President Barack Obama begins his second term straining to maintain a good relationship with Egypt, an important U.S. ally whose president is a conservative Islamist walking a fine line between acting as a moderate peace broker and keeping his Muslim Brotherhood party happy with anti-American rhetoric.
The White House last summer had hoped to smooth over some of the traditional tensions between Washington and the Brotherhood, a party rooted in opposition to Israel and the U.S., when Egypt overthrew dictator Hosni Mubarak and picked Mohammed Morsi as its first democratically elected leader.
But a spate of recent steps — from Brotherhood-led attacks on protesters, to vague protestations of women's freedoms in the nation's new constitution, to revelations of old comments by Morsi referring to Jews as "bloodsuckers" and "pigs" — have raised alarm among senior U.S. officials and threatens $1 billion in American aid to Egypt.(...)The White House has little interest in picking a fight with the Muslim Brotherhood, which has grown in size and stature across the region since the Arab Spring revolts. (...)
When Egyptians elected Morsi, he offered words of moderation, brokered a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza and bore down on terrorist dens in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Morsi-led government is "a new administration and they're obviously having growing pains," said a senior Obama administration official who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity so he could discuss the diplomatic relationship more candidly.(...)
The White House is increasingly concerned about the direction the Brotherhood is taking Egypt: "It's not just about majority rule," the administration official said. "There are democratic principles that we continue to support."(...)