Washington and Cairo need a “reset” button

For the past month, the Egyptian government has prevented a group of American citizens — one of whom is the son of a member of President Obama’s Cabinet — from leaving the country.

Their involvement in pro-democracy organizations has led to the government’s action. The Obama administration has voiced its displeasure at what is taking place. But so far it has done nothing official.

Now at least three people who work for those same groups have sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. Reuters explains why that’s important and unusual.

The unusual step of offering ordinary U.S. citizens diplomatic refuge follows a crackdown by Egypt’s military-led authorities on non-governmental organizations which has thrown a question mark over the future of U.S. aid to Egypt’s military, now running at about $1.3 billion per year.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said a “handful” of U.S. NGO staff had sought and been granted permission to remain on embassy grounds after they were barred from leaving the country.

“They’re in the embassy because they feel that they are more comfortable there in this circumstance,” Nuland told reporters.

Two people who were not comfortable were the leaders of the Egyptian lobby in Washington. The Christian Science Monitor discusses what they have done.

How badly are Egypt’s military rulers handling the relationship with the US? This badly: The lobbyists representing Egypt’s interests in DC, led by former Representatives Robert Livingston (R) of Louisiana and Toby Moffet (D) of Connecticut, dropped their $90,000 a month contract a few days ago. The two former Congressmen had stuck with Egypt as Mubarak refused to step down last January, as the military killed and jailed protesters throughout the course of last year, and even defended the December NGO raids. But the direct targeting of the Americans, most with ties to the DC establishment, was a bridge too far.

Let’s not forget that just one year ago the Egyptian people overthrew Hosni Mubarak and his multi-decade reign of terror. To have this kind of “leadership” be the result of their efforts is sad.

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