Mohamed Morsi’s Slap in the Face Brings Mahmoud Ahmedinejad Back to Square One
Tehran spared neither money nor effort to make the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, which concluded yesterday, a smashing success.
A spanking new conference hall was constructed in a smart suburb in the north of the capital, the crumbling highways from the airports were spruced up, 200 Mercedes Benz limousines were bought to haul the delegates back and forth. The summit days were declared a public holiday, to give police a justification for stifling any protests, and Tehran residents wishing to make themselves scarce were encouraged to do so by free gifts of petrol.
But it all went badly wrong. The arrival of Egypt’s President, Mohamed Morsi, was a coup: the first visit by an Egyptian leader since the Iranian revolution of 1979. And Mr Morsi’s decision to come was a slap in the face for Washington, a further reason for the Iranian President to grin.
The grin vanished, however, when Mr Morsi got up to speak. Far from endorsing Tehran’s strategy, the moderate Islamist from Cairo, who has now shown several signs of being his own man, went straight for the jugular, identifying the civil war in Iran’s close ally Syria as the latest in the line of just struggles that started in Tunis and went on to Cairo.
“We should all express our full support to the struggle of those who are demanding freedom and justice in Syria,” Mr Morsi declared. The world had “a moral duty” to support the Syrian opposition, he went on, whose struggle, was comparable to the Palestinians’. “The Palestinian and Syrian people are actively seeking freedom, dignity and human justice.” And he wasn’t finished. “Our solidarity with the struggle of Syrians against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy,” he said, “is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity.”
It was a grave humiliation for Mr Morsi’s hosts, and provoked the Syrian delegation, led by the Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, to walk out. He later condemned the Egyptian’s remarks as “an interference in Syria’s internal affairs” and “an instigation for continuing the shedding of…Syrian blood”.