WASHINGTON – PRESIDENT OBAMA made some news late on Wednesday, in a Telemundo interview teased by Rachel Maddow, which will air tomorrow and on Sunday in full. When asked if he considered Egypt an ally or not, the quote below is the beginning of his assessment.
“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally. But we don’t consider them an enemy.” – President Barack Obama
After Hosni Mubarak was toppled, the Egyptian people picked their government, which is new. The protests targeting the U.S. embassy that broke out on Tuesday present quite a challenge for the new Egyptian president, with there obvious expectations that something needs to be done on Morsi’s part to quiet the fury over the obscure film that caused the uproar in Egypt and in Libya.
And about the rage over the film, Egypt’s protests are wound around this, also an excuse for anti-Americanism protests, while it’s only a starting point in Libya. The four murders in Benghazi, along with the deaths of Libyans who were attempting to help those in the consulate, is about something else. It became clear late Wednesday that the anti-Muslim film was the tip, but Ayman al-Zawahiri was the spear, because he called for an attack to avenge the drone strike kill earlier in 2012 of Abu Yahya al-Libi, who is seen as the number two man now in Al Qaeda. That the Benghazi attack was triggered on 9/11 is typical for Al Qaeda hitting so-called “anniversaries” of prior attacks. This is a ongoing developing aspect of the Libyan commando raid.
Pressure is mounting on President Morsi, who is in full agreement with the protesters about the obscure film that set the Cairo on fire, while having responsibility to Egypt’s strongest benefactor, the U.S. It’s the Egyptian government’s responsibility to protect the American diplomats.
Not only is the Muslim Brotherhood pushing, but with Egypt reportedly needing over $10 billion in aid, according to a Reuters report, with America providing $1.3 billion yearly, it’s something he can’t ignore. However, it’s not like Morsi has been governing long enough to have a Sister Soujah moment with the mob.
From an op-ed over at CNN comes an interesting read on the competing dynamics playing out in Egypt:
The Egyptian government is struggling to walk a fine line on this situation. On the one hand, the Egyptian public is deeply offended by the video and looks to its government to defend the faith. While President Morsi has made some lukewarm statements about the responsibility of the Egyptian government to protect diplomatic missions, he has issued much stronger words denouncing the film.
Indeed, he has demanded the United States take “all possible legal action” against the producers of the movie, an indication he does not fully understand our First Amendment. This is a widespread problem across the Arab world: People who have lived their lives largely under dictatorship simply cannot understand how a film can be made without government sanction. Their protest against the film is a protest against America.
President Obama sent a very strong message to the Egyptian president through what he said in his interview with Telemundo. He also had a conversation with Morsi [readout at the link] that brought a tepid statement from the new Egyptian president, which began with his outrage over the anti-Muslim film.
Taylor Marsh, a veteran political analyst and former Huffington Post contributor, is the author of The Hillary Effect, available at Barnes and Noble and on Amazon. Her new-media blog www.taylormarsh.com covers national politics, women and power.