Meet our non-staunch non-ally, Mohammed Morsi
“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” our dashing Foreign Policy President said yesterday, during an interview with Spanish-language TV network Telemundo.
He was referring to Egypt, which is weird, because we definitely used to consider them an ally. Foreign policy experts used to refer to the “Egyptian-American alliance” all the time. It was not uncommon to hear Egypt described as a “key” or “crucial” ally in the Middle East. We give them $1.3 billion in military aid every year. That’s a lot of firepower to hand over to someone who isn’t considered an ally.
Many foreign policy experts were aghast at Obama’s comments, and so were some reporters, most notably NBC News senior foreign correspondent Richard Engel. “Yeah, I almost had to sit down when I heard that,” Engel said in an MSNBC interview. “For the last forty years, the United States has had two main allies in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia and Egypt, the other ally in the Middle East being Israel. For the President to come out and say, well, he’s not exactly sure if Egypt is an ally any more but it’s not an enemy, that is a significant change in the perspective of Washington toward this country, the biggest country in the Arab world. It makes one wonder, well, was it worth it? Was it worth supporting the Arab Spring, supporting the demonstrations here in Tahrir Square, when now in Tahrir Square there are clashes going on behind me right in front of the US embassy?”
In fairness to President Obama, the behavior of the Muslim Brotherhood president he worked so hard to install in Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, makes it understandable that the new government of Cairo might be taken for a non-ally. There’s growing pressure in Congress to cut off Egyptian foreign aid, but this pressure did not begin building when the black Islamist flag ran up the flagpole at the U.S. embassy. Only a few months ago, a half-dozen Americans were looking rather hostage-like as they sat in Egyptian prisons, following raids on the non-governmental organizations they worked for. Foreign aid to Morsi’s government has been on shaky ground ever since.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became keen to deploy one of the Obama Administration’s favorite tools to keep Egyptian aid flowing over congressional objections: a waiver, which would exempt the Administration from “a congressional requirement that the State Department certify that Egypt is “implementing policies to protect freedom of expression, association, and religion, and due process of law,” according to the Washington Post.
Morsi is a big proponent of imposing sharia law, which is, as we have been painfully reminded, fundamentally incompatible with American ideals of free speech and tolerance. He’s been trying to get the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade center bombing, Omar Abdel Rahman, extradited from the United States – and it should be noted that one of the likely suspects for the deadly attack on our Libyan consulate is called “the Imprisoned Omar Abdel Rahman Brigade.” The Muslim Brotherhood’s enthusiasm for Egypt’s long-standing peace treaty with Israel is alarmingly cool.
On the bright side, at least Morsi apologized for Egyptians falling prey to “fear and anger” that “led us to act contrary to our ideals.” Oh, wait, sorry, my mistake. That was Barack Obama speaking in Cairo three years ago, talking about American behavior after 9/11.
On the contrary, the Egyptian president hasn’t shown much interest in denouncing the mob assault on the U.S. embassy in Cairo – the closest he’s come was calling the incident “regrettable.” But he was quick to issue a statement reading, “The presidency condemns, in the strongest terms, the attempt of a group to insult the place of the Messenger, the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and condemns the people who have produced this radical work. The Egyptian people, both Muslims and Christians, refuse such insults on sanctities.”
He also told Egypt’s representatives in the United States to “take legal action against those people who seek to ruin relationships and discussions between people and countries.” In other words, he wants the people who made the “Innocence of Muslims” film arrested for blasphemy.
Perhaps Morsi will be invited to discuss these matters during his private meeting with President Obama when visiting the United Nations later this month. That’s right – Morsi got exactly the private meeting that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was denied. Netanyahu got blown off with a lame excuse that Obama was too busy to meet with him. But if the president of a country that Obama considers neither an ally nor an enemy rates such a meeting, what does that make Israel?