29 August 2012

Morsi's brave initiative

Egypt and Iran have barely been on speaking terms for some time. An Egyptian leader hasn't visited Tehran since the Islamic revolution in 1979. But new president Mohamed Morsi intends to change that. This week he is attending the Non-Aligned Movement summit hosted by Iran.

Apparently, Morsi's visit will be short and largely symbolic but he intends, nonetheless, to lay the foundation for a new regional effort to deal with the increasing violence in Syria. His idea is to create a Syria contact group made up of the four major powers in the region: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iran. He also intends to discuss the issue with China and Russia, both having opposed punitive measures against the Assad regime in the UN security council.

The United States has opposed including Tehran in the discussions, and has even opposed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon attending the summit, but given Iran's vital interests in Syria and its ability to affect the future of any solution, that is folly.

As for our government, no comment so far on Morsi's initiative, but Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has written to Ban Ki-moon supporting the U.S. position that he not attend the summit. Given our abandonment of balanced policy in the Middle East, I suspect the Secretary General will pay about as much attention to Baird's letter as Mr. Baird would pay to a letter from me.

Nothing else has worked in ending the violence in Syria. Morsi should be wished all the luck in the world.

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