On Wednesday, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo ordered the evacuation of all personnel deemed nonessential. While the mood in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the anti-Morsi revolt, appeared largely jovial overnight, there were reports of clashes elsewhere in the country.
“We will begin departures immediately, with the expectation that all evacuees will have left for the States by this weekend,” embassy personnel were instructed in an e-mail.
Some U.S. lawmakers were quick to applaud the ouster of Morsi, a hard-line Islamist who has used vitriolic language against Jews and said that he, like many Egyptians, believes the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States were staged in order to justify invading Muslim countries.
“Morsi was an obstacle to the constitutional democracy most Egyptians wanted,” Rep. Edward R. Royce (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement. “I am hopeful that his departure will reopen the path to a better future for Egypt and I encourage the military and all political parties to cooperate in the peaceful establishment of democratic institutions and new elections that lead to an Egypt where minority rights are accepted.”
Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the military’s intervention.
“The Egyptian military understands the importance of maintaining peace and stability and I applaud their efforts to assist the people of Egypt during this interim transfer of power,” he said in a statement.
The move may threaten Egypt’s $1.5 billion yearly U.S. aid package, most of which is delivered in the form of military materiel.
Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who heads the panel that oversees foreign assistance, said he hoped the Egyptian military was sincere in its pledge to run the country only temporarily.
“In the meantime, U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree,” he said. “As the world’s oldest democracy, this is a time to reaffirm our commitment to the principle that transfers of power should be by the ballot, not by force of arms.”
Jessica T. Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the change of guard is all but certain to make it harder for the United States to make progress toward its policy goals in Egypt.
“If you have chaos, if you lose a sense of legitimacy in whatever government comes out of this, then almost everything becomes impossible,” she said. “Primarily, bolstering the economy, on which everything else depends.”