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article imageOp-Ed: Morsi cuts Syria ties and says citizens free to join rebels

By Ken Hanly     Jun 18, 2013 in Politics
Cairo - The Egyptian government led by President Morsi not only broke off relations with the Assad Syrian regime but also announced that Egyptian citizens are free to join the rebels against Assad.
This move should be seen as a broader shift in Egyptian policy that will encourage more radical Islamist elements in Egypt. Although elected as a moderate from the Muslim Brotherhood, the election saw Salafists, who are strong supporters of jihadism, come in second place. Morsi seems to be courting the more radical Islamic elements by this move. This will also further exacerbate Sunni Shia conflicts which are already spreading into Iraq and Lebanon.
Morsi is able to make this move without any criticism from the west since the west, including the US, is anxious to see the Assad regime defeated. Already jihadists are traveling to Syria to join the fray from Tunisia and Libya. These jihadists will be able to gain valuable experience in battle in Syria which they could very well use when they return home to cause havoc in their own countries. It is noteworthy that the US discourages its own citizens from joining jihadists in Syria in fact will arrest them if they join radical groups such as the Al Nusra front.
Even Jordan has jailed several citizens for joining Syrian jihadist groups. However, just joining the rebels is no doubt tolerated in the west. Reportedly about 500 from Europe are already in Syria fighting with the rebels.
These moves by Morsi may for the short term provide him with greater political support but it exacerbates the spreading sectarian conflict already evident not just between Shia and Sunni but also in the treatment of other minorities such as Coptic Christians. It will further alienate many more secular Egyptians from the regime who already see the Morsi government as dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and following its agenda. This move will also prevent Egypt from having a mediating role to provide a political solution to the conflict. Morsi also supported a no-fly zone. Perhaps Morsi thinks that he can both please the west and also placate radical Islamists by these moves. In the short term he is probably correct.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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