America Tries Fighter Jet Diplomacy in Egypt

On July 11, the United States delivered its clearest message that it had made its peace with the military takeover in Egypt. Barely a week after President Mohammed Morsy was forced from office and three days after the army fired on pro-Morsy protesters, killing 54 of them, White House officials approved the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to the Egyptian military. 

Now, Washington is making a U-turn. The Pentagon confirmed today that that the delivery of the fighter jets would be delayed due to the "current situation" in Cairo. "We do not believe it is appropriate to move forward at this time with the delivery of F-16s," said Defense Department spokesman George Little. 

An anonymous Pentagon official went even further, telling the New York Times that the move was meant as "an inside fastball to the military." The official also warned that trying to "break the neck of the Brotherhood is not going to be good for Egypt or for the region."

So what does the U.S. government know about Egyptian politics today that it didn't know on July 11? One major red flag came today: Gen. Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi, the defense minister and commander of the armed forces, delivered a speech calling for mass demonstrations on Friday "to give me the mandate and order that I confront violence and potential terrorism."

Since Morsy's fall, Egypt has been the victim of a number of terrorist attacks: A device exploded in the city of city of Mansoura on Tuesday night, killing one soldier, while a string of attacks on Monday claimed the lives of six Egyptians. But there is near-universal support within Egypt for cracking down on the extremists who conduct such attacks -- leading to speculation that Sissi is actually asking for permission to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood. Since the military takeover, anti-Morsy figures have increasingly used such language to tar their political opponents: Just today, the spokesman for interim President Adly Mansour announced, "Egypt has begun a war on terrorism."

Ironically, just as the new Egyptian government appropriates the language of U.S. politics, the Pentagon is getting cold feet about the direction that Cairo is heading in.

Michel Porro/Getty Images


Russian Media Blames U.S. for Snowden Affair

Edward Snowden, continuing his confounding dance around the expectations of the international media, won't be leaving the Moscow airport after all. In a confusing series of developments, Wednesday began with the news that Snowden had been issued the preliminary document that would allow him to leave Sheremetyevo airport. Then, his lawyer denied that he would be imminently departing. For now, he appears to be staying put. The Russian media, meanwhile, is having a field day with the spectacle, gleefully blaming the United States for the entire debacle.

With the United States insisting that Russia extradite Snowden to the United States, officials in Moscow blanketed the Russian press with allegations that they would be willing to play along -- if only the United States lived up to its own obligations. "I would not want to put our American partners in an uncomfortable position, but if they say such things, and we are forced to publicly say that it is Washington in the past categorically rejected numerous Russian proposals to conclude an extradition treaty," a source in the Russian foreign ministry told the Interfax news agency.

The new line, then, from Moscow is that it is in fact the United States' fault that Russia is unable to extradite Snowden. If only the United States had been more willing to entertain Russian extradition requests, they lament, Russia would not find itself in the regrettable position of having to shelter Snowden. "Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to," a spokesman for the Russian Interior Ministry said Monday.

Meanwhile, one of the Russian state-owned news agencies, ITAR-TASS, is quick to remind its readers that Russians are broadly supportive of allowing Snowden to stay. Reporting on Snowden staying at Sheremetyevo, the agency comments that "the U.S. government keeps insisting on Snowden's extradition" despite the fact that "most Russians think that Moscow should not extradite Snowden to the United States." The agency cites a July 14 poll finding that 39 percent of Russians oppose extradition and that 27 percent think he should be granted asylum. Surprisingly, 59 percent of the poll's respondents don't know who Snowden is.

By the looks of it, Snowden may be gearing up for a longer stay in Russia. "He is not planning to leave for now. He asked for temporary asylum, which in the case of a positive decision is granted for a term of one year," Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said Wednesday. "Currently his final country of destination is Russia." To prepare him for an extended stay, Kucharena brought his client some Russia-appropriate reading, including Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and works by Chekhov.

As if the Snowden saga wasn't bizarre enough already, Kucharena said he had chosen Crime and Punishment because he thought it crucial Snowden become acquainted with the novel's central character, Raskolnikov. That character, of course, murders a pawnbroker in the belief that he transcends ordinary standards of morality in the service of a greater good. By the novel's end, Raskolnikov loses his mind and ends up in a Siberian penal colony. Is this the future Kucharena imagines for his client?

Judging by the interview below with Kucharena on RT, he looks to have a sense of humor. Perhaps it's all an elaborate joke.

Keep watching this space for the next time Snowden becomes compared to one of the great sociopathic characters of Russian literature.