Graham: Egypt is turning protesters into martyrs

The crackdown against the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi will backfire, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation," warning that Egypt's military-backed government is "making these people martyrs."

More than 800 people have been killed in Egypt since the government cleared out two pro-Morsi encampments in Cairo on Wednesday. Early Sunday, authorities raided the homes of Muslim Brotherhood members, ahead of the rallies that Morsi supporters have been planning all across the country for later in the day. Meanwhile, the Egyptian government is now considering reviving the ban against the Brotherhood.

Should the decades-old power struggle between the military and the Brotherhood reach that point again, the Brotherhood will go underground and al Qaeda will come to their aid, Graham said. The Brotherhood is a "force" in the streets, he said, but "if you had new elections the Brotherhood would get creamed."

Egyptian authorities on Saturday said they arrested Mohammed al-Zawahri, leader of the ultraconservative Jihadi Salafist group and the brother of an al Qaeda leader, who has been allied with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Nevertheless, Graham said that he would suspend all aid to the Egyptian generals until they allow for a democratic transition of power.

"Al Qaeda's never going to win at the ballot box," he said. "The best way to solve this problem is write a new constitution where everybody has a say and have new elections."

Meanwhile, the government can't expect to jail the 25 percent to 30 percent of Egyptians who back the Muslim Brotherhood. "The Egyptian people are not terrorists," Graham said.

CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata told "Face the Nation" host Bob Schieffer that the military-backed government is indeed acting as if their crackdown is about stopping terrorism. Reporting from Egypt, D'Agata said that the government is handing out flyers with photos showing Muslim Brotherhood members and their supporters using live ammunition. The flyers read, "Egypt fights terrorism."

egypt, Ammar Badie, muslim brotherhood
A son of Ammar Badie, 38, killed Friday by Egyptian security forces during clashes in Ramses Square, and also son of Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader Mohammed Badie, prays during his funeral in al-Hamed mosque in Cairo's Katameya district, Egypt, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. Egypt increased security at the Supreme Constitutional Court building ahead of planned mass rallies by supporters of the country's ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
AP Photo/Manu Brabo

The government is arguing "they have to do this in order to crush this threat of terror, but that's not what we've seen," D'Agata said. While there are armed civilians fighting against the military, witnesses have seen unarmed civilians going into the line of fire and being shot in the head.

"I think the real question here, and we may see it this afternoon, is how much steam the Muslim Brotherhood has," D'Agata said.

If the Brotherhood and its supporters can carry out the protests planned for today, even as they come under fire from the military, "it will show you there is a force, and they will face the line of fire."

Later on "Face the Nation," Bobby Ghosh of Time Magazine said it's time for the U.S. to suspend aid to Egypt. "That leverage is the only thing left now the president can use, and the time has come for it," he said.

Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report added, "The situation in Egypt is another reminder of the lack of influence the president has right now... his 'lame duck-ness,' both internationally and domestically."

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