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Administration Official: In Mideast, Status Quo 'Not Working For Anybody'

In an interview with NPR's Andy Carvin ( @acarvin) and Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch ( @abuaardvark), the White House's Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said when it comes to the Mideast and North Africa, "the status quo is not working for anybody."

Andy and Marc asked questions users sent over Twitter. A lot people wanted to know why the United States was treating some countries differently than others. Why, for example, would the U.S. call for military action in Libya and not in Yemen? Or why in his Mideast speech today, President Barack Obama mentioned universal human rights violations in Syria but didn't once mention Saudi Arabia?

Rhodes said the administration doesn't think one kind of action can solve all the region's problems.

The situation in Libya, Rhodes said, was unique: The administration thought a massacre was "imminent;" it had a call from Libyan people to intervene and an international coalition willing to act. Rhodes said military intervention in Libya saved "thousands" of lives.

"It's doesn't mean we'll be able to replicate the same circumstances in Syria," he said.

In Yemen, where president Ali Abdullah Saleh has been an ally of the United States, Rhodes said the administration is using the best tools at its disposal.

"The president said we've been clear that there needs to be a transition," he said. He said that Obama's Chief Counter Terrorism Adviser John Brennan took that message to Saleh.

In his speech, the president didn't once mention Saudi Arabia, another American ally. Rhodes said the president focused on countries where there's been violence or transitions.

Still, Rhodes said, "We will raise issues such as human rights and reform."

Rhodes also said that in countries with which the U.S. has deep ties, they are using diplomacy in the way they did in Egypt: Privately encouraging all levels of the government to get on board with a transition.

"Our message to every government is: Those who have interest in stability, stability doesn't come from the status quo," said Rhodes.

Rhodes also added that the U.S. is not picking winners in the Arab Spring. "We're not picking and choosing revolutionaries; we're standing up for rights," he said. "We're not going to dictate outcomes. People have the right to choose their own leaders."

A full transcript of the Twitter interview is below:

Our Orignal Post:

Following President Barack Obama's speech on the Middle East, NPR's Andy Carvin ( @acarvin) and Foreign Policy's Marc Lynch ( @abuaardvark) will be at the U.S. State Department for an interview with Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

The interview will happen on Twitter. Andy and Marc have been collecting questions, but they'll also monitor the conversation on Twitter as the speech gets going and they'll pick out a few questions during that time as well.

You can send questions by attaching the #MEspeechhashtag to your tweet.

Below, you'll find a live video stream of the interview and, then, a box with Andy and Marc's tweet stream. We'll be pulling in some public tweets on occasion, both during the speech and during the interview.

Update at 11:48 a.m. ET:The video box below, provided by the White House will stream live video of the president's speech, followed by the Twitter interview. And, mobile users, the video is Flash-based so you may not be able to see it.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta
Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.