William Katz:  Urgent Agenda

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OBAMA CERTAINLY PICKED ANOTHER WINNER, DIDN'T HE? – It's rare that you see someone fall from grace faster than Egyptian President Morsi (or Mursi, if you prefer).  Five days ago he was the Obama-anointed hero of the Israel-Hamas truce.  Why, one could even imagine a Nobel Peace Prize.  Of course, after Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Obama himself got the prize, you could imagine almost anyone getting it. 

But then Morsi grabbed power, and now he's in hot water.  Egypt is erupting, and the Arab spring is experiencing global icing:

(Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi faced a rebellion from judges who accused him on Saturday of expanding his powers at their expense, deepening a crisis that has triggered violence in the street and exposed the country's deep divisions.

The Judges' Club, a body representing judges across Egypt, called for a strike during a meeting interrupted with chants demanding the "downfall of the regime" - the rallying cry in the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year.

Mursi's political opponents and supporters, representing the divide between newly empowered Islamists and their critics, called for rival demonstrations on Tuesday over a decree that has triggered concern in the West.

Issued late on Thursday, it marks an effort by Mursi to consolidate his influence after he successfully sidelined Mubarak-era generals in August. The decree defends from judicial review decisions taken by Mursi until a new parliament is elected in a vote expected early next year.

It also shields the Islamist-dominated assembly writing Egypt's new constitution from a raft of legal challenges that have threatened the body with dissolution, and offers the same protection to the Islamist-controlled upper house of parliament.

Egypt's highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council, said the decree was an "unprecedented attack" on the independence of the judiciary. The Judges' Club, meeting in Cairo, called on Mursi to rescind it.

I wonder if that club wears funny hats.

That demand was echoed by prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei. "There is no room for dialogue when a dictator imposes the most oppressive, abhorrent measures and then says 'let us split the difference'," he said.

"I am waiting to see, I hope soon, a very strong statement of condemnation by the U.S., by Europe and by everybody who really cares about human dignity," he said in an interview with Reuters and the Associated Press.

Washington has issued a mild rebuke to Morsi.  Too mild.

More than 300 people were injured on Friday as protests against the decree turned violent. There were attacks on at least three offices belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement that propelled Mursi to power.

Liberal, leftist and socialist parties called a big protest for Tuesday to force Mursi to row back on a move they say has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.

In a sign of the polarization in the country, the Muslim Brotherhood called its own protests that day to support the president's decree.

Mursi also assigned himself new authority to sack the prosecutor general, who was appointed during the Mubarak era, and appoint a new one. The dismissed prosecutor general, Abdel Maguid Mahmoud, was given a hero's welcome at the Judges' Club.

COMMENT:  Egypt is still the most important of the Arab nations, culturally.  It influences the rest of the Arab world.  Egyptians watch as the United States looks at the genocide in Syria and refuses to take necessary actions.  Egyptian democracy fighters know they are alone.

Obama has a certain sympathy for Islamists.  He showed it in 2009 when he refused for four days to issue a statement supporting democracy demonstrators in Iran.  He showed it again when he shoved Hosni Mubarak out of power, even though there was a substantial chance that the Muslim Brotherhood would take over Egypt, which it largely has.

Stand by for further eruptions. 

November 25, 2012