Forgotten for the moment were State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s well-publicized Aug. 16 remarks that the secretary general’s attendance “does not send a good signal” because Iran was “in violation of so many of its international obligations and posing a threat to neighbors, et cetera.” Nuland also warned “other participating nations” that Tehran was “a strange place and an inappropriate place for this meeting.”
The idea that the U.S. government knows best about what other sovereign countries should do in their relations with Washington’s enemies — and doubts foreign leaders can handle themselves on the international stage — reminds me of the worst of American bullying during the Cold War. Back then, U.S. leaders warned members of the Non-Aligned Movement against having any dealings with the Soviet Union or communists in general.
The “you are with us or against us” attitude was last employed with negative effect by President George W. Bush.
But as Morsi and Ban have shown, such leaders can take care of themselves. In this case it was before an audience of more than 100 countries that make up two-thirds of the U.N. membership, including leaders of India, Afghanistan, Iraq, Qatar and Pakistan.
Washington, in fact, should pay attention to all that Morsi and Ban said — not just what it agrees with.
Morsi spoke of Syria’s “repressive regime, which has lost its legitimacy” and the need for a unified opposition. He also said that those causing the bloodshed “will be held accountable” and “this bloodshed cannot come to an end without active intervention by all of us.” His words rocketed around the world, were hailed by the Syrian opposition and left an indelible black mark on Iran’s support of Assad.
Morsi also, however, linked the Palestinians with the Syrian people as “currently struggling valiantly and impressively in pursuit of freedom, justice and human dignity,” saying his country will support “any Palestinian move at the General Assembly or the Security Council to seek U.N. membership.”
He moved into the controversial area of nuclear weapons, noting Egypt’s long-standing role in seeking a conference on a nuclear-free Middle East, pointing out that only Israel, which does not acknowledge its nuclear weapons stockpile, has not signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).