An Update On U.S.-Egyptian Relations In Wake Of The Embassy Protests
After several days in which they seemed to be disturbingly quiescent in response to the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the Egyptian Government finally seems to be getting in line:
CAIRO — Following a blunt phone call from President Obama, Egyptian leaders scrambled Thursday to try to repair the country’s alliance with Washington, tacitly acknowledging that they erred in their response to the attack on the United States Embassy by seeking to first appease anti-American domestic opinion without offering a robust condemnation of the violence.
Set off by anger at an American-made video ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, the attacks on the embassy put President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in a squeeze between the need to stand with Washington against the attackers and the demands of many Egyptians to defy Washington and defend Islam, a senior Brotherhood official acknowledged.
During a late-night, 20-minute phone call, Mr. Obama warned Mr. Morsi that relations would be jeopardized if Egyptian authorities failed to protect American diplomats and stand more firmly against anti-American attacks.
By midday, searching for a middle ground, Mr. Morsi appeared on national television, telling Egyptians it was their “religious duty to protect our guests and those who come to us from outside our nation,” including their embassies, and businesses. “I know that the people attacking the embassies do not represent any of us. We all have to cooperate to express opinions while maintaining our principles, our correct peaceful ways that the whole world accepts,” he said.
Mr. Morsi offered condolences for the American ambassador killed in Libya, in a parallel protest over the same video, and he vowed to bring charges against those who had scaled the embassy walls in Cairo. At the same time, however, he was also careful to stress the legitimacy of the protesters’ grievances. “We all reject any trespassing or offense to our Prophet Muhammad,” Mr. Morsi said, adding, “We oppose anyone who offends our prophet with words, actions, expression. This is rejected by all Muslims and all Egyptians.”
Mr. Haddad, the Brotherhood spokesman, defended the Brotherhood’s attempt to modulate its messages to the Egyptian streets and the Western world.
“Speaking to the angry Muslims of Egypt, we told them we understand your anger, you are right to be angry and we share it — but let’s all express our anger in the right way and control it. And on the other side we tell the international world that we condemn these attacks and we urge restraint,” he said. Both messages were consistent, he said, and sought to preserve enough trust to resolve the tension.
The Egyptian nation is capable now of protecting people’s opinions and allowing them breathing room, as well as protecting diplomatic delegations and all foreigners, visitors, tourists, embassies and consulates in Egypt.”
“I see in Egypt and the Arab and Islamic world a severe anger toward the violations made by a very small number of individuals. They have insulted the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. We stand very strongly against this. We don’t agree with or approve this, and we stand against anyone who tries to raise such false slogans and create these disturbances, tension and hatred between populations.”
“Those [people] are not accepted, not by people in Egypt nor other Arab and Islamic countries, nor by their own people. I affirm that the American people reject this and I’ve called on them to declare their rejection of them, at the same time with our rejection of those bad practices that bring harm and not benefit.”
“At the same time, we don’t accept, condone, or approve at all for there to be attacks on embassies, consulates or people, or killing in any way.
I would hope so, Mr. President, because that’s your duty under international law.
No doubt, among the things discussed during that Obama-Morsi phone call was the fact that the United States is sending $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt every year and there are already voices in Congress talking about cutting that off if the government isn’t going to act to protect our diplomats and speak out against savagery such as the attacks this week. Say what you will, but it does help to have leverage in situations like this.