White House defends support of new Egyptian president amid GOP criticism

The White House defended its support of the newly elected Egyptian president amid Republican criticism Monday, saying he will be judged by his actions, not religion.

The Obama administration on Sunday praised the outcome of Egypt’s election on Sunday, which was won by Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party.


That prompted Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) to declare on his Facebook page that the Obama administration should cut off foreign aid to Egypt and denounce the election results and the Muslim Brotherhood.

West concluded that the Egyptian elections had shown that “the Arab Spring is nothing more than a radical Islamic nightmare.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Air Force One that the Obama administration was committed to the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt that led to their democratic elections held this past week.

He said the administration looks forward to working with Morsi and hopes he will respect the rights of all Egyptian citizens, including women and religious minorities.

“We judge individuals and parties that are elected in a democratic process by their actions, not by their religious affiliations,” Carney said.

“And I would point you to the comments that President-elect Morsi made, the commitments he made to upholding civil rights, including of women and Coptic Christians — principles that we very much think are important.”

The election of Morsi has the potential to complicate relations between the United States and Egypt, as the Muslim Brotherhood is credited with creating the Islamist political movement in the Arab world.

The revolution in Egypt was a key component of the Arab Spring, and a negative outcome in Egypt’s attempt at democratic elections could have repercussions throughout the Middle East.

The country is still not out of its political turmoil, either, as the Egyptian military, which is currently in control, restricted the president’s powers before the election, even as it has promised to relinquish its own hold once the election occurred.

One of the biggest concerns for U.S. officials with the transition in Egypt is its neighbor, Israel. When asked about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood affecting Egyptian-Israeli relations, Carney pointed to Morsi’s statement that Egypt would continue to uphold its treaty obligations.

“A treaty that is, of course, of great importance is the one that it has with Israel,” he said.

Carney was less direct on how Morsi would interact with Iran, as he declined to address Iran specifically when asked if Egypt would restore its ties with Tehran.

“It's appropriate for a nation like Egypt to have relations with other nations in the region,” Carney said. “The issue that I think we're focused on is that Egypt continue to fulfill its role as a pillar of regional security and peace and stability.”

Carney said that the administration was confident there would be an effective transition between Morsi and the current military leadership in Egypt.