I love CBC reporting on the Middle East, because the CBC is always so desperate not to be seen as taking a side that they will say weird, incongruous things. Often this takes the form of calling all armed individuals in the Middle East “insurgents” instead of “terrorists”…you know, even if said “insurgents” obviously openly delight in causing those they oppose to actually feel terror, thereby kind of warranting the use of the other name. (Q.v., the current behaviour of the Gaza Palestinians, if you’re looking for examples of this.)
This article about Mohammed Morsi in Egypt is a good example of the typical CBC oeuvre. Morsi has fairly obviously, for quite some time, been trying to position himself _between_ the West and the more theocratic Middle East…but of course the CBC is just getting around to figuring this out, and the trademark weird, incongruous statements lace this article along the way to reporter Nahlah Ayed’s conclusion that Morsi is in fact behaving in just that way.
Here’s what the weird incongruity of the CBC’s statements look like this time: “A scientist, a believer, and a former political prisoner, Morsi cuts a drastically different figure in the corridors of world power. But in his short, not quite three months in office, Morsi has so far managed to confound watchers. Despite his Islamist credentials, rooted in the once outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, he maintains that under him the country will be pluralistic and inclusive. Others aren’t so sure. Meanwhile, his slow reaction in condemning the violent protests at U.S. embassies in Cairo and Libya recently, over the video that mocked the Prophet Muhammad, caused even Barack Obama to publicly wonder about Morsi’s Egypt. ‘I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,’ Obama said earlier this month.”
Maybe the CBC is confounded (or wants to pretend that it is, because it wants to be perceived as fence-sitting and hence “objective”), but really it is pretty clear that Morsi wants to navigate a different path: not the one Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and that crowd are following, and not the West’s either. People who follow what Morsi has been doing since becoming Egypt’s president can see that pretty well.
Of course, Barack Obama has it exactly right – Egypt is not behaving as if it were a US ally. But who would really expect it to be? Shoe-throwing at Americans is still a popular pastime after eight years of George W. Bush. The amazing thing is that Morsi has managed to keep Egypt from _becoming_ an enemy to the US and the other countries of the West, while at the same time actually managing to flip the bird to Iran and Syria diplomatically _and_ playing a role in getting Hamas to stop attacking Israel. That is, to paraphrase the US vice-president, a BFD.
The evidence that Morsi intends neither to be a friend nor a foe to the West has been overwhelming for some time, so it is with a certain amount of amusement that I note the CBC is finally clueing in to this.
The more important question is whether Morsi intends to continue to collaborate with those to his left politically within Egypt. Thus far he has done that, but it’s pretty clear that his recent attempt to govern by decree until a new constitution is passed has soured relations with the “liberal/secular” part of the Arab Spring movement, and that is indeed disturbing.
I’m more interested in viewing this through the lens of “what he has done and what he appears to be doing”. What he has done, thus far, has been pretty collaborative. I don’t think, for example, that there is any way to read his demands that Iran be “fully complying with the relevant Security Council resolutions and thoroughly cooperating with the IAEA.” as the act of someone carrying out the orders of his Salafist coalition partners. Indeed, one of the leaders of Egypt’s liberal opposition is Mohammed ElBaradei, who was a UN weapons inspection official and one of the leaders of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Granted ElBaradei now is suggesting that Morsi wants to make himself the “new pharaoh” of Egypt. Still, despite ElBaradei’s criticism, Morsi does seem to take some of the man’s opinions seriously.
Perhaps that will all change. It is possible that Morsi was more accommodating to the Egyptian left-of-centre opposition than he plans to be. I don’t mean to undercut any serious opposition to Morsi if he shifts gears and starts to be the Salafist’s best buddy. But thus far, I have a hard time seeing him as a foe. He seems more like someone carving out an independent course.
As long as independence means “no longer our enemy”, I’m more or less fine with it. Perhaps better relations may come later. Perhaps the liberal opposition can win a future election there. I’d like to see both of those things happen.
One step at a time, folks.