from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Who’s Visiting Cairo?

June 27, 2012

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United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

Egypt

After President Obama’s congratulatory call to Egypt’s president-elect Morsi, it seems the administration seeks further contact in the coming days. On June 25 the Washington Post reported this:

U.S. officials hope to make a strong impression on Morsi, 60, during an upcoming visit by a senior American official to Cairo, said another senior administration official, who was not authorized to speak for the record.

"Senior official" is an elastic term, but let us hope it does not refer to Secretary of State Clinton. I am told there’s a debate under way in the administration about who should meet now with Mr. Morsi. Clinton is the wrong answer. Morsi has, as that Post story noted, "spoken vitriolically about American policy in the Middle East...and has expressed doubts that the Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by terrorists." A quick embrace will suggest that we simply don’t care about such things, and will be noticed by American allies and enemies in the region. Moreover, the Secretary could be embarrassed--as could the United States--if such a visit were followed quickly by more such statements by Morsi. Far better to wait, and have our capable ambassador in Cairo, Anne Patterson, deliver the message that relations with Washington will depend on what he says and does as president. The victory of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is seen as a great risk by friends of the United States throughout the region, Arabs and Israelis alike. Actions that suggest we do not understand their views, or do not care about them, or do not care about the Brotherhood’s long record of anti-Americanism, will further weaken the American position in the region. Sending a "senior official" to Cairo can wait.

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