Embassy Row: Pardon the ‘inconvenience’ in Egypt

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Is it still considered bad form to talk politics during a social gathering?

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Cairo is burning. Police are clashing with Muslim Brotherhood supporters. More than 600 people lie dead from the violence.

Yet the U.S. Embassy in the Egyptian capital issued impassively worded warnings to Americans in Egypt and promptly closed its doors Wednesday afternoon, only three days after reopening the diplomatic compound that was shuttered last week because of a terrorist threat.

Announcements on the embassy’s website came under the headings: “Security Message for U.S. Citizens No. 68” and “Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens No. 69.”

The first notified Americans in Egypt that the embassy would close at 1 p.m. Wednesday, hours after police raided two Muslim Brotherhood camps.

The reason for the early closing was “the uncertain security situation related to recent events” at the two protest sites. By the time the embassy closed, dozens already had died in battles between police and protesters.

The second notice announced the all-day closure of the embassy Thursday, with no word on when it would reopen.

As the inferno swept Cairo, the tone of the embassy announcements sounded no more alarming than “Cleanup on Aisle 3.”

“We regret the inconvenience,” said the message announcing Thursday’s closure.

Both notices carried standard diplomatic boilerplate beginning in the second paragraphs.

“As a matter of general practice, U.S. citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur,” they advised. “Even demonstrations or events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.”

NO CAMPAIGN ENDORSEMENT

The U.S. ambassador to Russia already has made enough political enemies by criticizing corruption under President Vladimir Putin.

The last thing Ambassador Michael McFaul needs is to be linked to the upstart, muckraking opposition candidate running against a Putin crony for mayor of Moscow.

But there on a street in the Russian capital was a smiling image of the ambassador on a campaign kiosk for Aleksei Navalny, a lawyer who unleashed the wrath of Putin supporters through his anti-corruption campaign on social media.

A Russian citizen asked Mr. McFaul over Twitter whether the campaign photo is a fake.

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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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