Politics

              Egyptian Army deploy near the presidential palace to secure the site of overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. The Egyptian army has deployed tanks outside the presidential palace in Cairo following clashes between supporters and opponents of Mohammed Morsi that left several people dead and hundreds wounded. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

Obama calls Egypt’s Morsi to complain about riots, not human rights

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

President Barack Obama called Egypt’s Islamist president Dec. 6 to complain about televised riots in Cairo that showcase the collapse of Obama’s much-touted 2009 “New Beginning” outreach to Islamist progressive groups.

The president called “to express his deep concern about the deaths and injuries of protesters in Egypt … [and he] emphasized that all political leaders in Egypt should make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable,” according to a White House statement.

At least six people have been killed in the riots, which reports say have also injured hundreds more. (RELATED: Morsi flees presidential palace as crowds rage)

The call was made shortly after President Mohammed Morsi went on Egyptian TV to denounce the protesters as agents of unnamed foreigners and Egypt’s deposed autocrats. He vowed to push ahead with a Dec. 15 vote that is expected to ratify a draft constitution based on Islamic political priorities.

“Afterwards, there should be no obstacle, and everyone must follow its will,” Morsi told the nation, according to press reports.

The White House’s Dec. 6 statement said nothing about any use of U.S. sanctions to preserve democracy or civil rights in the country of 72 million, even though Morsi is pushing to create a Islamist theocracy.

“The Obama administration can and should be doing a lot more in public to make clear the red lines in America’s policy towards Egypt,” said Robert Zarate, the policy director at the D.C.-based Foreign Policy Initiative.

“We should be using that aid as a lever, because what we want to see is an Egyptian constitution and an Egyptian government that respects impartial rule of law, that protects the rights of religious minorities and of women … and the competitive spirit of politics,” he told The Daily Caller.

Obama’s call came one day after he met with Morsi’s chief aide, Essam Al-Haddad, in the White House.

The White House statement portrayed Obama as neutral in the struggle between Egypt’s Islamist government and the pro-democracy protesters.

Obama “welcomed President Morsi’s call for a dialogue with the opposition but stressed that such a dialogue should occur without preconditions …  [and] also urged opposition leaders to join in this dialogue without preconditions,” the statement said.

That’s a contrast from September, when Obama called Morsi to complain that Cairo police had not protected the U.S. Embassy during a Sept. 11, 2012 riot in Cairo.