Barack Obama blew the Egypt question in an interview with Telemundo. Would Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi blow it with CBS News? Charlie Rose interviewed Morsi while the new head of state attended the UN General Assembly and asked him to clarify. Morsi, like Obama, seemed reluctant to claim the status of ally with the US (via National Journal):
When prompted, Morsi said “we are not enemies, of course … for sure, we are friends,” but he stopped short of calling Egypt and the U.S. allies.
“The U.S. president said otherwise,” he said, laughing, referencing an interview earlier this month in which President Obama said that Egypt was not “either an ally or an enemy.”
Morsi explained that defining their relationship is a nuanced issue, saying “This is dependent on the definition of ‘ally.’ The understanding of an ally as a part of a military alliance, this is not existing right now, but if you by ‘ally’ a partnership and special diplomatic relationship and cooperation, we are that ally.”
Ahem. The US has funded Egypt’s military for decades, spending an average of two billion dollars a year since 1979 in overall aid to Egypt to prop them up while they keep the peace with Israel. The 2010 funding for direct military support came to $1.3 billion. Egypt gets more aid from the US than any other nation except Israel, and most of it goes to their army. Whether it’s called a “military alliance” on paper or not, that is exactly what it is — and exactly what we had before we pushed Morsi’s predecessor under the bus.
Once again, as NBC’s Richard Engel said at the time, the inability of either leader to acknowledge that alliance calls into question our policy of demanding Hosni Mubarak’s ouster and the quick elections that only benefited the Muslim Brotherhood. This sounds like the definition of a huge foreign-policy loss.
Addendum: Looks like Morsi was available to meet with CBS. Maybe if Barack Obama had taken some time to meet with him, this ambiguity could have been resolved, huh?