President Barack Obama called a meeting of his top national security aides on Tuesday to discuss cutting military aid to Egypt, the White House said after repeatedly denying that the administration had already frozen that assistance in secret…

[Spokesman Josh] Earnest also scolded Egypt’s military-backed interim government for arresting the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which fueled Morsi’s presidential bid, lumping it in with other “politically motivated detentions” that have drawn fire from Washington.

“That is not in line with the standard that we expect other governments to uphold in terms of respecting human rights. It’s certainly not the standard that the Egyptian people expect of their government in terms of upholding basic human rights,” the spokesman said.

Mohammed Badie’s arrest is “the latest in a series of actions the Egyptian government has taken that doesn’t reflect their commitment to an inclusive political process, to respect for basic human rights like the right to protest peacefully,” Earnest said.

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“El-Sisi is killing our children,” a man screamed, referring to Egypt’s defense minister, Gen. Abdul Fattah el-Sisi. “Muslims, come out of your homes!”

Hundreds of Islamists poured into the street, torching, looting and smashing the village’s two churches and a nearby monastery, lashing out so ferociously that marble altars were left in broken heaps on the floor.

Over the next few days, a wave of similar attacks on the Christian minority washed over the country, as Islamists set upon homes and churches, shops and schools, youth clubs and at least one orphanage, killing at least three people, according to an Egyptian human rights group. As Christians were scapegoated for supporting the military ouster of Mr. Morsi, the authorities stood by and watched: in Nazla, as in other places, the army and the police made no attempt to intervene.

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This time, however, we have no one to root for…

In the battle for the country’s soul, it’s “terrorists” vs. “murderers” in the language of Egypt’s bitterly polarized political players…

[D]espite some Morsi supporters’ willingness to engage in armed combat, the interim government’s insistence that security forces used the bare minimum of violence scarcely rings true. Even before Islamists in Mohandeseen began returning fire, the police pelted their hastily erected barricades with live bullets and appeared to target foreign journalists videoing proceedings from an apartment window.

The police and army are the murderers, not us. They are trying to kill us all. They are the terrorists,” said Hafez, a Muslim Brotherhood supporter who was riddled with birdshot by police during the fierce and bloody daylong exchange in Mohandeseen.

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Saudi Arabia is emerging at the forefront of a forceful effort by Persian Gulf monarchies to back Egypt’s new military leaders, exacerbating a fierce struggle for influence in the chaotic and increasingly leaderless Arab world and putting the Saudis at odds with the United States, a long-standing ally.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia promised to compensate Egypt for any aid that Western countries might withdraw in response to the harsh tactics employed by Egypt’s leaders to quell protests by supporters of the country’s deposed president, in which nearly 1,000 people and more than 100 police officers are reported to have been killed…

“It’s not about expansionism,” said Gamal Soltan, a professor of political science at the American University of Cairo. “The Saudis are doing these things out of fear rather than greed.”

But at a time when many Arabs are growing queasy at the high human cost of the crackdown, “this is an enormous gamble for the king,” said Christopher Davidson, professor of Middle East history at Durham University in England. “Saudi Arabia is putting itself in direct confrontation with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has broad regional sympathy across the region.”

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Citing evidence found on YouTube, Turkey’s Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claimed on Tuesday that Israel was behind the military takeover in Egypt last month.

In remarks broadcast on Turkish television, Mr. Erdogan scolded Western democracies for failing to condemn the military coup that deposed Egypt’s elected, Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi, and blamed Israeli influence. “What do they say in Egypt? ‘Democracy is not the ballot box,’” he said. “Who is behind this? Israel.”

The response in Cairo to Mr. Erdogan’s remarks was predictably testy. As the journalist Menna Alaa reported on Twitter, a spokesman for the interim president installed by the Egyptian army replied that “Western agents shouldn’t be giving lessons in patriotism to Egyptians.”

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“It looks like it’s over for the Brotherhood,” said Sameh Eid, a former member who has maintained contact with the group. “Brotherhood families are grieving over their dead or busy trying to see how they can visit loved ones in detention or others who are injured. The animosity on the streets is exhausting them and allies are abandoning them.”…

In addition to the arrests, a campaign is in full swing to “cleanse” ministries, government departments and state media of Brotherhood supporters, dismantling a network built during Morsi’s year in office. Employees known to have taken part in sit-ins or protests are being brought before disciplinary panels to account for not showing up for work.

The Brotherhood, said former member Abdel-Baset el-Meligi, is paying the price for trying to impose its agenda on Egyptians and resorting to violence when it was met with resistance.

“The group lost direction and there is little hope it will be included in the political process,” he said.

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[American] influence has dwindled to mattering very little as the military pursues its domestic political goals full steam ahead, regional analysts say. If anything, some of them add, the administration’s careful efforts to preserve a decades-old regional security strategy based on Egypt may only be encouraging Egypt’s generals to proceed knowing that the US needs Egypt more than Egypt needs the US.

“The administration’s cautious, step-by-step approach only reinforces the thinking in the minds of the generals” that they can proceed on the “very dangerous” repressive path they’ve chosen under the assumption that America values a stable Egypt too much to cut it loose, says Brian Katulis, a senior analyst of US national security interests in the Middle East at Washington’s Center for American Progress…

“Obama is saying by his actions that the US does not know how to quit Egypt – and the generals see that,” Katulis says.

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Bringing the Brotherhood into some kind of inclusive coalition government in which it accepts a reduced political role in exchange for calling off its sit-ins and demonstrations may be desirable, but it is about as realistic as getting a mongoose and a cobra to work together for the good of the mice.

What’s realistic and desirable is for the military to succeed in its confrontation with the Brotherhood as quickly and convincingly as possible. Victory permits magnanimity. It gives ordinary Egyptians the opportunity to return to normal life. It deters potential political and military challenges. It allows the appointed civilian government to assume a prominent political role. It settles the diplomatic landscape. It lets the neighbors know what’s what.

And it beats the alternatives. Alternative No. 1: A continued slide into outright civil war resembling Algeria’s in the 1990s. Alternative No. 2: Victory by a vengeful Muslim Brotherhood, which will repay its political enemies richly for the injuries that were done to it. That goes not just for military supremo Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and his lieutenants, but for every editor, parliamentarian, religious leader, businessman or policeman who made himself known as an opponent of the Brotherhood.

Question for Messrs. Graham, Leahy and Paul: Just how would American, Egyptian, regional or humanitarian interests be advanced in either of those scenarios? The other day Sen. Paul stopped by the Journal’s offices in New York and stressed his opposition to any U.S. policy in Syria that runs contrary to the interests of that country’s Christians. What does he suppose would happen to Egypt’s Copts, who have been in open sympathy with Gen. Sisi, if the Brotherhood wins?

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God love Americans. They are appalled by the bloodshed. But America’s leaders tell them little about anything else. Morsi’s strangling of opposition rights and the courts’ ability to review his key decisions have been neglected in the media. There is no “news” here. It is all happening below the radar, in slow motion. Elections, whatever the realities, are great. Coups, whatever the realities, are bad. End of story.

Where are the reminders about how President George W. Bush paved the way for free elections in the Gaza Strip, how Hamas won, and how, then, democracy there came to an end and terrorism made a full comeback? Where are the explanations of what is happening in the great nation of Turkey? Democratically elected Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan has slowly but surely jailed Turkey’s general officer corps, the guardians of secular society, and begun Islamizing the country while curtailing democratic rights. Which is worse: when the military overthrows democratically elected governments, no matter how undemocratic, or when a democratically elected government destroys democracy with “legitimate” power? These are not questions America’s commentariat or elected representatives in Congress care to speak of, let alone grapple with.

The Islamists understand American culture far better than the Egyptian moderates, and they’re much better propagandists. They know how deeply Americans are repelled by the killings, so don’t put it past them to provoke and stage the killings for the television cameras. They want martyrs. They want the cameras and the carnage, and Americans are reacting like good Americans: with outrage…

[T]he reality is that the Brotherhood is intent on creating chaos, and though it’s not nice to say, the military is doing what a lot of governments around the world would do under the same conditions.

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As churches burn, as nuns are paraded through the streets by the Muslim Brotherhood, and as Christians across Egypt fear for their lives in the face of the jihadist onslaught, American policy can and should get very simple, very fast: Not one scintilla of aid until the Egyptian military demonstrates — by deeds, not just words — that it is committed to stopping this wave of persecution in its tracks, protecting the most basic human rights of its Christian citizens, and utterly defeating the Muslim Brotherhood. The crisis could escalate quickly to Balkan- or Syrian-level brutality and religious cleansing, but the Egyptian military — well-stocked with equipment we purchased, made, and keep in good repair — is capable of ending the onslaught against Christians.

The Obama administration’s dance with the Muslim Brotherhood devil is one of the shameful episodes in recent American foreign policy, but we have a chance to correct our mistake before we have no good options left. In other words, before Egypt becomes Syria. The Muslim Brotherhood is our enemy, the Egyptian Christians are victims of jihad, and the American-supplied Egyptian military can and should exercise decisive force.

It’s past time to call in Egypt’s debt. They may not repay us with money, but they can repay us with actions: Protect Christians and defeat the Muslim Brotherhood, or you’re on your own.

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