David Frum

08.30.12

Egypt Vs Syria In Iran

Egypt's new Muslim Brotherhood president denounces the Syrian ruling regime from a stage in Tehran.

In the first visit to Iran by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 revolution, new president Mohammed Morsi took on his host country's closest ally, calling on Syria's Bashar al-Assad to step down. Sitting next to Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the opening remarks of the Non-Aligned Movement conference on Thursday, Morsi delivered stinging criticism of the Syrian government, saying that the world has a "moral duty" to support the Syrian opposition"against an oppressive regime that has lost its legitimacy."

Morsi called on the 120 nations present to "support a peaceful transition" to democratic rule, acknowledging that violence in Syria will not end without outside intervention, adding "the bloodletting in Syria is the responsibility of all of us." His remarks led the Syria delegation to walk out of the conference in the middle of his speech.

Optimists will read this as a hopeful sign that perhaps there can be such a thing as an Islamist democracy after all. They'll welcome too the show of distance between the new regime in Egypt and Assad's backers in Iran.

Pessimists will wonder: is this a warning that the Syrian rebels share the same Sunni Islamist ideology that motivates the new power-wielders in Egypt - an ideology fully as hostile to liberal and democratic values as the practices of the Alawite Assad clan?