It came over seven hours into an eight-hour hearing. It was buried beneath Washington’s frenzy over defense secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s lackluster performance. And it was overshadowed by Republican senators’ relentless day-long attacks on Hagel over Iran, Israel and nuclear weapons.
But it happened. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., used his debut performance as Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member to call for regime change in Egypt. After Washington’s expensive — in terms of bot blood and treasure — and controversial attempts at regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq, Inhofe wants America to give it another go by installing a more pro-U.S. leader in Cairo.
Here’s what Inhofe said, according to a transcript, late in last Thursday’s infamous SASC confirmation hearing (emphasis added):
“I have kind of been the leader in — on postponing any further Abrams Tanks or F-16′s to — to Egypt until such time as that government is under control. This is my own statement, only representing my own thoughts,” he said. “I think [Mohammed] Morsi’s an enemy. I think their — their military is a friend. And there was a vote a little while ago to do away permanently with the sending of any — any of this equipment to Egypt.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. What I think is a good idea is to continue to use that as leverage. If you do that, you lose the leverage,” Inhofe said. “And I believe we will be in a position right now, Morsi has already distanced himself from the military. To me that’s a first good step. And I would like to think that we could reinstate a friend — a friend in that area.”
Skepticism about Morsi, a longtime Muslim Brotherhood member, is nothing new in Washington. But — since a new leader could not be installed unless the current one is uninstalled — calling for the United States to pursue a regime-change mission in Egpyt certainly is new. For Inhofe, it certainly was a memorable debut as SASC’s top Republican. And his tenure could prove even more memorable.