President Barack Obama has been facing a swarm of criticism after he remarked in a Telemundo interview last night that he doesn’t consider Egypt to be an ally of the United States. Today, a White House spokesperson sought to clarify the comment by saying people are reading too much into the president’s words and specifying the precise meaning of the term “ally.”
During yesterday’s interview, Obama was asked whether he considers the current Egyptian government to be a U.S. ally. He replied, “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.” Unsurprisingly, the quote has garnered attention, particularly from critics of Obama’s foreign policy.
Today, White House spokesperson Tommy Vietor told Foreign Policy magazine not to buy into the outrage:
“I think folks are reading way too much into this,” Vietor said. “‘Ally’ is a legal term of art. We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt’s transition to democracy and working with the new government.”
In essence, Vietor called it a technicality of sorts. He continued:
Vietor referred to Obama’s Wednesday phone call with Mohamed Morsy, during which Obama pressed the Egyptian president to ensure the safety and protection of U.S. personnel and facilities in Egypt. Morsy agreed to do so, according to a White House statement on the phone call.
“The President said that he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities,” the statement said. “President Morsi expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of American life in Libya and emphasized that Egypt would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel.”
Additionally, FP reported that the “ally” remark “was not pre-arranged or prepared by staff and that the question was not anticipated.”
(H/T: Foreign Policy)
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