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Morsi; The New Kid On The Block

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Egypt’s newly instated President, Mohamed Morsi, successfully orchestrated a ceasefire between Palestine and Israel this past week. In doing so he has announced himself as a key player in the post Arab Spring Middle East.

For many outside of Egypt, Morsi was a relatively unknown character prior to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Despite being a political figure for the better part of the 2000s, he failed to make headlines until he contested and won the Presidential election earlier this year.

Love him or hate him Mubarak left Morsi with some big shoes to fill. While his success was greeted with much jubilation in Egypt the rest of the world was waiting to see what the new President of the Middle East’s most populous state was capable of.

His opportunity of a meaningful contribution to the region came on November 14 when hostilities between Israel and Palestine escalated to aerial bombardment.

The US, which has been a vital component in the affairs of the Middle East for the past decade, was quick to jump in. Barack Obama voiced his support for Israel, justifying their defence of their country.

Obama’s relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu could be described as formal at best. Support for this act of aggression is surprising considering the heavy criticism Bashar al-Assad has received for similar action. The recently re-elected President’s support for Netanyahu would have come as a shock and disappointment to many.

Morsi’s time had arrived. With many people questioning America’s stance, Egypt came to forefront by hastily securing a peace accord between the two groups. It avoided, what was gearing up to be, an invasion of the Gaza strip by Israel. Morsi was suddenly the mediator of peace in the Middle East. Had the Arab Spring produced a leader who was capable of leading the region forward?

Syria’s civil war, Iran’s aggravation of the West with threats of producing a nuclear bomb, Libya’s rebuilding and Afghanistan’s turmoil are just some examples of the regions crises. Morsi decided to tackle the longest running issue, that of the Israel-Palestine conflict. It was a success, not so much in that halted the conflict but rather it forced Netanyahu to agree to a highly unpopular ceasefire a mere two months before he stands for re-election.

All-out war has been avoided, at least for the time being, which has been a shift in the pattern of events seen in the Middle East. The Arab Spring, while signalling a change, was marked with US support of potentially violent actions (as was seen in Libya and now in Syria). Obama’s vocal support of Israel could be seen as following a similar vein.

Morsi has instead diffused the situation and shown that continuity was possible through peaceful means. Supporting Gaza, and by doing that open warfare, was avoided through the Egyptian President orchestrating a ceasefire that benefited the Palestinians. While rumours circulate that a deal has been made with Israel to ensure the ceasefire, on the surface Morsi has championed the Palestinian cause.

The result was a showering of praise from the international community. From being an obscure figure Morsi was now being labelled as the regions much needed driving force for sustainable peace and democracy.

Twenty-four hours after brokering the deal Morsi passed a string of decrees back in Egypt. The image was destroyed. Supporters of Morsi were suddenly torn between loyalty to the Muslim Brotherhood and a wish to see their revolution completed.

Morsi came in to power on the back of one of the longest running dictatorships in the region. He was looked upon to lead Egypt, and be an example for the rest of the Middle East. Instead he has now given himself powers which are further reaching than what was seen during Mubarak’s time.

While dividing the country over his new decrees, Morsi has also left the Obama administration embarrassed. A day after singing his praises the White House was forced to sit quietly and observe as, who they thought would be, the newest leader for Democracy take on a dictatorial stance.

He garnered admiration from the international community, he strengthened his standings in the region and now he has moved to cement his position as the undisputed leader of Egypt. Morsi is taking all of the right steps in announcing himself as a heavyweight of the Middle East, and from the early signs he is on the right path. However, it remains to be seen whether or not this will be a lasting reign.