President Obama says the U.S. would no longer consider the Egyptian government an ally, “but we don’t consider them an enemy.”
In an interview with the Spanish-language network Telemundo, less than 24 hours after violent mobs stormed American diplomatic outposts in Cairo and Benghazi, Libya, Obama said the new Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt was still “trying to find its way.”
“They were democratically elected. I think we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident, to see how they respond to maintaining the peace treaty with Israel,” he said.
Egyptian security forces were slow to respond to attacks on the U.S. embassy Tuesday night when crowds infiltrated the compound and tore down the U.S. flag. The incident occurred shortly before an attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya left four Americans dead. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi did not offer a public response to either incident until 24 hours later.
“What we’ve seen is that in some cases, they’ve said the right things and taken the right steps. In others, how they’ve responded to other events may not be aligned with some of our interests, so I think it’s still a work in progress,” Obama told Telemundo. “But certainly in this situation what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected that our personnel is protected. And if they take actions that indicate they are not taking those responsibilities like all countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem.”
The White House said Obama phoned Morsi on Wednesday night to underscore “the importance of Egypt following through on its commitment to cooperate with the United States in securing U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel” in the wake of violent anti-American protests outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo. Morsi told Obama “that Egypt would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel,” according to a statement released by the administration.
In his interview with Telemundo, Obama stopped short of calling for a reconsideration of the more than $1 billion in U.S. aid to Egypt. “The United States doesn’t have the option of withdrawing from the world. We’re the one indispensable nation. Countries around the world look to us for leadership, even countries where sometimes you experience protest,” he said.