President Barack Obama has quietly cancelled a politically risky plan to meet this week with Egypt’s new Islamist president.
The plan was cancelled amid a wave of riots and attacks in Arab countries that have damaged Obama’s campaign-trail claim to foreign policy competence.
In 2011, Obama had “bilateral” meetings with 13 Arab and world leaders during the annual U.S. summit. This year, amid the foreign policy meltdown, his schedule shows no so-called “bilats” with any foreign leaders.
The cancelled visit with Morsi was mentioned in a Sept. 23 New York Times article about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, an Islamist who now governs the Arab region’s most important country.
Despite critical 2011 support from Obama for the revolt that removed Hosni Mubarak, Morsi is now demanding restrictions on U.S. free speech that is critical of Islam, demanding more U.S. support for the anti-Israeli Islamist governments in Gaza and the West Bank, and more financial aid to help the cash-strapped Egyptian government buy food and fuel for its population of 82 million people.
These Islamist demands clash with Obama’s promise of good U.S.-Arab relations made in his June 2009 “New Beginning “ speech in Cairo.
That controversial speech reversed President George W. Bush’s policy of opposition to Islamists’ demands for theocratic governments in Egypt and other Muslim-majority states.
To emphasize the reversal, Obama even invited some members of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement to his Cairo speech.
Following elections in 2011 and 2012, that Islamist movement now controls Egypt, and is taking steps to end the 1979 peace deal between Egypt and Israel.
Morsi complimented Obama, telling the New York Times that Obama had “decisively and quickly” supported Egypt’s Islamist and smaller secular parties by helping remove Egypt’s autocratic, pro-Western government. The article downplayed the proposed Obama-Morsi meeting, which was highlighted by the Egyptian press in July.
Morsi’s request to meet with Obama “received a cool reception … [from the White House, and] mindful of the complicated election-year politics of a visit with Egypt’s Islamist leader, M. Morsi dropped his request,” claimed the New York Times.
However, the cancelled meeting reflects the recent schism between Obama and Morsi.