time it was considered to be a victory against Islamic takeover, very important Arab country, Algeria, big hydrocarbon producer.

We, at the time when I was assistant secretary to the Middle East bureau at the State Department, I made a public statement. I said, you know, while we are for one man, one vote, we are not for one man, one vote, one time.

We're very suspect of these Islamic radical parties that can come to power, but using the democratic process, but once in power, become exclusive and deny that very democratic process.

There's a parallel here with the Muslim Brotherhood, and I think what happens in Egypt, as you well know, is critical for the rest of the Arab world.

BLITZER: Because, as you know, Ambassador, Egypt is the largest of all of the Arab countries. What, 80 million or 90 million people there? It has been a close friend over the years with the United States.

The U.S. and the Egyptians, they have a very close military relationship, strategic relationship. It's been deteriorating in more recent years, especially over the past year, but it's been historically over the past 30 years very, very close.

And so many of these Egyptian generals, as you also well know, were actually received some training in the United States, so there is a good military-to-military relationship.

Ambassador, hold on for a moment because Ben Wedeman is right near the pro-Morsy demonstrations who are sullen, who are angry, and we're anxious to know, and I'm deeply concerned, Ben, to see how they're going to react, whether there will be violence in the face of this announcement from the Egyptian general.

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. The initial reaction was quite angry.

What was interesting was that the broadcast system here did broadcast live General Al-Sisi's statement this evening, but was quickly drowned out by boos and jeers.

And shortly after the speech was over there, we started to hear a chant from the crowd saying, "Down with military rule," and then they were chanting something which means "invalid." That, of course, is referring to the new rulers of Egypt.

Now, we are hearing reports that up the street from here, there is -- there has been the sound of gunfire. We don't know the source of that gunfire, but certainly what we've seen over the last few days was preparations for trouble.

We saw men training with sticks and shields, wearing motorcycle helmets. Now, they told us the reason for these preparations was for the possibility of anti-Morsy people coming to clash with them.

Certainly this, in a way, is a camp, a group of people who are prepared for trouble. There hasn't been a call yet for anybody to go out and confront the army, but certainly the mood here is very dark, very angry, and we're hearing also chants of something which means "victory or martyrdom."

BLITZER: That's pretty ominous. Do you signs of the Egyptian army, military personnel, near where you guys are right now?

WEDEMAN: No. From this vantage point, we're on the roof of a mosque overlooking the main stage, so the military is about 400 yards, 500 yards down this road here.

But we can't see it. But we're hearing it from people who are there.

BLITZER: Ben, stand by for a moment.

I want to bring back Fareed Zakaria. Fareed, the ambassador made an important point. That the Egyptian military, General Al-Sisi, made a point of surrounding himself with the leader of the El Azhar University. One of the major Muslim universities in Egypt, of course. The leader of the Copts, and Mohamed El Baradei. Seemingly wanting to give the Egyptian military some cover that this is not strictly a military coup. What do you make of this?

FAREED ZAKARIA, ANCHOR, "FAREED ZAKARIA GPS": I think he's exactly right, that they have tried to portray this as a kind of restoration of democracy. Look, there's a possibility that it succeeds. In a sense, there are two stories here, two historical parallels. There was a Turkish coup in which an Islamist party was ousted by the military, and the military said, you know, let's have a do-over. You guys went too far. We're not going to rule, but we're going to throw it back, have new elections. That worked out all right.

The Algerian case which Ed mentioned, where the military displaced what was -- what appeared to be the ruling -- the ruling majority which was Islamist, that unleashed ten years of violent civil war, hundreds of thousands of people dead, millions of peoples displaced.

So I very much hope what we end up with is something closer to the Turkish soft coup than the Algerian one, but all of it will depend on this central question that you've been pushing, getting at, Wolf, which is, how will the Muslim Brotherhood react?

Because what is different in this case from almost any other case is you have a very well organized political movement, the Brotherhood, that has been in existence for 80 years, that has been well organized for 30 or 40 years, that may have only about 25 or 30 percent of Egypt with it.

But that's pretty hardcore support, and that's the kind of support that goes out on the streets and stays out on the streets.

BLITZER: Fareed, stand by.

Reza Sayah is near the anti-Morsy demonstrators at Tahrir Square right now. Reza, this is a historic moment in Egypt right now. Could go in either direction. There could be a relatively smooth, quiet transfer of power, if you will. On the other hand, there could be some violence. So far what are you seeing?

REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this place is rocking, Wolf, tens of thousands of people here, maybe more, celebrating because their unlikely mission is accomplished.

They've been out for months pushing for the ouster of President Morsy. Just about an hour ago, word came that they'd reached their goal, President Morsy no longer the leader of this government.

And when it comes to the transition to the next government, this country has had one shot at it. It has had some practice. It obviously didn't work out.

But perhaps they've learned some lessons. Maybe the next transition will be a little smoother.

There's obviously a lot of talk about the reaction, the possibility of reaction from the Muslim Brotherhood. Will there be a backlash from the Muslim Brotherhood?

It's important to know the speech tonight delivered by Abdul Fatah Al- Sisi, he was flanked by a number of very conservative religious leader. They can certainly play a critical role in this, in easing the tension, in convincing the Islamists, the supporters of President Mohamed Morsy, now former President Mohamed Morsy, that what happened over the past few days was not necessarily an assault on Islam.

It was all aimed at and a result of what many describe as the incompetence of the Muslim Brotherhood's political leadership.

So certainly look for those religious leader who is, again, were sitting right next to the head of the armed forces, General Abdul Fatah Al-Sisi. Look for them to play a critical role in uniting this country, certainly moving forward a lot of unknown.

As we speak, let's see if we can tilt up, a lot of theatrics here put on by the military. Look at that military chopper being hit by laser pens.

And every time these choppers go by, the crowd just goes absolutely nuts.

BLITZER: It does look like a huge celebration there, Reza. It looks as I said sort of like New Year's Eve there.

This is one side. There's another side we saw with Ben Wedeman, the pro-Morsy elements in Egypt backed by the Muslim Brotherhood.

They are furious right now, deeply, deeply concerned about what has just happened, the removal of the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, the president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsy. He is now no longer the leader.

And Reza, you've been in Egypt now for a while. What happens? Are we going to see Mohamed Morsy?

Is he under -- effectively under house arrest? Is he going to be allowed to make a statement? Do we have any clue what happens to him now?

SAYAH: At this point, this is unclear, Wolf. But by any measure, this is a low point for the Muslim Brotherhood, a humiliating moment.

And consider their history. This is a movement that started decades ago. They were oppressed, sidelined, sometimes even tortured and killed, most recently by the Mubarak regime.

But they stayed organized. They persevered. They endured. All of the sudden after the revolution of 2011, they came to power. They won parliamentary elections.

All of a sudden they found one of their members, President Mohamed Morsy, as the leader of this country. This was their moment after decades of oppression.

But a shocking turn of events after one year in office. President Morsy ousted in what many will call a coup.

But these people down here will tell you don't call it a coup. This is the Egyptian Revolution, Part Two. And it's important to note that two-and-a-half years ago when the revolution happened and then the military took over and Mohamed Morsy took over, many people down here said it wasn't a revolution. Our job is not done. This was an uprising.

Now, we're going to wait to see if they're going to be satisfied with the next leadership coming in, if they will finally say, revolution has arrived.


BLITZER: Reza, stand by for a moment because these are critical moments in Egypt. The entire world is watching what's going on right now. There's so much at stake, Egypt being the largest of all of the Arab countries, 80 million or 90 million people who live there.

Jill Dougherty is at the State Department. Jill, we were just doing some research on what the Obama administration needs to decide now, Jill, because if the Obama administration decides that the democratically-elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsy, elected a year ago -- got 52 percent of the vote, the opposition got 48 percent of the vote -- if a democratically-elected president of Egypt has been removed by the Egyptian military in what has obviously been described as a coup, that would almost certainly, unless the U.S. decides to abandon some interpretation -- the law of the land, it would interpret the U.S. would need to at least for the time being suspend military and economic assistant to Egypt.

Is that your understanding of what the law in the United States is?

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The law from what we understand, Wolf, is that under normal circumstances, if there is a coup, they have to restrict the money, the aid that they give to any country.

However, they say when -- whether that restriction is triggered depends on the thorough analysis of the particular situation.

So, in other words, if they look at this as we're -- this is being explained to us, as they look at this, if there are different circumstances, if there is something else that they take into consideration, they do not necessarily have to end that aid. At least that is what we understand.

And, Wolf, you know, you have to -- if you've listened to what the State Department has been saying all along since this really began, they've been indicating that elections are not necessarily democracy.

In other words, he is -- they didn't say this directly, but he was elected. But he was not carrying out what some of the people wanted, and I would presume a lot of the people wanted, so that already, they were laying the ground for the fact that they don't necessarily, obviously, agree with the things that he didn't do. It was more what he didn't do.

Remember, the promises he made for economic reform. That was crucial. He at no time followed through when he promised Secretary Kerry that he would do that.

And, unfortunately, now you can see that they are paying the price with a lot of economic problems.

So the United States, although it says it isn't taking sides, it is very clear that they felt that Mohamed Morsy did not do what he really had to do.

BLITZER: And the military has put in place a new temporary leader until new elections take place in Egypt. We're just being told who that is.

It's the judge, Adly Mansour, one of the chief judges of the is supreme constitutional court of Egypt. Adly Mansourwill be the new leader of Egypt for the time being.

Let me go back to what the new U.S. law is. I'm going to read it to our viewers. I think this is significant on what would trigger a suspension of the $1.3 to $1.5 billion a year in U.S. military aid and $250 million to $350 million a year in non-military aid to Egypt from U.S. taxpayers.

Section 7008 of the 2012 Appropriations Act as carried forward under the continuing resolution that was passed -- it's a little bureaucrat- ese in Washington -- it restricts certain assistant to the government of any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree or a coup or decree in which the military plays a decisive role. That words seem to be pretty clear.

If the military plays a decisive role, and clearly in this particular case the military played what is arguably a very decisive role, the U.S. would need presumably to suspend military and economic assistance to Egypt.

But you also point out there may be a loophole. There may be a legal interpretation that the Obama administration can put forward that would not necessarily trigger that kind of suspension. We'll soon find out.

Jill, just to be precise, there's been no definitive word from the State Department yet on their interpretation of whether or not this was a coup.

DOUGHERTY: Right. They have not at least in the past couple of minutes said whether this is technically a coup.

And then, of course, even if it is, they do have that clause that you were looking at, Wolf. Whether or not they have that restriction depends on their analysis of the particular situation.

And, Wolf, another factor that's very important is the security of Americans who are there. You do know, and we've been reporting, that the embassy is closed today. It will be closed tomorrow. It's the Fourth of July. They were going to be closed over the weekend.

But they are making sure and they have been watching this very carefully, remember in light of what happened in Benghazi around that time, you know, a year ago, when there was a very sad situation in Benghazi with the ambassador killed.

They do not want any type of repetition of anything. They feel, of course, it's a very different country from Libya, so there is a lot more protection, a lot more support. They're watching it very carefully.

They've warned Americans, and, unfortunately, one young American was stabbed a few days ago, but they've warned Americans to stay away from any demonstrations.

And you can bet that that is -- they're watching very carefully to make sure that Americans will try to stay out of the way.

And the ambassador, by the way, is there, and there are staff in the embassy. It's just closed for the public.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a moment because we are now getting some tweets from the now former president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsy. I'm going to read some of them to our viewers.

This one you can see over there. President Morsy urges everyone to adhere to peacefulness and avoid shedding flood of fellow countryman. President Morsy urges civilian and military members to uphold the law and the constitution, not to accept that coup which turns Egypt backwards.

Another tweet, President Morsy armed force's announcement is rejected by all three men who struggled for a civil democratic Egypt.

Mona Eltahawy is joining us. You've been watching Egypt for a long time. Give us your immediate reaction to what we have just seen over the past 30 minutes.

MONA ELTAHAWY, EGYPTIAN COMMENTATOR: My immediate reaction is I'm happy to see Mohamed Morsy go.

Even though he was democratically elected, he alienated and marginalized his opposition, grabbed tremendous powers for himself.

I'm very, very wary of the military's rule. Egypt has been under military rule for 60 years. We fought hard to end the military rule after Mubarak stepped down.

We must focus really, really hard in Egypt. My main concern is that Egyptians do not kill Egyptians, so no bloodshed, and an immediate and as soon as possible transition to civilian power because those millions of people who marched against Morsy over the past few days, those same millions will march against the generals with Al-Sisi at the head to tell them we want a free Egypt, not a military-led Egypt.

BLITZER: A lot of Americans are looking at this, Mona, as you well know, and they're saying, look, the guy, Morsy, he was Democratically elected. If you don't like his policies, you have new elections, if you will, but you don't let the military call the shots and say he's gone even though there are some significant demonstrations on the street.

I guess that's the way a lot of people will say this is a conundrum. How does the U.S. react to what has just happened?

ELTAHAWY: Especially since last November, Morsy assumed tremendous powers for himself, to rush through a constitution that only strengthened two groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and the military.

So, ironically enough now, the same military that told Morsy he's no longer president, they were strengthened by the constitution that many of us, who do not belong to the Brotherhood, did not like.

Morsy spent the last year consolidating his and the Brotherhood's power, intimidating and alienating opponents. There were more cases of insulting the president than under 30 years of Mubarak.

People didn't suddenly wake up on Sunday and say let's get rid of a democratically elected leader.

I would also remind Americans more people voted against him in the last few days than voted for him. He's made it impossible for us to have institutions to oppose him, so the only avenue was the street.

The ideal scenario for me is to keep the military out of this, and as I said, the military is put on notice that those millions who marched will march against them, too. We want a free Egypt, not a militarily- led Egypt.

BLITZER: Mona, stand by for a moment. I want to bring in Candy Crowley.

I know you spent time with General Dempsey today for an interview that's scheduled to air Sunday on "State of the Union." You spoke about Egypt. We also know that General Dempsey has been in touch with the head of the Egyptian military.

Share with our viewers what he told you today.

CANDY CROWLEY, ANCHOR, "STATE OF THE UNION": A couple things. First, Wolf, we had this conversation before we knew that Morsy was out.

There were demonstrations on the street, about a half hour before that first word came that the military had told Morsy he was no longer president. That's when this took place, just to put that out there for perspective.

I asked him about military to military contact. He said he thinks that they were -- that they are stronger than they have been over the past 10 years.

He said that most of his conversation with the Egyptian military in recent days has been about the safety of Americans. He said there are about several hundred Americans in Egypt working there. He talked about the 60,000 or so that hold dual passports, American and Egyptian.

He said, I wanted their word that they would keep them safe and, in fact, they would keep safe all the people of Egypt.

He also talked about -- we talked about a democracy and these folks want to throw out a guy that was elected.

He said, again, talking about a close enough relationship with the military, he listened to their concerns, but he said, you know, at the end of the day it's their country and they will find their way, but there will be consequences if it is badly handled. I mean, there are laws that bind us on how we deal with these kinds of situations.

I asked him to explain action and he said, for instance, if this were to be seed as a coup -- very carefully worded -- if this were seen as a coup, it would limit our ability to have the relationship we need with the Egyptian forces.

I asked him what was made of all this, and he said, look, democracy takes a long time to stick. So, again, carefully worded, and said before we knew Morsy was out.

BLITZER: Yes, if in fact the U.S. determines this was a coup, then there would be significant ramifications on that U.S./Egyptian military-to-military relationship and the extensive aid, $1.3 to $1.5 billion a year in military aid and also economic aid to Egypt, all sorts of programs could be endangered if the president of the United States and the secretary of state and the defense secretary, they conclude that this was a military coupe, who knows what the ramifications could be.

Candy, thanks very much for that report. I want to go back to Tahrir Square. They're celebrating. They're hugely optimistic right now, Reza. I want the pictures to speak for themselves.

SAYAH: It's remarkable, the perseverance of these demonstrators. One of the outcomes from the revolution is Egyptians learned how to demonstrate and speak out. You've seen that over the past two-and-a- half years. You're seeing it tonight.

What is remarkable is this campaign that started months ago, a campaign to push President Morsy out, it started back in November, only five months after he took office, after he delivered the controversial constitutional decrees. That's when we initially heard the first calls for him to be removed.

That initial campaign petered out. It died down. Three months ago something called the "rebel campaign," with a petition drive, calling for new elections, calling for President Morsy's ouster, that petition drive, according to organizers managed to collect 22 million signatures, roughly 9 more million signatures than President Morsy won votes last year when he won the presidency.

And the campaign's message was clear -- Mr. Morsy, more Egyptians want you out than they want you in.

And what this three-month campaign did, it created a groundswell of support for opponents of President Morsy and a groundswell of rage against Mr. Morsy.

On top of that, you had this country's economic woes, the power cuts, energy shortages, and it culminated on Sunday, the anniversary of President Morsy's presidency, with the mass protests, not just here, but all over the country.

Millions of people demanded President Morsy to step aside. A day later, in came the armed forces with the ultimatum, and today President Morsy is gone, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much for that. I want to bring in -- Reza Sayah is joining us there.

But right now we have a retired Egyptian general who's joining us, who's there at the demonstration.

General Sameh Seif El Yazal, I hope I didn't badly, too badly mispronounce your name, General, but give us your sense of what's happening in Egypt right now?

GENERAL SAMEH SEIF EL YAZAL, FORMER EGYPTIAN GENERAL (via telephone): Well, actually I'm in the middle of the demonstrations. People are saluting me now, people are very happy, and I'm next to Tahrir Square, and I cannot really tell you -- people are waving to me with Egyptian flags. People are very, very happy.

Now can you just repeat the question again because ...

BLITZER: I know you're very excited, and millions of Egyptians are just as equally excited that Morsy is no longer the president of Egypt.

The opposition, though, the Muslim Brotherhood especially, they are calling this a coup, a military coup.

How do you describe it?

EL YAZAL (via telephone): That's actually what they want to tell the international community. It's a military coup.

It's not a military coup at all, military coup meaning that the army would rule the country, the army is going to control everything, and is going to be on top of everything.

This is not what we are having now in Egypt. Now we have in Egypt, what we have here is the military, or the Egyptian armed forces supported the will of Egyptians.

Thirty-three million people in the streets of Egypt since more than four days ago, they have only one word, that early presidential elections, which is a very fair and democratic way of saying it. They didn't actually ask the army to put him in jail, or to do anything, nothing like that. So the point is it is the largest ever in the Muslim history of any kind of demonstration in any country.

So now the army supported the will of the Egyptians. It is not a military coup at all.

BLITZER: So where do you see -- what do you see happening in the short term? How long will it take, do you believe, for new elections to take place?

EL YAZAL (via telephone): I think the entire period between -- is going to be between nine-to-12 months. The head of the constitution board will be the head of the country.

Of course, we're going to have a new cabinet, a new (inaudible) cabinet. I believe what we have now is 32 ministers. I'm sure that it's going to be not more than between 17 and 20 ministers only for the transitional period.

And during that period, we're going to have a new constitution, new parliamentary elections held, and then we're going to have the election for the new parliament as well as the election for the new president.

And I believe the entire thing will take between nine-to-12 months. I think that's the intention now.

BLITZER: General, thank you so much for joining us. I know you're celebrating, I know millions of Egyptians are celebrating, but on the other hand there are a lot of Egyptians who are deeply, deeply frustrated and angry right now over what has just been announced in the past few hours in Egypt. The Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy is no longer the president.

I'll be back with our coverage one hour from now in "The Situation Room."

Jake Tapper picks up our coverage in "The Lead" right now.