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Embassy Row: Pardon the ‘inconvenience’ in Egypt

- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2013

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.

"Of course it is," he replied. "But the mere fact that someone is asking such a question is depressing. Tragic that someone could even think for a moment that this photo is real."

The posting of the photo is not the first time Mr. McFaul has been the victim of a prank. Several times last year, he had to defend himself on social media.

In April 2012, he denounced a Twitter attack that accused him of claiming voter fraud in the presidential election that Mr. Putin easily won. Mr. McFaul noted that the trickster even spelled his name wrong.

The next month, the ambassador was under such steady assault from Putin supporters that he took to the U.S. Embassy website to demand that they "stop propagating myths" about him.

JUAREZ RENAISSANCE

After years of a turf war between two Mexican drug cartels that left 10,500 dead, the shattered city of Juarez is trying to rebuild, and the U.S. wants to help revive the border town across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.

"We want to be Juarez's partner in its renaissance," U.S. Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne told Juarez officials at the opening of a children's museum last week.

Mr. Wayne recognized leading Juarez business owners who helped build the $23 million Tumbleweed museum, the El Paso Times reported.

"This is evidence that new and better things are to come for Juarez," he said.

• Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at jmorrison@washingtontimes.com or @EmbassyRow.

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