14 September 2012by Büþra Þener, JTW
Although an ambassador and three officials were killed in the attack on the American mission in Benghazi, the White House is focused on Egypt where the U.S. may encounter a bigger challenge in the long run.
Hours before the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo was surrounded by protesters. The incident caught the attention of the U.S. administration more than the attack in Benghazi did, however the incident was concluded with no American deaths.
Actually, Washington had already been irritated due to the direction and ideology of the new president of Egypt. After the siege incident at the embassy, President Morsi offered a mild censure for it, while his movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, called for further protests because of the anti-Muslim video that caused the siege.
U.S. President Obama declared that the Libyan authorities had helped the Americans protect the embassy and that the protection of U.S. missions would be strengthened. “This attack will not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” Mr. Obama said. “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” he said for Egypt. “I think it’s still a work in progress, but certainly in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected,” he added.
For the United States, “politically the bigger issue is Egypt,” said Martin S. Indyk, a former United States ambassador to Israel. “On the one hand, you didn’t have Americans getting killed, but this was the fourth time an embassy was assaulted in Cairo with the Egyptian police doing precious little,” Mr. Indyk said. “And where was President Morsi’s condemnation of this?”
“What happens in Egypt, from popular attitudes toward the U.S., to its domestic economy, to relations between the Muslim Brotherhood and the army, to relations between Cairo and Jerusalem, to the situation in Sinai, will profoundly affect the region, and so will profoundly affect America’s posture in the region,” said Robert Malley, Middle East and North Africa program director at the International Crisis Group.
A few months ago, Obama was calling on the Egyptian army to quickly deliver the administration to an elected civilian government. Now, U.S. officials are in trouble with this administration and doubtful for the future of the relations between Egypt and Israel and the West, and also the future of the Middle East and U.S. interests here.