Thursday 30 August 2012

Egypt’s Morsi deals Assad a body blow from Tehran

Morsi addressing the NAM summit in Tehran

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi poured cold water today on Iran’s frenzied endeavors to keep Syrian President Bashar al-Assad afloat.
With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seated by his side, Morsi told the opening session of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Tehran the “oppressive” Assad regime has “lost its legitimacy” and must go.
Egypt, he said, stands behind the Syrian people and their struggle for “dignity, freedom” and “a new Syria.”
“Our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy is an ethical duty, and a political and strategic necessity,” Morsi said.
“We all have to express our full solidarity with the struggle of those seeking freedom and justice in Syria, and translate this sympathy into a clear political vision that supports a peaceful transition to a democratic system of governance that reflects the demands of the Syrian people for freedom.”  
Morsi’s remarks certainly did not sit well with his Iranian hosts who remain committed to Assad, and caused the Syrian delegation to leave the conference hall.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem later accused Morsi of using his speech to incite further bloodshed in Syria.
Significantly, the Syrian delegation to the NAM summit walked out as soon as Morsi addressed the Syrian issue in his speech.
It was the third time in a week that the Egyptian president specifically called for showing Assad the door.
Speaking to Reuters before travelling this week to China and Iran, two countries which, along with Russia, have so far opposed Arab and Western calls to end Assad’s rule, Morsi said, “Now is the time to stop this bloodshed and for the Syrian people to regain their full rights and for this regime that kills its people to disappear from the scene… There is no room to talk about reform, but the discussion is about change.”
Yesterday again, the French presidency said the Egyptian president agreed in a telephone conversation with François Hollande that there could be no political solution for Syria “without the departure of Bashar al-Assad.”
But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei would have none of that. He told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a meeting on the eve of the summit: “The bitter truth about Syria is that a number of governments have compelled the groups opposing the Syrian government to wage war on it at their behest.”
Thus, Khamenei said, “prevention of arms shipment to irresponsible (opposition) groups” is the sine qua non of a solution in Syria.
Assad himself was meanwhile telling his cousin’s Addounia TV in an interview aired yesterday that he was “fighting a regional and global war, so time is needed to win it.” He said, “Defections are a positive process. Generally, it is self-cleansing of the state and the nation.”
“Cleaning, Cleansing and the Shiite Crescent” is the title Lebanese political analyst Zuhair Qusaybati chooses for his op-ed published today by the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat.
After the “cleansing” process assumed by warplanes, tanks and missiles left about 4,000 Syrians dead this month, Qusaybati writes, it took someone like Gen. Salar Abnoush, commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ “Saheb el-Amr” unit to lay bare Iran’s unbridled involvement in the Syria violence.
"Today we are involved in fighting every aspect of a war, a military one in Syria and a cultural one as well," Gen. Abnoush told volunteer trainees in a speech Monday.
No wonder, Qusaybati writes, that Assad remains confident of stifling the opposition, even at the price of tens of thousands of fatalities.
Moreover, “isn’t Tehran always in the habit of saying what it doesn’t do and doing what it wouldn’t say as regards confessional incitement liable to destroy Muslim countries?”
Since Khamenei chooses to lambast the West’s “arrogance” at every opportunity, how come he never mentions the “arrogance” of Russia and its lock-jawed reaction to the daily killings of children in Syria? Qusaybati asks.
How can Iran offer with one hand to reconcile the Syrian opposition and the regime and deliver with the other hand hundreds of missiles to its ally in Damascus?
Qusaybati goes on to quote from a Wall Street Journal report this week about Iran sending troops to bolster the Assad regime:
In Tehran, Syrian National Reconciliation Minister Ali Haidar met Monday with several Iranian officials and expressed Syria's gratitude. “The people of Syria will never forget the support of Iran during these difficult times,” Mr. Haidar said, according to Iranian media.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final word in all state matters, has appointed Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the elite Quds Forces, to spearhead military cooperation with Mr. Assad and his forces, according to an IRGC member in Tehran with knowledge about deployments to Syria.
The Quds Forces are the IRGC’s operatives outside Iran, responsible for training proxy militants and exporting the revolution's ideology. The U.S. blames the Quds Forces for terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Soleimani has convinced Mr. Khamenei that Iran’s borders extend beyond geographic frontiers, and fighting for Syria is an integral part of keeping the Shiite Crescent intact,” said the IRGC member in Tehran. The so-called Crescent, which came together after Saddam Hussein’s fall, includes Shiites from Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria…
Qusaybati says Iraq has become a “major component” of the so-called “Axis of Resistance” alongside Iran, Syria and Lebanese Hezbollah. “The Iraqi opposition that toppled Saddam Hussein is now facing the twin-dictatorship of the proxy (a reference to Iraqi Premier Nouri al-Maliki) and the principal (Iran). If not, who is hindering the unity of Iraq and its people? Who is bombing, killing, torturing and pillaging and smuggling Iraq’s cash?”
When Iran and the Assad regime speak of a “global war” on Syria, with Russia, China and Iraq remaining seated in the stands as spectators, it is no surprise seeing MIG-23’s chasing Syrian women and children all the way to their home basements.
How many more Arab children must die for Iran to fulfill its dream? Qusaybati asks.