It is “very disturbing” that Egypt’s newly elected president, Mohamed Morsi, has chosen the Nonaligned Movement’s summit meeting in Tehran as one of his first foreign trips, says the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman.
“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,” he writes, “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.”
“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.”
More problematic for Washington is Cairo’s outreach to China (above), according to David Schenker, director of the Arab Politics Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Christina Lin, a fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations.
“Much like post-revolution Iran, China could be a willing partner for an Islamist Egypt.
Upgraded ties could provide China with a port on the Mediterranean and access to US military technology, but Morsi also sees benefits in diversifying Egypt’s sources of assistance:
At the most basic level, China’s foreign policy is based solely on perceived national interest alone, and as such, unlike the United States, Beijing will have no qualms about Morsi’s increasing limitations on press freedoms, restrictions on freedom of speech, constraints on women’s rights or the ill treatment of minorities. At the same time, China is flush with cash, and Egypt will again be ripe for foreign investment when and if security is reestablished.
Morsi’s visit to Beijing “is part of a larger strategy to basically end Egyptian reliance on the West,” said Schenker. “And they see China as an integral part to that strategy.”
“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,” notes Friedman. “Really? He could have done that by mail. It would have sent a powerful democratic message.”
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 United States Institute of Peace Web site:
“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?’ … Over the next six months, the Green Movement evolved from a mass group of angry voters to a nationwide force demanding the democratic rights originally sought in the 1979 revolution, rights that were hijacked by radical clerics. … As momentum grew behind the Green Movement, the government response was increasingly tough. In the fall of 2009, more than 100 of the Green Movement’s most important leaders, activists and theorists appeared in show trials reminiscent of Joseph Stalin’s infamous trials in the 1930s.”