Following much-publicized commentary from President Barack Obama on Wednesday claiming that Egypt, though not an enemy, isn’t considered a U.S. ally, the White House is in clarification mode. According to an administration spokesperson, the president didn’t intend to signal any change in the relationship that exists between the two countries.
Earlier today, TheBlaze reported about Obama’s initial comments, which were made during an interview with Telemundo, the Spanish-language television station. When asked by a reporter if the U.S. and Egypt are allies, the president responded, “I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”
Foreign Policy noted the confusion that surrounded this comment — and the interview in general, writing, “That comment had Egypt watchers scratching their heads, especially since technically, Egypt was designated as a Major Non-NATO Ally in 1989 when Congress first passed the law creating that status, which gives them special privileges in cooperating with the United States, especially in the security and technology arenas.”
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor spoke with the The Cable, an online journal that is part of Foreign Policy online. According to Vietor, Obama’s words weren’t meant to devalue the partnership that exists between the two countries.
“I think folks are reading way too much into this,” he explained. “‘Ally’ is a legal term of art. We don’t have a mutual defense treaty with Egypt like we do with our NATO allies.”
The spokesperson went on to say that, “Egypt is [a] 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.”
Watch Obama’s original comments, below:
According to The Cable, administration officials have said that the “ally” question wasn’t anticipated and that the comment wasn’t something that Obama had pre-arranged. The statements, some analysts argue, regardless of whether they were incomplete or not properly thought out, do carry weight.
(H/T: Foreign Policy’s The Cable)