Morning Joe, 11/28/12, 7:00 PM ET

Time interviews the Mideast’s ‘most important man’

Assistant Managing Editor-in-Charge Rana Foroohar shares details from the magazine’s exclusive interview with Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi.

Morsi defends power grab in Egypt; appears heartened by protests


Mohamed Morsi–the newly-elected president of Egypt who made a grab for nearly unlimited power in his country last week after brokering a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas–has now claimed the world’s attention and Time magazine’s ranking as the most important man in the Middle East.

Morsi, who was democratically elected as Egypt’s leader in June, sat down with Time for an exclusive interview to address his role in negotiating the turmoil in the Middle East. He went on to dismiss the recent unrest in Egypt responding to his power grab as a passing phase, saying, “I’m sure Egyptians will pass through this. We’re learning. We’re learning how to be free.”

Moris is coming under increased scrutiny for his seizure of near-absolute powers last Thursday when he issued a package of constitutional amendments that placed his edicts above oversight by the judicial system, the Associated Press reported. His decree essentially neutralized the courts–the last branch of Egypt that was not in the president’s hands–sparking protests between the pro-Morsi Muslim Brotherhood and the more secular, liberal opposition.

But Morsi defended his actions and said he wouldn’t have handled his decree differently in hindsight. “They [Egyptians] are raising their voices when they are opposing the president, and when they are opposing what’s going on. And this is very important,” he told Time.

Time’s Rana Foroohar shared details from the magazine’s exclusive interview with the Egyptian president Thursday on Morning Joe. She called Morsi an enigma who is “walking a very fine line between some hardcore Islamists and some more pragmatic supporters of the West.”

Foroohar added that Morsi is ”actually heartened by the protests because this means the democracy is working.”

President Morsi’s relationship with the U.S. is said to have strengthened throughout the recent crisis in Gaza. “President Obama has been very, very helpful,” Morsi said in the interview. “We’ve been talking together about the cease-fire, that’s very important, then we can talk about differences between Palestinians and Israelis. It’s not easy.”

Foroohar said that Morsi was on the phone with President Obama “24/7” during the latest installation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “He made six calls to the White House, one of them at 2:30 in the morning,” she said. “He feels that the U.S. and Egypt have a strong relationship, and that they’re very much in alignment about goals in the region.”

Morsi defends power grab in Egypt; appears heartened by protests