Spy scandal another blow to fretting US allies

Spy scandal another blow to fretting US allies

WASHINGTON - In Europe, America's friends are furious, in the Middle East they are mystified and in the Pacific, they are merely puzzled.

Mounting questions over the direction of US foreign policy and sweeping espionage operations are threatening to undercut the Obama White House's claim to have repaired relations with key allies that frayed under president George W. Bush.

The world is also looking on in alarm at political dysfunction in Washington and wondering whether it will curtail America's global role: Secretary of State John Kerry warned in a speech this week that US partners were now asking "can we be counted on?"

President Barack Obama, already beleaguered over the chaotic rollout of his health care law, now has another foreign policy headache. Europe is in uproar over explosive new leaks from secrets scooped up by fugitive analyst Edward Snowden.

European publics, who once swooned over the president, are fuming at claims the secretive US National Security Agency logged details of millions of their phone calls, and even apparently tapped the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Heather Conley, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia in the Bush administration, said that the White House response so far had done little to placate its allies.

"Their approach has led the (European) leaders to up the volume because we are not understanding how significant this issue is for public opinion," said Conley, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

In Washington, some officials privately disdain Europe's fury as overly theatrical - because some of the outraged governments are partners in counterterror spying themselves and US intelligence has thwarted attacks in Europe.

The attitude that spying is rampant everywhere, and Europe should just get over it, is also widespread.

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