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Tag Archives: Egypt

North Korea Figures Out That America’s Leaders are Weak on Hostages

North Korea has just taken a fourth American hostage because Kim Jong-Un has figured out that taking hostage is a very effective way to get U.S. leaders to do what you want. Including the man you would think would be the last person susceptible to this kind of monkey business, President Trump.

Note I say U.S. leaders. I’m not convinced average Americans believe we should be trading for hostages because I believe average Americans understand that this only gets you more hostages. You don’t have to give a dog a positive reward many times before they learn a trick, and bad guys overseas fully understand they can get a treat if they take a hostage.

But American leaders let themselves get close to the families of those being held, becoming all emotionally caught up in the cases and forgetting that trading for hostages harms national security — and future hostages.

This kind of stuff goes way back and edges across Party lines. Barack Obama was perhaps the champion hostage trader, infamously giving up five Taliban Extremely Bad Guys for a single U.S. Army deserter, Bowe Bergdahl and shipping $400 million in cash over to Iran to secure the release of Americans held by the ayatollahs.

But this is not just something liberals do. Even Ronald Reagan traded arms for hostages in the Iran-Contra scandal.

Trump is off to an early start with this sort of thing, and I’m willing to bet it’s no coincidence that Kim’s hostage-taking spree began soon after Trump secured the freedom of an American woman who had been jailed Egypt.

Last month, Trump arranged for Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American, and her Egyptian husband to be released from their Egyptian prison. The two were doing humanitarian work for street kids in Egypt when they were seized in 2014. Their imprisonment was widely held to be unjust and unwarranted.

The administration claims that Egypt was offered nothing to Egypt in return for Hijazi’s release, but that’s not exactly true. Her freedom was secured after Trump lavished praise on Egyptian President al-Sissi during his trip to the White House, signaling the United States was all done with criticizing his human rights record, while Trump specifically asked for her release. Who knows if it’s true that nothing else was given?

The problem here is that Trump made a big deal of the release and drew attention to it, ensuring that our adversaries will assume al-Sissi got something for his hostage. Hijazi was released following meetings in Egypt between al-Sissi, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell. Trump also sent his senior military aide to get her and had Powell accompany her home too.

All of this high-level involvement signaled the importance to the United States of getting this person out of Egypt. That the release occurred after two of Trump’s top aides met with al-Sissi certainly must have suggested a deal to outsiders, even if there was none.

The group got back to the United States on April 20. On April 21, Trump made a spectacle of things by inviting Hijazi to the White House for an Oval Office photo op that included his daughter Ivanka.

Kim Sang-duk, an American citizen, was seized just two days after this dog and pony show at which Trump, frankly, looked a little uncomfortable. Maybe in his gut he sensed this was not a good idea. Another American, Kim Hak-Song, was taken by the North Koreans May 6.

What Kim Jong-Un no doubt saw was a brutal dictator with an egregious human rights record getting the red-carpet treatment at the White House and then returning an American to U.S. soil. That’s a very bad example to set.

We should always try to get our people out of countries where they have been unjustly imprisoned or taken hostageKim Jong-Un. But if the effort influences our treatment of their leaders or if we even appear to be giving them anything for it, we are making a big mistake, a mistake we have been making without ever learning it’s a mistake. But our enemies learn very quickly.

Psaki: Two Hypocrisies in One!


State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki came armed to a briefing this week with a most pathetic dodge to a question that must have been expected about Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak having his charges dropped. More opacity from the openness administration.

Meanwhile, as one reporter notes, the democratically elected leader, Mohamed Morsi, rots in jail.

Now, I’m certainly not advocating releasing Morsi, a man who would immediately go to work stirring Islamist revolution. What I will note is the double hypocrisy this response reveals about the Obama administration.

It runs around proclaiming itself transparent, and is nothing of the sort. And it lectures other countries on democracy and freedom, while refusing to back up its words with even the slightest condemnation of Mubarak’s get-out-of-jail-free card.

Even Psaki, as you’ll hear, was ashamed of the response.

Obama to Make Statement on Egypt

This just in: Obama will interrupt his vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to make a statement on Egypt at 10:15 am ET.

The move comes as questions began to be raised – including by White House Dossier – about why Obama was continuing with his vacation as if nothing was happening while hundreds were dying in Egypt.

Obama Vacation Unaffected by Violence in Egypt

UPDATE: Soon after this article was published, the White House announced that Obama would make a statement on the situation in Egypt.


The massive bloodshed in Egypt caused barely a ripple in President Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation Wednesday, as the president took to the fairways, attended a private cocktail party at the home of a major Democratic donor, and went out for an expensive dinner at an upscale restaurant.

The death toll in the latest crackdown by the Egyptian military now stands at more than 500.

As Secretary of State John Kerry was burning up phone lines to his counterparts in Europe and the Middle East and calling the situation in Egypt “a pivotal moment,” Obama was in the midst of more than five hours of golf at the lovely Vineyard Golf Club.

After cocktails at the estate of Brian Roberts, the chairman and CEO of Comcast – which owns the pro-Obama MSNBC – Obama got down to the business of dinner at the State Road Restaurant, where main courses are priced at around $40.

Instead of personally calling for calm, Obama dispatched Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest to decree that the United States “strongly condemns the use of violence against protestors in Egypt” and extends its “condolences to the families of those who have been killed and to the injured.”

Obama, Earnest said, was “briefed” on the violence and “has asked to be regularly updated as events warrant.”

Obama Skirts the Law Again, Won’t Say Egypt had a Coup

The Obama administration has chosen yet again to flout a law it finds inconvenient, deciding not to make a determination about whether Egypt’s military came to power through a coup, a designation that would force the United States to cut off $1.5 billion in annual aid.

Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked today for an update on whether the White House has decided that a coup is a coup:

There are certain legal obligations that go with the designation of a coup.  And it has been determined by senior foreign policy officials in this administration to not make a determination, but rather to engage in a dialogue with the interim government of Egypt and encourage them to follow through on their promises to promptly transition to a democratically elected, civilian government . . .

We have determined that it is not in the best interest of the United States to make that determination.  But as we’ve also said throughout that process, we are on a regular basis reviewing the aid that is provided by the United States to Egypt, and we’ll continue to do that.

I get that it’s inconvenient and possibly bad policy, but so are lots of laws. Some women, for example, may want to strap an underwear bomb onto their ex-husbands – or even, perhaps, their current husbands – and set it off from a distance, and this may in some cases be a good idea. But it’s also against the law.

And according to the nonpartisan Middle East Institute, the law on coups is unambiguous:

Section 508 of the (Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) prohibits appropriated funds from being “obligated or expended to finance directly any assistance” to a state where a head of government has been removed by military coup or decree.[7] In contrast to other restrictions contained in the FAA,[8] provisions governing the United States’ response to a military coup do not allow for a presidential waiver that would permit the administration to sidestep, without Congressional authorization, the prohibition on continuing assistance.[9] That said, termination of assistance is not final under Section 508. The law provides that financial assistance may resume or continue if the president reports to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations that a democratically elected government has assumed office.[10] Thus, either the country returns to democratic rule or remains ineligible for U.S. assistance.[11]

In fact, the intent of Congress more recently has been to strengthen, not weaken this provision:

Recently, Congress strengthened Section 508 with a reinforcement clause that imposes an additional factor for Congress to consider in determining whether to withhold aid. Specifically, the United States may not disburse any assistance to the government of any country whose elected leader is removed by a “military coup d’etat or decree in which the military plays a decisive role.”[12]

Congress appropriates the $1.5 billion, not Obama. Obama should at least obtain some kind of permission from lawmakers to supersede this law.

And my understanding is that those who think the Egyptian military did not stage a coup also happen to be convinced that the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot are honeymooning in the Oregon woods.

Like many leftists before him, Obama is discovering that governing in a democracy is highly inconvenient. How far he will take his imperious unilateralism remains to be seen.

He might be able to take it quite far. After all, while the executive branch, the like legislature and Congress,  is supposedly constrained by the law, unlike the other two branches, it also is the one that enforces the law.

White House Hints at Ways for Egypt to Keep Aid it Should Lose

In Washington, a town populated by lawyers and not English professors, words can come to mean strage things. I give you, for example, the Affordable Care Act – AKA Obamacare – which is already making care less affordable. Or the term “sexual relations.” You all remember that one.

And so the Obama White House, which makes a specialty of reinterpreting the language of laws to suit its needs, has decided to further diminish its vanishing stocks of credibility by refusing to acknowledge what would be obvious to any pimple-faced high school student taking his first world affairs course: that the military overthrow of the democratically-elected government in Egypt was a classic, unambiguous coup d’etat.

But there’s a problem. President Obama doesn’t like laws that create inconveniences for his policies, as he has shown with respect to immigration, health care, and on other matters. And U.S. law states that we simply cannot provide aid to nations whose militaries throw out elected leaders. Even if we don’t like the elected leaders.

How annoying, Obama must have thought to himself. However, I am Obama. Congress makes the laws. But I make the rules.

And so White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today said the bureaucracy is now studying whether the coup was a coup, and whether lollipops come on a stick. And – hint, hint, nudge nudge, see what I mean? – the bureaucrats will be watching to see whether democratic procedures begin to return to Egypt and reconciliation starts to take place.

Lemme translate:


Obama’s not going to cut off aid to Egypt, because it’s bad policy. But we do have laws in this country.

For me, it’s always inconvenient to have to pay before exiting the supermarket. But there are those damned laws . . .

And so to preserve democracy in Egypt, Obama will subvert it here in the United States.

Obama Accepts Military Takeover of Egypt

President Obama tonight implicitly accepted the military coup in Egypt, issuing a statement that pointedly fails to call for the military to relinquish power immediately and instead points to a “process” that will over time lead the country to a democratically elected government.

Obama’s passive acceptance of the coup is the first positive development in Obama’s policy – if it can be called a policy – toward Egypt during the current crisis. By not reiterating past suggestions of support for Morsi, the Obama administration at least decided not to try to get in the way of a popular revolution that could save Egypt from Islamic extremism.

From the statement by Obama, which was released by the White House this evening:

The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. Nevertheless, we are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution.

I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters.

Obama’s statement shows that he is trying to have it both ways, saying he is “deeply concerned” by the military’s move and expressing support for democracy while nevertheless acquiescing in the coup d’etat.

Obama even threw in a fangless, nebulous threat for good measure:

Given today’s developments, I have also directed the relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for our assistance to the Government of Egypt.

Obama withheld comment all day until after the coup had been completed.

Amid Power Struggle in Egypt, Obama Says Nothing

In stark contrast to his behavior when crowds confronted our ally, former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, President Obama is remaining silent today, refusing the weigh in as Egypt’s people and its army seek to overthrow an Islamist leader who, though democratically elected, was headed down the road toward tyranny. During the last days of Mubarak’s… Continue Reading

Obama Rejects Intervention by Egypt’s Military

President Obama Monday rejected any effort by the Egyptian military to interfere in the confrontation between Egypt’s Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and the millions of demonstrators opposing him, effectively bucking up the embattled Morsi by telling him the situation should be resolved “through a political process.” In a phone call with Morsi Monday, Obama effectively… Continue Reading

Krauthammer: Obama Missing His Chance in Egypt

As he did during Iran’s Green Revolution, President Obama is letting slip an opportunity to dislodge an Islamist regime that will oppose our interests in the Middle East and which ultimately seeks our destruction. Speaking today in Tanzania, Obama suggested that because Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was elected democratically, the United States needs to sit… Continue Reading

Obama Declines to Call for Morsi to Step Down

President Obama today refused to call for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to step down, despite massive protests against the Muslim Brotherhood-backed leader that appear to exceed those that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak. “It’s not our job to choose who Egypt’s leaders are,” Obama said today during a press conference in Dar es Salaam. “We… Continue Reading