Tanks and barbed wire had surrounded Egypt’s presidential palace and crowds of protesters were swarming around last week when President Obama placed a call to President Mohamed Morsi.
Mr. Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood stood accused of a sudden turn toward authoritarianism, as they fulminated about conspiracies, steamrollered over opponents, and sent their supporters into a confrontation with protesters the night before that call; the clash left seven people dead. But Mr. Obama did not reprimand Mr. Morsi, advisers to both leaders said.
Instead, a senior Obama administration official said, the American president sought to build on a growing rapport with his Egyptian counterpart, arguing to Mr. Morsi that it was in his own interest to offer his opposition compromises, in order to build trust in his government.
“These last two weeks have been concerning, of course, but we are still waiting to see,” said another senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid aggravating relations with Egypt. “One thing we can say for Morsi is he was elected, so he has some legitimacy.” He noted that Mr. Morsi was elected with 51 percent of the vote.