(DEFENSE ONE) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has been on the phone with his Egyptian counterpart, Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sissi, almost every day since the July 3 military ouster of President Mohamed Morsi. And every day he has urged the Egyptian defense minister to find a peaceful resolution to the political turmoil. He’s called al-Sissi at least 15 times since the military booted Morsi from power, a Pentagon official told Defense One.
By all accounts, al-Sissi had agreed. Just last week, Hagel hung up the phone with Cairo and was reassured that the Egyptian military wanted a peaceful transition. "Minister Al-Sisi underscored his commitment to peaceful resolution of the ongoing protests, and thanked Secretary Hagel for U.S. support,” the Pentagon said, in a description of the Aug. 5 phone call.
After yesterday’s bloody crackdown in the streets of Egypt that left more than 500 dead, including women and children, and scores more injured, it’s clear that Hagel’s pleas have gone unheard or ignored. With world leaders, including President Barack Obama, decrying the massacre, and ice bags and desk fans futilely cooling the overflowing bodies in Cairo’s morgues, Hagel called al-Sissi again on Thursday. According to a Pentagon statement, Hagel “reiterated that the United States remains ready to work with all parties to help achieve a peaceful, inclusive way forward. The Department of Defense will continue to maintain a military relationship with Egypt,” Hagel said, “but I made it clear that the violence and inadequate steps towards reconciliation are putting important elements of our longstanding defense cooperation at risk.”
Hagel’s tepid response falls in line with the commander-in-chief’s own wait-and-see reaction to the deepening Egyptian crisis. President Barack Obama has refused to call the military takedown of Morsi’s elected government a coup, and will continue to send the $1.3 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives to Egypt each year. And Obama is insisting that this is Egypt’s problem -- not America’s.