The PJ Tatler

Carney on Engagement: We'll Judge Muslim Brotherhood by Actions, Not 'Religious Affiliation'

White House spokesman Jay Carney today defended the administration’s “mid-level” meetings with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood — which, in yesterday’s press briefing, he called meetings with “lower-level” National Security Council officials.

Regardless, he said in both briefings, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) spoke with Muslim Brotherhood officials when visiting Egypt, and they “outrank” Samantha Power, a special assistant to President Obama.

“Look, they are not — they are mid-level members of directorates at the National Security Council,” Carney said when pressed on the meeting. “Our policy is clear and is the same, which is that in the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, we have broadened our engagement to include new and emerging political parties and actors — because it’s a fact that Egypt’s political landscape has changed and the actors have become more diverse, and our engagement reflects that. The point is that we will judge Egypt’s political actors by how they act, not by their religious affiliation.”

Carney said that the conversation included the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to hold a referendum on the Camp David Accords and “our belief in the need for Egypt to abide by its treaty with Israel, and broadly, by its international obligations.”

“I think it is known to everyone who has paid any attention to the post-revolution developments in Egypt that the Muslim Brotherhood will be a major player, and we are engaging because that is the appropriate and right thing to do,” he said, adding that he expects “that kind of engagement will continue.”

Carney was asked if the administration officials have ever asked the Muslim Brotherhood to stop brutalizing Christians.

“Again, I don’t have readouts on that, but we are very candid in all of our discussions with actors on the political scene in Egypt and elsewhere about what we consider to be appropriate and democratic conduct in a society that has gone through a revolution and a democratic revolution and that aspires to be a full democracy,” he said.

When pressed on why the administration didn’t suspend aid to Egypt over its repression of democracy advocates, including Americans, Carney said, “The approach we are taking is the one we believe will yield the greatest potential for a positive result.”