Morsi’s Wrong Turn

I find it very disturbing that one of the first trips by Egypt’s newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, will be to attend the Nonaligned Movement’s summit meeting in Tehran this week. Excuse me, President Morsi, but there is only one reason Iranian regime wants to hold the meeting in Tehran and have heads of state like you attend, and that is to signal to Iran’s people that the world approves of their country’s clerical leadership, therefore they should never, ever, ever again think about launching a democracy movement, the exact same kind of democracy movement brought you, Mr. Morsi, to power in Egypt. (Thomas L. Friedman – NYTimes – 29/08/2012)

In 2009, this Iranian regime literally killed the Green Revolution. It gunned down hundreds and jailed thousands of Iranians who wanted the one thing that Egyptians got: to have their votes counted honestly and the results respected. Morsi, who was brought to power by a courageous democracy revolution that neither he nor his Muslim Brotherhood party started, but who benefited from the free and fair election that followed, is lending his legitimacy to an Iranian regime that brutally crushed just such a movement in Tehran. This does not augur well for Morsi’s presidency. In fact, he should be ashamed of himself. “The Iranian regime has offered Morsi a sanitized tour of its nuclear facilities” noted Karim Sadjadpour, the Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment. “As a former political prisoner in Mubarak’s Egypt, Morsi should also request a visit to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. It will remind him of his own past, and offer him a glimpse of Iran’s future.” Egyptian officials say Morsi is only stopping in Tehran for a few hours to hand over the presidency of the Nonaligned Movement to Iran from Egypt. Really? He could have done that by mail. It would have sent a powerful democratic message. By the way, what is the Nonaligned Movement anymore? “Nonaligned against what and between whom?” asked Michael Mandelbaum, foreign policy specialist at Johns Hopkins. The Nonaligned Movement was conceived at the Bandung summit in 1955, but there was a logic to it then. The world was divided between Western democratic capitalists and Eastern Communists, and developing states like Egypt, Yugoslavia and Indonesia declared themselves “nonaligned” with these two blocs. But “there is no Communist bloc today,” said Mandelbaum. “The main division in the world is between democratic and undemocratic countries.” Is Morsi nonaligned in that choice? Is he nonaligned when it comes to choosing between democracies and dictatorships, especially Iranian one that is so complicit in crushing Syrian rebellion as well? And by the way, why is Ban Ki-moon, United Nations secretary general, lending his hand to this Iranian whitewashing festival? What a betrayal of Iranian democrats.

This has nothing to do with Israel or Iran’s nukes. If Morsi wants to maintain a cold peace with Israel, that is his business. As for Morsi himself, I’d like to see him succeed in turning Egypt around. It would be a huge boost to democracy in the Arab world. But what Egypt needs most will not be found in Tehran. Morsi’s first big trip shouldn’t have been to just China and Iran. It should have been all across Europe and Asia to reassure investors and tourists Egypt is open for business again, maybe on to Silicon Valley, then Caltech to meet with Egypt’s Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Ahmed Zewail, to signal a commitment to reviving education in Egypt, where half women are illiterate. If Morsi needs a primer on democracy movement in Iran (whose Islamic regime broke relations with Egypt in 1979 to protest the peace treaty with Israel) he can read the one offered by Stanford’s Iran expert, Abbas Milani, on the United States Institute of Peace Web site: “Green Movement reached its height when up to 3 million peaceful demonstrators turned out on Tehran streets to protest official claims that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the 2009 presidential election in a landslide. Their simple slogan was: ‘Where is my vote?’ … Over next six months, the Green Movement evolved from a mass group of angry voters to a nationwide force demanding democratic rights originally sought in 1979 revolution, rights that were hijacked by radical clerics. … As momentum grew behind the Green Movement, government response was increasingly tough. In the fall of 2009, more than 100 of Green Movement’s most important leaders, activists and theorists appeared in show trials reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s infamous trials in 1930s.” By early 2010, the regime had quashed all public opposition. That is the regime Morsi will be helping to sanitize. One at least hopes he read the letter sent to him by an Iranian democracy group, Green Messengers of Hope, urging Morsi to remind his Iranian hosts “of the fates of leaders who kept turning their backs on votes of their people, and to urge them to govern their country relying on support of Iranian people rather than military forces.” Morsi might want to even remind himself of that. 


Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

7 Responses to Morsi’s Wrong Turn

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Tom Friedman has good intentions when he lectures democratically elected Pres Mohamed Morsi of Egypt on ” how to do the right thing” on foreign policy. After all, Morsi and his party have no experiences whatsoever in foreign policy. Tom does not agree with Morsi’s first official trip to Iran and China. Back in 2003, President elected Lula da Silva of Brazil made a similar mistake –in Tom’s view- as Pres Morsi does today. Lula’s first trip overseas was to Beijing, an unprecedented foreign policy gesture by a Brazilian president. When asked to explain such trip, Lula answered ” China is Brazil’s winning lottery number in the 21st century.” Perhaps, Mohamed Morsi’s thinking on foreign affairs goes along the same line as Lula da Silva.

  2. Pragmatism will rule President Morsi’s new foreign policy in Egypt: (…..) Less justified is the melodramatic response from some quarters to Morsi’s first steps on the international stage. Last week, the New York Times’ leading foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman scolded Morsi for planning to attend the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, and thus “helping to sanitize” the Iranian regime (this from a man who once described Bahrain as a “progressive state”). A few days earlier, a current and a former member of the neo-conservative Washington Institute for Near East Policy writing jointly in the Los Angeles Times, noted Morsi’s visits to Tehran and Beijing, and warned that the Egyptian President could be poised to defect to the East in a move comparable to Sadat’s in the 1970s. At the same time, Iranian state media were also furiously spinning Morsi’s impending arrival as a rejection of the US and its allies. Hindsight is of course a wonderful thing. But when Morsi used his summit speech to denounce the Syrian regime supported by Iran and China – painfully embarrassing his hosts by equating the struggle of the Syrian people to that of the Palestinians – it needn’t have been too much of a surprise to anyone. For one thing, the position had already been stated. Moreover, with the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood heavily represented in that country’s opposition, and with an economically crippled Egypt still reliant on the largesse of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Morsi was only ever going to support one side in the Syrian conflict, which in turn could only preclude a move into the Moscow-Tehran-Beijing camp. And there were scarcely any other grounds to cast Morsi as a latter-day Nasser or a Khomenei. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood have consistently been at pains to reassure Washington that they have no intention of severing relations (irrespective of who wins the US presidential elections in November) or of abandoning the treaty with Israel. This conservative approach is predictable enough from an organisation whose leadership (putting the rank and file to one side) comprises of businessmen and upper-middle class professionals who have shown a preference for caution, pragmatism and, as Egyptian revolutionaries would (correctly) argue, cynical accommodation with power. Where some developments in Cairo’s foreign policy are concerned, the west should have no objections, or at least is in no position to complain. Given the recent militant attacks on its southern border, Israel ought to welcome any amendment of the peace treaty that allows Egypt’s military the necessary freedom of movement to secure the Sinai peninsula. Morsi’s attempt to include Iran in regional talks on the Syrian crisis is merely an act of realism given that no negotiated settlement is feasible without the involvement of the key actors (although whether Cairo is any better placed than Washington to bring the parties together, after the Tehran speech, remains to be seen). As for Morsi’s trip to China in search of investment for Egypt’s broken economy, Western complaints are likely to fall on deaf ears. The IMF-approved structural adjustment programs imposed under Mubarak proved devastating for ordinary Egyptians, and did much to create the conditions that led to last year’s uprising. Cairo may currently be too weak to extricate itself from the West’s economic grip, but it can hardly be blamed for wishing to at least diversify the range of actors on whom it depends (…..)

  3. They began as a cry for freedom in the Middle East, but the Arab rebellions have become increasingly characterized by an ancient sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. SPIEGEL examines how the power struggle between the two groups is sparking new fears along old frontlines. In the countries that follow the Muslim faith, the lines between past and present often blur, making it seem as though the past is not over, and certainly not forgiven. Indeed, the past can come terribly alive here, and it can turn terribly deadly, again and again, every day. When representatives from around the world convened in the Iranian capital of Tehran last Thursday for the start of a Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, an annual meeting of 120 nations that view themselves as not aligned for or against any major powers, the focus was suddenly on 1,300-year-old battles, murders and power struggles. The host was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a Shiite. Next to him on the dais was Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi, a Sunni. Morsi began his opening address with a mention of the Prophet Muhammad, but then continued, “May Allah’s blessing be upon our masters Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali.” Iranian media immediately took the statement as a provocation. Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman were Muhammad’s successors after the Prophet’s death in 632. Sunni Muslims venerate them as the first caliphs — but Shiite Muslims consider them usurpers and traitors to the faith, hated figures whose very names should not be spoken. Muhammad’s true successor, Shiites say, was Ali, their first imam, who later fought against the other three before being murdered. Morsi went on to discuss the present situation in Syria, where Bashar Assad is overseeing the massacre of rebels who are mostly Sunni. Assad and his clique belong to the country’s Alawite minority, which is more closely aligned with the Shiites. “The bloodshed will not stop without intervention from outside,” the Egyptian president declared, saying that Assad’s regime had lost all legitimacy. Morsi, a Sunni, made these statements while sitting next to the Shiite Ahmadinejad, who has been providing the Syrian regime with weapons and now fighters too. Morsi must know that any country that intervenes in Syria risks ending up at war with Iran as well. The frontlines of the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites run through many countries in the Middle East, and those who fan the flames in one part of the region may find themselves under fire in another part entirely (…..)

  4. En los próximos meses, varias graves crisis económicas y políticas regionales podrían combinarse en un tremendo punto de inflexión que alimente una intensa conmoción mundial. Durante el verano, la perspectiva de un azaroso otoño ha pasado a ser aún más probable. Suenan tambores de guerra aún más ruidosos en Oriente Próximo. Nadie puede predecir la dirección en la que el presidente y la mayoría parlamentaria de los islamistas suníes enEgipto orientarán el país, pero una cosa está clara: los islamistas suníes están modificando decisivamente la política de la región. Esa realineación regional no tiene por qué ser necesariamente antioccidental, pero lo será sin lugar a dudas, si Israel y Estados Unidos, o los dos, atacan a Irán militarmente. Entretanto, la guerra civil arrecia en Siria, acompañada de una catástrofe humanitaria. Desde luego, el régimen del presidente Bashar el Asad no sobrevivirá, pero está decidido a luchar hasta el final. La balcanización de Siria entre los diversos grupos étnicos y religiosos del país es un resultado claramente predecible. De hecho, ya no se puede excluir una situación parecida a la de Bosnia, mientras que la perspectiva de que el Gobierno sirio pierda el control de sus armas químicas plantea una amenaza inmediata de intervención militar por parte de Turquía, Israel o EE UU. Además, la guerra civil siria se ha convertido en una batalla declarada abiertamente por la hegemonía regional entre Irán, por un lado, y Arabía Saudí, Catar, Turquía y EE UU, por otro. Israel, que se mantiene al margen de esa coalición árabo-occidental, juega sus cartas sin mostrarlas (…..) Una guerra en el golfo Pérsico, que sigue siendo la gasolinera del mundo, afectaría a las exportaciones de petróleo durante un tiempo y los precios de la energía se pondrían por las nubes, con lo que asestarían un golpe severo a la economía mundial, que está tambaleándose al borde de la recesión. China, que ya tiene problemas económicos, sería la más gravemente afectada, junto con toda el Asia oriental. Como EE UU está también económicamente debilitado y afronta unas elecciones presidenciales, su capacidad de dirección quedaría gravemente constreñida. ¿Y podría una Europa debilitada afrontar una crisis del petróleo? Una crisis de la seguridad regional y mundial causada por una guerra asimétrica podría contribuir aún más a los problemas de la economía mundial, con lo que las exportaciones se desplomarían aún más.

    Respice finem! (“¡Piénsese en el final!”), decían los romanos. Los dirigentes del mundo deberían tomarse muy en serio esa sabiduría intemporal, que es doblemente aplicable a los europeos. Sería absurdo que tuviéramos que sufrir de nuevo una catástrofe real para entender en qué ha consistido siempre la integración europea.

  5. As the Assad regime hurtles toward deserved collapse in Syria, I often think back to a warning I received from a friend 18 months ago. I was serving then as the U.S. ambassador in Baghdad and was focused on Iraqi problems. But my confidant, an Iraqi Kurd with a strong commitment to a unified, multi-sectarian Iraq, and who was no friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was worried about the uprising brewing in neighboring Syria. Unless the United States was able to influence events, he cautioned, a revolt might violently split Syria, and then Iraq and finally the region along sectarian lines. The sense that Assad’s days are numbered has prompted worries that militant Sunni extremists might claw their way to the top in Damascus. A greater and related danger, however, is that the uprising will degenerate into a Sunni-Shiite conflict that could spread beyond Syria’s borders and further destabilize the Middle East. Already, reports are mounting that sectarian violence is commonplace in Syria and beginning to take hold in neighboring Lebanon. The Iranians and Assad have done their part to aggravate the problem by stoking fears among Iraqi Shiites and other Shiite groups about the consequences of a Sunni triumph in Syria. But even without Iranian meddling, the danger is urgent (…..)

  6. (…..) Egypt is in dire economic condition. Youth unemployment is rampant, everything is in decay, tourism and foreign investment and reserves are down sharply. As a result, Egypt needs an I.M.F. bailout. Any bailout, though, will involve economic pain — including cuts in food and fuel subsidies to shrink Egypt’s steadily widening budget deficit. This will hurt. In order to get Egyptians to sign on to that pain, a big majority needs to feel invested in the government and its success. And that is not the case today. Morsi desperately needs a national unity government, made up of a broad cross-section of Egyptian parties, but, so far, the Muslim Brotherhood has failed to reach any understanding with the National Salvation Front, the opposition coalition. Egypt also desperately needs foreign investment to create jobs. There are billions of dollars of Egyptian capital sitting outside the country today, because Egyptian investors, particularly Christians, are fearful of having money confiscated or themselves arrested on specious charges, as happened to some after President Hosni Mubarak’s fall. One of the best things Morsi could do for himself and for Egypt would be to announce an amnesty of everyone from the Mubarak era who does not have blood on his hands or can be proved in short order to have stolen government money. Egypt needs every ounce of its own talent and capital it can mobilize back home. This is no time for revenge. The Brotherhood, though, doesn’t just need a new governing strategy. It needs to understand that its version of political Islam — which is resistant to women’s empowerment and religious and political pluralism — might be sustainable if you are Iran or Saudi Arabia, and you have huge reserves of oil and gas to buy off all the contradictions between your ideology and economic growth. But if you are Egypt and basically your only natural resource is your people — men and women — you need to be as open to the world and modernity as possible to unleash all of their potential for growth. Bottom line: Either the Muslim Brotherhood changes or it fails — and the sooner it realizes that the better. I understand why President Obama’s team prefers to convey this message privately: so the political forces in Egypt don’t start focusing on us instead of on each other. That’s wise. But I don’t think we are conveying this message forcefully enough. And Egyptian democracy advocates certainly don’t. In an open letter to President Obama last week in Al-Ahram Weekly, the Egyptian human rights activist Bahieddin Hassan wrote Obama that the muted “stances of your administration have given political cover to the current authoritarian regime in Egypt and allowed it to fearlessly implement undemocratic policies and commit numerous acts of repression.”

    It would not be healthy for us to re-create with the Muslim Brotherhood the bargain we had with Mubarak. That is, just be nice to Israel and nasty to the jihadists and you can do whatever you want to your own people out back. It also won’t be possible. The Egyptian people tolerated that under Mubarak for years. But now they are mobilized, and they have lost their fear. Both we and Morsi need to understand that this old bargain is not sustainable any longer.

  7. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: According to Tom “He (Morsi) has only one chance to make a second impression if he wants to continue to receive U.S. aid from Congress.” Talking about the law of unintended consequences! Perhaps, losing US aid is not a bad thing for Egyptian society, after all. The entirety $ 1.5 billion/yr aid goes directly to the military. This is the price paid by US taxpayers to keep Egypt’s generals happy with the peace accord signed with Israel. Not a single school was built or a single teacher hired with US financial aid.


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