President Obama‘s moves to downgrade relations with Egypt are encouraging the military-backed government in one of America’s major Middle East allies to rekindle ties with Russia.
Egypt’s former ambassador in Moscow this week sent a signal to Washington about Cairo’s new interest in the Kremlin.
Raouf Saad told the Voice of Russia radio that President Vladimir Putin understands the threat facing Russia and Egypt from extremists linked to al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, which had moved Egypt toward Islamic fundamentalism under ousted President Mohammed Morsi.
“Russia realizes and knows what kind of threat is hovering over the region,” Mr. Saad said, adding that the U.S. appears “puzzled” by the massive popular uprising that sparked the military to overthrow Mr. Morsi in July.
“The Egyptian revolution that astonished the world has put the United States in an embarrassing situation. It doesn’t know what to do next,” Mr. Saad said.
The Obama administration strongly supported Mr. Morsi, who was democratically elected last year, and tried to discourage Egyptians from rising up against him.
The State Department early this month responded to his ouster by freezing about one-third of the $1.6 billion in annual U.S. aid to Egypt.
Meanwhile, Egypt is moving toward Russia for the first time in about three decades, as Mr. Putin prepares for a visit to Cairo. The two countries had close relations in the 1950s and 1960s under Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, but Egyptian President Anwar Sadat realigned the country toward the West in the 1970s.
The diplomatic dance comes as Mr. Obama appears to be ignoring Egypt. His national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, told The New York Times on Sunday that the administration’s priorities in the Middle East are Iran, Syria and Arab-Israeli peace talks.
The news from Yemen on Monday was very important. In fact, the first Associated Press dispatch at 4:59 p.m. Washington time was labeled “URGENT.”
Yemeni residents in the capital, Sanaa, told reporters they heard an explosion and heavy gunfire near the U.S. Embassy, which has long been a target of Islamic terrorists.
That initial news flash was picked up around the world, as major cable TV companies posted the dispatch. Reporters from Washington to the Yemeni capital scurried to get more details — any details.
They were quick to come, but the news organizations were slow to react. Why let facts ruin a good story?
Twelve minutes after the first report, Mohammed Albasha, a spokesman for the Yemeni Embassy in Washington, took to Twitter to calm the feverish reporters who suspected another Benghazi-style attack story.
Mr. Albasha insisted the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was not under assault.
By 6:28 p.m., he tweeted the cause of the chaos.
“The explosions heard near [the] US Embassy in Sanaa were wedding fireworks. Police detained persons who set the fireworks,” he said.
The fireworks were set off about 2 miles from the embassy.
However, at 7:04, the AP still clung to a possible blockbuster.
“Yemeni security officials said that an explosion followed by what sounded like heavy gunfire had been heard near the U.S. Embassy Monday, but government spokesmen later said that the blast was fireworks from a wedding procession,” the AP reported.
An hour later, Mr. Albasha teased the journalists.
“To all my Washingtonian followers Umm I’m sorry for the ‘explosive’ wedding/ending to your Monday,” he wrote. “Have a good one.”
• Embassy Row is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. James Morrison can be reached at email@example.com or @EmbassyRow.