Thursday, September 13, 2012

Egypt an Ally? What a Difference Five Months Makes [Updated]

    From an March 23, 2012 Press Briefing.  Jay Carney:

Egypt is an important ally in the region.  We have worked closely with Egypt in this period of transition and will continue to do so.
    From an April 5, 2012 Press Briefing.  Jay Carney:
 What I would say to you is that we believe it is in the interest of the United States to engage with all parties in Egypt, and to engage -- to continue to engage with Egypt because Egypt has been an important ally of the United States and an important -- has played a significant role in the region. And we believe it is in our interest to engage with Egypt, in part in an effort to encourage Egypt to maintain its commitment to its international obligations and to maintain its -- to maintain a positive role in the region.
    From a September 12, 2012 NBCUniversal/Telemundo interview with President Barack Obama:
Jose Diaz Balart - Would you consider the current Egyptian regime an ally of the United States? 
Pres. Obama: I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy. They’re a new government that is trying to find its way.

With non-allies likes these, who needs enemies?

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UPDATE:  White House clarifies... (via The Cable)
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor told The Cable Thursday that the administration is not signaling a change in that status.
"I think folks are reading way too much into this," Vietor said. "‘Ally' is a legal term of art. We don't have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies. But as the president has said, Egypt is longstanding and close partner of the United States, and we have built on that foundation by supporting Egypt's transition to democracy and working with the new government."
 What exactly should be read into the statement "I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy"?  Perhaps this is the diplomatic equivalent of "She's a girl, and she's my friend, but she's not my girlfriend!"

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UPDATE 2: Jay Carney (yes, the same Jay Carney who made the two statements above) today said this (via Politico):
"The president, in diplomatic and legal terms, was speaking correctly," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "We do not have an alliance treaty with Egypt. Ally is a legal term of art. As I said, we do not have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt, like we do, for example, with our NATO allies."
 Now both White House spokesmen Jay Carney and Tommy Vietor have used the phrase "Ally is a legal term of art."  Look for the t-shirts and bumper-stickers in the Obama store any day now.

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