Rumsfeld Finds Obama on Egypt ‘Confusing’

Feb 11, 2011 12:32pm

ABC’s Steven Portnoy and Kristina Bergess report:

Former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld criticized the Obama administration’s response to the Egypt crisis this past Tuesday, calling it “confusing” and telling ABC News that the US’s diplomatic effort “certainly doesn’t give one confidence.”

In a radio interview with ABC, Rumsfeld was particularly critical of DNI Clapper’s description of the Muslim Brotherhood as a “largely secular” group in House testimony yesterday that his office later had to clarify.  Jamie Smith, director of public affairs for the Office of National Intelligence said in a statement to ABC News: “In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood makes efforts to work through a political system that has been, under Mubarak’s rule, one that is largely secular in its orientation – he is well aware that the Muslim Brotherhood is not a secular organization.” 

A report from the Council of Foreign Relationsdescribes the group as sitting somewhere in between al-Qaeda and a secular group. With a 70 year history of confrontation, the concern is their aim to impose a type of Islamic state and ambiguity over its respect for human rights.

“That is not something that is subject to debate,” Rumsfeld said of Clapper’s contention.  “That is something that we know a great deal about.”

Rumsfeld, however, did not fault CIA director Leon Panetta for pointing to news reports, suggesting during his testimony that there was a “strong likelihood” that Mubarak would step down. 

“People who think they know the answer and publicly announce what they believe to be the case are often wrong,” Rumsfeld said, saying that the outcome of a volatile situation is not always possible to predict.

But the former defense secretary said official statements from Washington urging Mubarak to step aside have differed from what the administration’s special envoy, Frank Wisner, had been saying in Cairo.  This, Rumsfeld says, has proved to be “confusing.” 

Increasing confusion, Mubarak has stepped down opening up Egypt for government reform. The goal is to have the popular feeling of freer economic and freer political circumstances take over rather than “a small radical extremist group as we saw take over in Iran.”

“It certainly doesn’t give one confidence,” the former secretary said of the administration’s public steps. 

“One doesn’t know precisely what’s taking place with private diplomacy — what’s really most effective – but certainly the public diplomacy has been somewhat confusing.”

Rumsfeld, who has known Mubarak for decades, responded carefully when asked whether he is a dictator.

“He clearly has perpetuated himself in office.  He clearly has hoped that his son would succeed him.  There have been a number of things that have inhibited freer political systems,” Rumsfeld said of the Egyptian president, stopping short of offering any further criticism of Mubarak.

With the release of his new book, Rumsfeld has been all over the airwaves. He made a surprise appearance at the CPAC conference for conservatives in Washington on Thursday. He did his first live interview since leaving office with George. Watch it HERE.

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