By Thomas L. Friedman
(Translation by Jeremy R. Hammond)
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 the Iranian regime wants to hold the meeting in Tehran and have heads of state like you attend, and that is to signal to the world that the U.S. efforts to isolate Iran have failed and that the world sees through what Washington calls its attempts to “promote democracy”, like in your country, where the U.S. supported the exact same military establishment that cracked down on peaceful protests and attempted to usurp power to prevent your civilian government from taking over in Egypt.
In 2009, this Iranian regime quashed the Green Revolution. Hundreds of supporters of Mir-Hossein Mousavi were killed and many more jailed when protests turned violent and rioters destroyed property to protest Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election victory by demanding that the votes of the majority of Iranians who cast their ballots for Ahmadinejad be overturned. American pundits euphemistically call these protests of Ahmadinejad’s legitimate election victory a “pro-democracy” movement because it’s their job (the job of pundits like me) to manufacture consent for the U.S.’s ultimate policy goal of regime change. Morsi’s visit to Iran is lending legitimacy to an Iranian regime that the U.S. wants to overthrow. This does not augur well for Morsi’s presidency. In fact, he should be ashamed of himself.
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 message of servitude to Washington. 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 different 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 countries who obey Washington and those who don’t.
Is Morsi nonaligned in that choice? Is he nonaligned when it comes to choosing between obedience and rebelliousness — especially the Iranian intransigence that is so complicit in opposing the U.S. efforts to back the armed rebels in Syria to overthrow the Assad regime, which is disobedient by having friendly relations with Iran? And by the way, why is Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, lending his hand to this Iranian show of independence? What a betrayal of Washington.
This has nothing to do with Israel, which has nukes, or Iran nonexistent nuclear weapons program that the U.S. cites as a pretext to further its goal of regime change and to justify sanctions that punish the Iranian people for the crimes of their government, namely for the regime’s sin of disobedience. 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, which is U.S. backing, will not be found in Tehran. Morsi’s first big trip shouldn’t have been to just China and Iran. He should have signaled his allegiance to the West by going to Europe and the U.S., as well, and reassuring investors that Egypt will be open for business, such as in its oil and natural gas industries.
If Morsi needs a primer on the Western propaganda version of the pro-Mousavi movement in Iran (whose Islamic regime broke relations with Egypt in 1979 to protest the peace treaty with Israel)—which he should be getting on board with—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.” This is a fictional narrative, of course, but Morsi should recognize that actual facts are neither here nor there. That he bows to Washington is the only important thing.
The regime in Iran that the U.S. wishes to overthrow is the regime Morsi will be helping to show the world is not isolated, despite Washington’s best efforts. 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 the leaders who kept turning their backs on the votes of their people, and to urge them to govern their country relying on the support of the Iranian people rather than military forces.” Morsi might want to even remind himself that Washington overthrew the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran in 1953, and has a long history of overthrowing governments that don’t tow the line, and that his could be next if he doesn’t wise up and start showing more obedience.