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Egyptians Opposed to Strike in Syria Dismiss Distinction of Chemical Weapons

September 6, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
The Egyptian government opposes any U.S. military action in Syria and it seems the people of Egypt agree. Margaret Warner reports from Cairo to Jeffrey Brown on how the "war weary" region regards prospects and rhetoric of American action against chemical weapon use.
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JEFFREY BROWN: And to our second take on how Syria is impacting the wider region.

Margaret Warner is in Egypt. I spoke with her earlier today.

Margaret, the president is out seeking support from the global community. What are you hearing from officials and key players there?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jeff, let’s take the major players, starting with the Egyptian government.

They’re clearly opposed, as they made clear in the Arab League this week. The deputy prime minister said to me yesterday, the Egyptian government simply doesn’t believe that this will significantly affect Assad’s behavior. They don’t think it will help the Syrian people. He said, we really are not persuaded by the intelligence, especially after what happened over the Iraq war intelligence. And he said, finally, people in this region, our constituents, are very weary of war after the last two years.

Then I went to see a figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, and he said much the same thing. He said, it’s not logical, is the way he put it, for President Obama to be so concerned about 1,000 people killed in a chemical weapons attack, when 100,000 have been killed, have been slaughtered by Assad in the last two years.

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And, basically, people, Jeff, here, do not accept this distinction that the president’s trying to make between the use of chemical weapons and the wholesale killing of Syrian civilians by aerial bombardment and artillery. They see it as an esoteric argument about some international weapons convention treaty that just has no relevance to their lives.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, on the streets, what are you hearing about Syria?

MARGARET WARNER: Jeff, to a man or woman here, I am hearing the same kind of vehement opposition.

We interviewed the co-founder of one of the youth movements that got all those millions into the streets, that helped lead to the ouster, the military ouster of President Morsi. And he was violently opposed. He said, why is President Obama supporting the terrorists in the ranks of the rebels?

And I can also tell you that American officials here are braced for the possibility of a violent reaction from the streets if and when a strike occurs. And they’re counting on the Egyptian security forces this time to do a better job of protecting the American Embassy here than they did last 9/11, when, in fact, mobs stormed the American Embassy and some even got over the wall.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, give us a brief preview of what you’re working on for next week.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, Jeff, we’re working on whether Egypt, the country in this region that seemed to have a successful Arab spring revolution, seemed to make an evolution to democracy, it has now seen it go up in smoke, and whether they’re going to be able to resolve their differences here without resorting to the kind of violence between the two really fiercely opposing camps that we have seen in Syria.

JEFFREY BROWN: We will look forward to that.

Margaret Warner in Cairo, thanks so much.