In an interview to the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo last Wednesday, President Barak Obama stated in response to a question relating to Egypt: “I don’t think we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”
This contrasts sharply with a US Department of State fact sheet released just over a year ago, which reported that “The United States requested $250 million in economic support funds and $1.3 billion in foreign military financing from Congress in FY 2012, in support of a revitalized partnership with Egypt and Egyptians.” (Indeed, Egypt is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel.)
President Obama’s response on Spanish TV came after protesters had raided the US embassy in Cairo the previous day, taking down the American flag and replacing it with an Islamic banner. His remarks also reflected the US Administration’s growing frustration and anger over efforts by Egyptian President Morsi to appease anti-American public opinion in his own country rather than forcefully condemn the violence in the Muslim world following the release of the trailer of the controversial film Innocence of Muslims.
Many Americans are no doubt asking themselves how it could possibly be that US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other staff members were killed in Benghazi, a city that their forces had helped liberate from the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi just a year earlier. Some of those who ransacked the consulate building were heard chanting: “Obama, Obama, we are all Osamas” in reference to the slain al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.
What a different Middle East it is from the one that President Obama envisioned on June 4, 2009 in his well-meaning speech at Cairo University in Egypt in which he declared: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”