COLUMBUS, Ohio — Recent activity by Egypt's new president gives no reason to cut aid to Egypt or to take other measures against it.
Egypt's recently elected President Mohammed Morsi did, to be sure, choose to attend personally a periodic summit meeting of the Non-Aligned Nations in Tehran and his attendance rankled the United States, because we are trying to isolate Iran diplomatically over its nuclear development.
Morsi's visit to Iran was the first by an Egyptian leader since the 1979 anti-U.S. revolution that brought the current government in Iran to power. Although the NAN is an organization that includes Egypt, a lower-level official could have represented Egypt.
On the other side, even though Morsi attended the Tehran get-together, he did not use the occasion to confer with Iranian leaders or to change Egypt's formal relationship with Iran. Iran and Egypt have had no diplomatic relations, and Morsi did not suggest re-establishing them.
And Morsi's Tehran visit did not play out in the way U.S. officials feared. Far from using his visit to cozy up to the Iranian leadership, Morsi shocked his Iranian hosts by addressing the Syria situation in a speech to NAN delegates. He called the Government of Bashar Assad an "oppressive regime." Iran is a major backer of Assad.
Morsi did not mince words. "We express our solidarity with the struggle of the Syrian people against an oppressive regime that has lost legitimacy," he told the assembled delegates. "It is not only an ethical duty but a political and strategic necessity."
"The blood of the Syrian people is on our necks," Morsi declared, "and it will not stop unless there is an intervention by all of us."
So if the United States was worried that Morsi would put himself in the Iranian camp, Morsi dispelled any such fears.
Morsi may not, to be sure, be on the same page as the United States on Syria, beyond opposition to the current leadership. The Syrian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood is banned by Assad, and Morsi may hope for a role for it in a post-Assad Syria.
The United States has to accept a realignment in the Middle East. Morsi, as a president coming out of the Muslim Brotherhood, is not always going to act consistent with U.S. policy like his predecessor.
The United States backed the movement against the old regime in Cairo. President Baracl Obama declared our support for democracy in Egypt. While the United States was not happy with the outcome of the election that brought Morsi into office, it has, to its credit, refrained from doing anything to reverse the consequence of that election.
The fact that Morsi may not be in sync with the United States may in the longer term not be so bad. We have been singularly unsuccessful in resolving the Israel-Palestine situation.1 comment on this story
If the current U.S. presidential campaign is any indication, we will likely continue backing Israel to the point that we write ourselves out of the picture as a mediator. A more diverse political map in the region may be conducive to initiatives that hold some hope on the Israel-Palestine front. Morsi in particular, with ties to the Hamas leadership in Gaza, may be able to broker a peace deal more effectively than we have been.
Morsi's activities do not give reason to re-examine U.S. aid to Egypt. But the aid we give Egypt dates from the Egypt-Israel Camp David accord of 1979. We extended aid to Egypt as a counterweight to the aid we give to Israel.
The aid we give to both countries is politically motivated, rather than needs-based. Aid to Egypt should be viewed from that perspective. If Egypt aid is to be cut, aid to Israel should be on the chopping block as well.
John B. Quigley is a professor of law at Ohio State University.