Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Friedman: Shame on Egypt's president

By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN c.2012 New York Times News Service
Published 11:33 p.m., Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I find it very disturbing that one of the first trips by Egypt's newly elected president, Mohammed 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 the 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 and therefore they should never, ever, ever again think about launching a democracy movement — the exact same kind of democracy movement that brought you, Mr. Morsi, to power in Egypt.

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 auger 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, a 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," Mandelbaum said. "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 the one that is so complicit in crushing the Syrian rebellion as well? And by the way, why is Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. secretary-general, lending his hand to this Iranian whitewashing festival?


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 that Egypt is open for business again — and maybe on to Silicon Valley and then Caltech to meet with Egypt's Nobel Prize-winning chemist, Ahmed Zewail, to signal a commitment to reviving education in Egypt, where half the women are illiterate.

If Morsi needs a primer on the 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 U.S. Institute of Peace website: "The 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?' ...

But by early 2010, the regime had quashed all public opposition. That is the regime that Morsi will be helping to sanitize. An Iranian democracy group, Green Messengers of Hope, has urged Morsi to remind his Iranian hosts "of the fates of the leaders who kept turning their backs on the votes of their people" Morsi might want to even remind himself of that.

Thomas Friedman writes for The New York Times.


Post a Comment

<< Home