Pentagon, under heat from Congress, pressing Egypt to protect Christians
Bee's note: Keep in mind that the White House supported Morsi and continued to do so after Morsi was removed by the Egyptian people and its military. For a list of churches burned, as of August 14th, go here.
Special to WorldTribune.com
WASHINGTON — The Defense Department has been intervening to protect Egypt’s Christian minority.
Officials said the U.S.-Egyptian military dialogue has come to include Cairo’s treatment of the Coptic community, which comprise about 10 percent of the population.
Remains of burned Coptic religious texts outside the al-Amir Tadros Church in Minya city. /Matt Ford/Human Rights Watch
The officials said the Coptic issue emerged amid concerns within Congress that the community was coming under increasing attacks from Islamists linked to President Mohammed Morsi.
“Egyptian Minister of Defense Sisi and Secretary Hagel spoke by phone on Sept. 17 regarding events in Egypt,” the Pentagon said. “Minister Al Sisi and Secretary Hagel discussed Egyptian efforts to secure and rebuild Coptic Christian communities impacted by violence and to maintain security on the Sinai Peninsula.”
Officials said Hagel has been telephoning Defense Minister Abdul Fatah Sisi at least twice a week since the military coup that overthrew Morsi on July 2. They said dialogue has focused on keeping the U.S.-supplied Egyptian military away from operations that target civilians.
Earlier in September, a House delegation toured Coptic communities and met senior Egyptian officials to determine the Muslim Brotherhood threat to the Christian minority. The delegation, which met Al Sisi, was said to have urged Egyptian leaders to protect the Copts.
“We are with you people of Egypt against the common threat, the Muslim Brotherhood,”Rep. Michele Bachmann, a member of the delegation, said. “We have diversity of opinion in Washington, but be sure the people of Egypt are standing with Egypt against the Brotherhood terror.”
Since the Morsi coup, nearly 100 churches were said to have been torched by Islamists. In one city, Dalga, Copts were forced to pay taxes reserved for non-Muslims.
Hagel has refused demands by many in Congress to halt U.S. military aid to Egypt. In August, the Pentagon blocked a planned delivery of four F-16 multi-role fighters to Egypt, but approved small contracts to maintain the Arab military.
“Secretary Hagel urged Minister Al Sisi to continue to take steps to demonstrate the interim government’s commitment to advance the political roadmap,” the Pentagon said.