Obama leery of intervening violent upheavals in Mideast

AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis Anti-government protesters gathered in Tahrir (Liberation) Square, watch a screen showing U.S. President Barack Obama live on a TV broadcast from Washington, D.C., speaking about the situation in Egypt.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — From Egypt to Syria to Iraq and beyond, the Obama administration is determined to show it will only go so far to help save nations in chaos from themselves.

President Barack Obama has long made it clear that he favors a foreign policy of consultation and negotiation, but not intervention, in the persistent and mostly violent upheavals across the Mideast. And even as Egypt’s military overthrew its Islamist government on Wednesday, Washington maintained its hands-off approach to nationwide turbulence in one of the United States’ most important Arab allies.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Wednesday, speaking just before the new government was announced, the Obama administration is concerned about Egypt, but called for talks to plot a solution. There was no immediate response from the State Department or the White House after the Egyptian military’s order.

“We think that all sides need to engage with each other and need to listen to the voices of the Egyptian people, and what they are calling for, and peacefully protesting about,” Psaki said. “And that’s a message we’ve conveyed at all levels to all sides.”

Psaki steered clear of directly criticizing ousted Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, whose whereabouts were not immediately known after the military’s announcement Wednesday. But she noted Morsi could have answered the Egyptian public’s concerns, “and he did not take the opportunity to do that.”

It was a deliberately muted response to the uproar that has for days gripped Egyptians, many of whom in turn have openly jeered the U.S. for appearing too close to Morsi, despite his hard-line Islamist policies.