Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi made waves this week at Iran’s hosting of the 120-nation Non-Aligned Movement by aggressively denouncing the Syrian regime and its leader, Bashar al-Assad.
In what was the first visit made by an Egyptian leader to Tehran in over 30 years – and, subsequently, probably the last visit for another 30 years – President Morsi publicly embarrassed his Iranian hosts by stating that the world has an “ethical duty” to back Syria’s rebels.
“Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost legitimacy is … a political and strategic necessity,” Morsi proclaimed. “We all have to announce our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria. [We should] translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of rule that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom.”
The response to Morsi’s call to action was – quite predictably – bedlam. Syria’s Foreign Minister, Walid al-Moallem, stormed out before accusing Egypt of instigating bloodshed, while Iranian state television hurriedly edited Morsi’s comments and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Iran’s Supreme Leader – made an apologetic speech that failed to mention the 17-month Syrian conflict.
In fact, the Iranian government is among the only friends that Bashar al-Assad has left, with the Sunni-dominated states of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey all pledging their support for Syria’s rebels. Yet the ever-unpredictable Mohamed Morsi, described by the Wall Street Journal as having views “decidedly hostile to U.S. interests,” has made perhaps his boldest move yet in support of the advancement of democracy. How then, has the United States responded to one of the world’s most prevalent humanitarian crises?
While America’s UN envoy cautiously praised Morsi’s words, the US has been disturbingly silent with regards to Syria’s ever-intensifying civil war. Just last week, French President Françoise Hollande urged the Syrian opposition forces to organise a provisional government – which both he and UK Prime Minister David Cameron would be fully prepared to recognise as Syria’s lawful government. Meanwhile, US officials quickly shot down the proposal, claiming that Syria’s opposition is “too fractured” to consider the latter. Yet apparently it is the US government that suffers a sharp divide, as said government officials were forced to speak on the condition of anonymity, as they are not authorised to voice an official stance on the issue.
Indeed, the Conservative media has blasted the Obama administration for its hesitancy to intervene on the behalf of Syria’s rebels – and simultaneously, heavily condemned Mr Obama’s government for its continued support of Egypt’s “new dictator”, Mohamed Morsi; however, perhaps the American people could learn a thing or two from what the Wall Street Journal has described as Morsi’s “radically intolerant agenda.”
According to UN officials, 1,600 people were killed in Syria last week – displacing around 1.2 million civilians and overwhelming neighbours Turkey and Jordan with 150,000 refugees. For those Syrians that have chosen to remain in their homes, Human Rights Watch reports that Bashar al-Assad’s government forces have grown fond of firing artillery on the few remaining bakeries that have become life-lines for civilians, have cut power and water to cities throughout the country and are indiscriminately attacking Syrian civilians.
President Obama has openly condemned the actions of Bashar al-Assad’s government, but has yet to take any progressive action. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney appears too afraid to voice his concerns over the embattled al-Assad, trivially referring to the current state of affairs in Syria as “a ray of sunshine.” Likewise, Mr Romney has refused to respond to Representative Michele Bachman’s mission to destroy the Muslim Brotherhood, wisely affirming that his campaign does not centre on his unexpressed feelings for Mohamed Morsi’s democratically elected government.
Yet regardless of the inability of America’s leaders to take action, at this point it seems clear that any American pushing for intervention and Syria whilst simultaneously campaigning for the removal of Mohamed Morsi’s government does so in a manner of blind and utter hypocrisy. In his first few months as Egypt’s democratically elected President, Morsi’s commitment to democracy has been completely unparalleled – he has forcefully removed the regime’s military junta, unexpectedly appointed a cabinet that includes Christians and progressive female politicians and has now chosen to stand up to Syria’s lone regional ally in Tehran by openly supporting the Syrian people’s democratic aspirations.
Mohamed Morsi has been dismissed by Conservative America as an extremist dictator; however, in truth it appears almost as if “America’s newest enemy” has, in all actuality, taken a few pages out of Hillary Clinton’s playbook on democratic foreign policy. Indeed, while America’s leaders are too afraid that a firm stance against the Syrian regime will affect their chances in the upcoming presidential election, it’s refreshing to see that at least one leader has the courage to stand up in the name of democracy. In doing so, President Morsi has not only proven – once again – that the Muslim Brotherhood is not America’s enemy, but has shown an unrivalled level of courage that the United States government has yet to discover.