Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi apologized for the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo today and promised to defend it in the future, but only after a tense phone call with Barack Obama. Morsi, who is traveling in Europe on his first visit there since taking office, condemned the incident on Tuesday when protesters climbed the walls of the U.S. embassy and tore down its flag, but the Egyptian leader also condemned the filmmaker whose online video started all the trouble. Morsi asked President Obama to "put an end to such behavior."
Obama also spoke to the presidents of Libya this morning and "expressed appreciation for the cooperation" that country has offered and "reaffirmed our support for Libya's democratic transition." Contrast that with Egypt, where the White House says he "underscored the importance of Egypt following through on its commitment." The fact that it took Morsi almost a full 24 hours to make a declaration on the incident and than to only offer mild criticism of the rioters is not sitting well in Washington, where concern over the new government are worrying U.S. officials.
A New York Times report published this morning details how the Americans are much more concerned about the direction that Egypt is heading in, then they are about Libya, where the new government is much more closely aligned with the U.S. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party continues to stoke anger of anti-Muslim video and the failure of the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid to protect the embassy has upset the Americans.
The ironic trade-off facing with the new Egypt is that as the country becomes more democratic, its interests are more likely to diverge from the United States. While the old regime of Hosni Mubarak was terrible on regular Egyptians, he was a reliable partner to the U.S. Now that there's an elected president, Morsi seems more like to keep the hardliners in his country happy, then the benefactors in Washington. (A recent op-ed in The Washington Post on Morsi's September 11 "truther" musings only underscores that problem.)
As the President made clear in a TV interview yesterday, Egypt may not be our enemy, but they aren't certainly aren't acting like much of a friend.