RECOMMENDED READING: “An Uneasy Courtship As Iran And Egypt Test The Waters”


A UAE newspaper has posted an article titled “An uneasy courtship as Iran and Egypt test the waters” that looks at the meaning of the recent visit to Cairo by the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The article begins:

There is a consensus among commentators that the visit of the Iranian president, , to Egypt – complete with red carpet and kiss on both cheeks from President Mohammed Morsi – does not amount to a breakthrough. The view of US think-tanks is that it does not amount to very much at all, and certainly not worth getting anxious about. Such a consensus is always dangerous, and it is worth looking more closely at what it is based on. Mr Ahmadinejad is the first Iranian leader to set foot in Cairo since the deposed Shah of Iran was given refuge in Cairo, where he died and received a state funeral. The two countries have not had diplomatic relations since 1979. The Iranian president’s visit has deep historical significance, even if he came as a guest of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference summit. The picture of the two presidents embracing says to the world: Egypt is released from the US straitjacket and is free to resume its position as a regional power. There are plenty of reasons, however, to dismiss the visit as just show. Mr Ahmadinejad is a lame duck, banned by the constitution from running for a third term in the June elections. As Iran moves into a period of war economy under the pressure of sanctions designed to curb its nuclear programme, Mr Ahmadinejad is engaged in a furious struggle to ensure that his rival, the parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, does not succeed him. The corruption allegations levelled by Mr Ahmadinejad against the Larijani family are deeply damaging to the Iranian regime. Mr Morsi, meanwhile, has little to show Egyptians that he has improved their lot. Cairo is the scene of near-constant street battles and the economy is tanking. Egypt’s currency reserves have just sunk to $13.6 billion (Dh50 billion), below the critical level needed to cover three months of imports. The country is staring bankruptcy in the face, but cannot access emergency funds from the International Monetary Fund without implementing unpopular reforms that would further raise social tensions. Both leaders need to show that they have ‘friends’ abroad. The reality is a little different. Egypt and Iran appear to be divided by the Syria conflict, which is symptomatic of the wider split between the Sunni Muslim powers, led by Saudi Arabia, and Iran’s faltering ‘axis of resistance’ that, with Syria in play and Hamas having defected, now looks increasingly like a Shia Muslim axis.

Read the rest here.

In September, Iranian-born political Scientist Kaveh L. Afrasiab published an analysis of the current relationship between Egypt and Iran titled “Egypt And Iran, New Twin Pillars” that provided a fresh perspective on the meaning of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’ recent remarks at the Non-Aligned Nation Summit in Tehran. 

post from last June reported that President Morsi denied that he gave an interview to an Iranian news agency in which he was supposed to have said that Egypt would seek closer relations with Iran.  Whether or not the interview is authentic, there are reasons to believe that Egypt under a Muslim Brotherhood government will seek closer ties to Iran. In a 2009 piece titled “Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and Iran, Rapprochement between Sunnis and Shiites?”, Washington Institute for Near East Policy scholar Mehdi Khalaji looked at the relationship between the Egyptian government, the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. According to the report:  

During a February trip to Iran, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal praised Iranian leaders for their support during the conflict in the Gaza Strip, a further indication of the strengthening ties between the Sunni Islamist group, which the United States has designated as a terrorist organization, and the Shiite regime in Tehran. Mashal’s statements come on the heels of the U.S. Treasury Department’s terrorist designations of al-Qaeda leaders and operatives sheltered in Iran. These latest examples of Sunni-Shiite cooperation raise new questions about whether Iran can improve its relationship with Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. While such a rapprochement appears unlikely, history suggests it is far from impossible. Iran has maintained informal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood for many years, and Shiite Islam probably has more appeal among Egyptian Sunnis than it does among Sunnis in other Arab countries. Iran’s sharp criticism of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak is also likely to resonate with Egyptian radicals under the thumb of the regime in Cairo. If Iran were to develop close relations with the Brotherhood, Iranian influence would grow considerably in the Arab world, giving Tehran a significant say among Arab radicals and, undoubtedly, producing dangerous developments for U.S. interests in the region.

A previous post had also looked at the possibility of a closer relationship between the Egyptian Brotherhood and Iran.

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