Today at noon, President Obama welcomed nine ambassadors from foreign nations to the Oval Office for a formal credentialing ceremony. At that ceremony, Obama accepted the credentials of ambassadors, granting them full ambassadorial rights in the United States. Among those ambassadors: Mohamed Mostafa Mohamed Tawfik, Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Tawfik has worked in the Egyptian civil service since the 1980s. He was the Egyptian ambassador to Lebanon most recently; before that, he was ambassador to Australia. Tawfik is, in many respects, the sort of Muslim that President Obama most wants in control of policy in the Arab world. It’s not that he’s pro-American – he’s not, really. He believes that Islamist terrorism is caused by the “Arab-Israeli conflict and the Iraqi situation,” which have “been instrumental in fuelling anger and frustration and in turn extremism and militancy.” He points to “the level of misunderstanding between the Arab-Muslim world and the West, which has led to anxieties about loss of identity in many societies and given extremists the opportunity to present themselves as champions of such causes.”
And he says all this openly. But he’s welcome in the Oval Office, because he shares that philosophy with its current inhabitant. President Obama, too, believes that Islamist terrorism is caused in large measure by Israel; he too believes that American interventionism in the Middle East is the root cause of Islamist violence. And he thinks that the Muslim world and the West simply misunderstand each other, which is why he headed over to Cairo in 2009 to explain just how sensitive the West is to those communications problems.
Obama and Tawfik seem to share a general philosophy of the Middle East. And yet last week, it was the American embassy in Cairo, under Obama’s State Department, that was stormed. It was the American consulate in Libya that was attacked. Anti-American feelings in the Muslim world seem unaffected by Obama’s ideological détente with Islamists.
Now Tawfik is the emissary of a Muslim Brotherhood government. No doubt he was treated with more respect in the Oval Office than was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. No doubt Obama will continue to respect the Egyptian government, even as they dictate policy to him. And no doubt Americans abroad – and our allies – will suffer the consequences.