The U.S. government has decided to change its initial pick for U.S. ambassador to Egypt after the country’s military-backed government signaled the pick would not be welcomed.
In an exclusive report published on Monday, Foreign Policy’s The Cable said the White House has decided to keep Robert Ford in his current position as the U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Syria because Egyptian authorities indicated they did not want him as the US envoy to Cairo over his ties to militants fighting against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“He’s absolutely the wrong person for this job, at least right now,” an unnamed Arab diplomat familiar with the case told The Cable.
White House officials confirmed that Ford was not welcomed by Egyptian officials but also said the diplomat’s ties to Syrian militants were so important for Washington that it will keep him in the Arab country.
Ford was supposed to build closer ties with Egypt’s army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who ousted former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the country’s first democratically-elected head of state, on July 3.
The Obama administration refused to call the military-led ouster of Morsi a coup because such acknowledgement would trigger an automatic congressional ban on the U.S. aid to the Egyptian military.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the Egypt Assistance Reform Act which facilitates the provision of aid to countries ruled by post-coup military governments, giving the administration the power to determine when a democratically-elected government has been removed by force.
Powerful bombing kills 12 at police station
Meanwhile, a powerful explosion believed to be caused by a car bomb ripped through a police headquarters in a Nile Delta city north of Cairo early on Tuesday, killing 12 people and wounding more than 100, leaving scores buried under the rubble.
The country's interim government accused the Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the attack, branding it a "terrorist organization."
It was the first major bombing in the Nile Delta, spreading the carnage that has marked Egypt's turmoil over the past months to a new area and bringing it closer to Cairo. Previous deadly violence has mostly taken place in the volatile Sinai Peninsula and in Suez Canal-area cities east of the Egyptian capital.
The 1:10 a.m. blast struck at the security headquarters in the city of Mansoura, 110 kilometers (70 miles) north of Cairo in the Nile Delta province of Daqahliya, collapsing an entire section and side wall of the five-floor building, incinerating dozens of cars outside and damaging several nearby buildings.
The state news agency MENA said 12 people were killed, including eight police officers, and that 134 were wounded, among them the city's security chief and his assistant. Most of the victims were policemen, many of whom were buried beneath the debris.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, which came a day after an al-Qaida-inspired group called on police and army personnel to desert or face death at the hands of its fighters.
The militant group based in Sinai and several others have claimed responsibility for a surge of attacks on security forces since a coup in July toppled the country's former Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood.
The Mansoura attack came shortly after the Islamic militant group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, threatened more attacks on the military and police, saying it considers Egyptian troops to be infidels because they answer to the secular-leaning military-backed government.
The group - which gained notoriety after expanding its operations outside of the restive northern Sinai province - has claimed responsibility for a number of suicide car bombings and deadly attacks, including a failed assassination attempt on Egypt's Interior Minister in September. The minister escaped unharmed.
In its message, which appeared on militant websites Monday, the group said it "will be more determined to fight" the military and police if its warning is ignored. It urged them to "repent" from participating in "this infidel bastion that is at war with God and his Prophet, and stop serving in its ranks."
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader