Egypt’s weak president poses no problem — yet — for the U.S.

Tony Karon writes: If Mohammed Morsi were really going to be the president of Egypt, Barack Obama’s administration might be a tad more alarmed than it actually is over the changes in Cairo.

The cruel truth, however, is that while the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) will allow Mr Morsi the title and symbolic accoutrements of the presidency, the executive powers of that office have been usurped by the generals.

Mr Morsi will have no control of the budget, foreign policy, the armed forces, defence matters or national security. Not only has the junta claimed those powers for itself, it has also dissolved the democratically elected parliament and, effectively, the assembly tasked with writing a new constitution, claiming their powers.

The generals could opt to curtail Mr Morsi’s term once a new constitution has been tabled, while their allies in the judiciary might even pull the rug out from under him by reviving the old regime’s ban on the Muslim Brotherhood. In any case, Mr Morsi’s authority will be largely restricted to domestic matters, such as the economy, education and social policy – the subjects usually overseen, in a presidential system, by a prime minister.

The Obama administration publicly presses the generals to hand power to elected civilians, but that may be a largely pro-forma objection to the arrangements put in place by Scaf. Consider, after all, that the US response to the uprising that saw Hosni Mubarak forced out in February 2011 was to back a transfer of authority to General Omar Suleiman, the intelligence chief. What they have with Scaf is not that different, at least not on core US concerns: that Egypt maintain the Camp David peace deal with Israel, and that it support, or at least not obstruct, US regional policy. [Continue reading…]

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