On the streets of Cairo it’s not just a fledgling democracy that lies in ruin. US policy too lies in tatters – in the eyes of many – or at least America’s reputation and credibility.
Since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the US has struggled to strike a balance between support for the tenuous progress towards democracy and protection of its national security interests.
The White House has tried hard to work with whoever is in power in Egypt but has ended up with no friends and little influence in Cairo.
Washington’s recent diplomatic efforts in Egypt have failed one after the other. Up until his removal from power, the US tried to counsel Mr Morsi to accept a compromise with the army and the protesters.
The US also appealed to the military not to remove Mr Morsi. After the coup, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns travelled to Cairo twice to help mediate between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood. But even getting an audience in Cairo these days is a hard task for US officials.
The US refrained from calling Mr Morsi’s removal a coup for fear of upsetting the country’s generals and the millions who demanded Mr Morsi’s departure.
This has infuriated the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters who feel robbed of a democratic election. But far from ingratiating the US with the new interim rulers and the generals, Washington finds itself criticised by the anti-Morsi camp for what they perceive to have been the US’s unconditional support for Mr Morsi while he was in power.
When President Barack Obama interrupted his holiday in Martha’s Vineyard, he “strongly” condemned the violence and said the US opposed the imposition of martial law in Egypt. He sounded sombre and stern, though he spoke in an incongruous summer resort setting, he mostly seemed frustrated.
“America cannot determine the future of Egypt. That’s a task for the Egyptian people. We don’t take sides with any particular party or political figure,” said Mr Obama.
Some argue that the mere fact the US is still providing military aid to Egypt means the US has taken sides with the army. But Egypt’s commanding general, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi, has been openly scathing of the US.