Despite the deaths of a beloved U.S. ambassador and three others during an attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, the Obama administration is quickly realizing that it has a far bigger problem on its hand in Egypt.
The mob-style attacks on U.S. compounds in the Middle East and Northern Africa began in Egypt, even though the violence there did not result in any American deaths. And, unlike the Libyan government, the Egyptian leaders led by President Mohamed Morsi were extremely slow to condemn the violence.
The Obama administration was already wary of Mr. Morsi’s Islamist government, and his tepid response after the attacks is giving them new cause for concern. Mr. Morsi waited a full day before issuing a mild rebuke to the rioters on Facebook while the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement that brought him to power, called for a second day of protests against the anti-Islam film that sparked the riot.
In contrast, Libyan leaders have fully cooperated with U.S. authorities to hunt down the killers and bring them to justice and to work to put in place new protections for U.S. personnel in Benghazi and throughout the country.
Mr. Obama expressed repeated appreciation to Mr. Magariaf for the cooperation the U.S. has received from the Libyan government in responding to the attacks on the U.S. embassy, according a White House statement about the calls.
During remarks in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday, Mr. Obama again thanked Libyan authorities for assisting U.S. diplomats in the aftermath of the attack.
“This attack with not break the bonds between the United States and Libya,” Mr. Obama said, noting that the Libyans “helped some of our diplomats find safety, and they carried Ambassador Stevens’ body to the hospital, where we tragically learned he had died.”
The White House readout of the phone call noted that the two presidents agreed to do “whatever is necessary” to identify the perpetrators of the attack and bring them to justice. They also agreed to work closely during the course of the investigation. Mr. Obama reaffirmed U.S. support for Libya’s Democratic transition.
But the White House statement about Mr. Obama’s phone calls with Mr. Morsi was devoid of gratitude. Instead, Mr. Obama underscored the importance of Egypt, which is the second largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance after Israel at $2 billion a year, following through on its commitment to cooperate with the United States in securing U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel after rebels attacked the U.S. Embassy there Tuesday night.
Mr. Obama told Mr. Morsi that he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, a reference to an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. that sparked the riots, but said there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities, according to a readout of the phone call.