WASHINGTON, September 14, 2012 — An angry President Obama made a late night phone call on Wednesday to Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi, the newly elected head of state and a party leader in the Muslim Brotherhood, one of the key groups that rampaged through the streets of Cairo, attacking the American Embassy.
Without having to say so directly, the President let Morsi know that there was no middle ground. Egypt must defend the U.S. Embassy and not to have done so is a major breach in our relationship.
Keep in mind that Egypt receives the second largest foreign aid package after Israel. America sends an average of $1.5 billion a year to Egypt, with $1.3 billion being in military aid, something Morsi needs to stay in power. Morsi is no fool. He clearly understood the implicit threat.
During the phone call, President Obama accepted no excuses from Morsi about the shameful lack of defense of the embassy. According to international law, the host country’s duty is to protect all of its foreign embassies. Embassy security personnel cannot fire upon a mob attacking their perimeters. Only if the walls are breached and the rioters are inside the compound, can an embassy defend itself. That is why it is a national shame for countries like Egypt, Libya and Yemen to be unwilling or unable to defend our embassies from rioters. Yet Libya and Yemen immediately apologized and tried to bolster their meager defenses. That did not happen in Egypt.
President Obama’s anger towards Morsi and Egypt was readily apparent during an interview this week with the Spanish-language TV station Telemundo when he said Egypt was not necessarily an “ally,” “but we don’t consider them an enemy.” Strong words for a country that has been considered an ally by America since the 1979 Israel-Egypt Peace Agreement.
On Wednesday night, Morsi offered his condolences to Obama for the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the four U.S. Embassy employees in Libya, but it was too little too late. Basically, Obama brushed that aside, saying that is not what he was calling about. Using diplomatic but emphatic words, “The president made his point that we’ve been committed to the process of change in Egypt, and we want to continue to build a relationship with the Egyptian government,” according to a senior administration official. “But he made it clear how important it is that the Egyptian government work with us to lower the tension both in terms of the practical cooperation they give us and the statements they make.”
Translation in non-diplomatic words: If you want us to continue to help you, then you will protect our embassy and put out a statement to get the Egyptian rabble under control, ending the violence directed at America.
When Morsi tried to rationalize his tepid words and lack of action by complaining about the video that had been made in America denigrating the Muslim prophet and was supposedly the reason for the wave of protests on September 11, Obama quickly said he understood the outrage the video provoked, but that was no excuse for the attacks on the embassy or the lack of protection. He then told Morsi to step forward publicly and condemn the attacks in no uncertain language.
Immediately, Morsi and Egyptian leaders got the message and tried to put the genie back in the bottle by quelling the demonstrations and using more force on the streets to stop the attacks while admitting that their initial response to the assault on the U.S. Embassy had been weak. However, while their police and military response to the violence was robust, their words were not truly a robust condemnation of the violence, but they do appear to have damped down the protests for now.
As reporters on the scene have shown on international television, most of Cairo within a couple of blocks of the mob and the American embassy have gone about their business. Most Egyptians avoided being swept up into the suspect protests and have even voiced their displeasure with it and the lack of adequate response by their own government.
This is a big test for President Morsi as he tries to rule a modern Egypt while being tugged towards the right by the religious extremists in his own Muslim Brotherhood Party. He could easily be toppled by his own people, but he also knows where his bread is buttered. Without the support of America during the Arab Spring, Morsi would never have achieved power through a democratic election. And without American aid, Morsi cannot remain in power.
President Obama’s cold fury during the phone conversation with Morsi made that very clear.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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