New Horizons of Egypt-Iran Relations
-DR. ABDUL RUFF
Dr. Abdul Ruff, Specialist on State Terrorism;Chancellor-Founder of Centor for International Affairs(CIA); Independent Analyst;Chronicler of Foreign occupations & Freedom movements(Palestine,Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.) Former university Teacher; website: abdulruff.wordpress.com/ firstname.lastname@example.org.
New Egypt is committed to Palestine cause and is fast moving away from the fanatic Israeli clutches. It is evident from the policy shift being envisaged by the new Egypt president Morsi that relations between Egypt and Iran are changing positively and the shift is now under scrutiny.
Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi will attend a Non-Aligned Nations summit in Iran on August 30 -31, the first such trip for an Egyptian leader since relations with Tehran deteriorated decades ago. Egypt has been the chair of Non-Aligned Nations by rotation and will now will hand over rotating leadership to Iran.
The visit by the new president is in line with popular sentiment since Mubarak’s ouster in an uprising last year for Cairo to craft a foreign policy independent of Western or oil Gulf countries’ agendas. The visit really signals the first response to a popular demand and a way to increase the margin of maneuver for Egyptian foreign policy in the region.
Under Morsi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak, Egypt, predominantly Sunni Muslim nation, sided with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-dominated Arab states in trying to isolate Shiite-led Iran. After the fall of Egypt’s longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in last year’s popular revolt, officials have expressed no desire to maintain Mubarak’s staunch anti-Iranian stance.
Egyptians, like other Arabs, do not like ties with a fascist regime in Tel-Aviv against the genuine interests of Palestinians and other Arabs. They oppose unholy alliances between Israel and Egypt and want pan-Arab approach and togetherness amongst Arabs. Israel secured all advantages. Henry Kissinger committed US power to brokering the 1973 Arab-Israeli truce that grew into an Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. But the subsequent wars in Lebanon, Yemen, Iraqi Kurdistan, Kuwait, and even between Iran and Iraq were contained within the contours of a US-supported equilibrium.
The trip is no surprise — it came days after Morsi included Iran, a strong ally of Syrian Bashar Assad, in a proposal for a contact group to mediate an end to Syria’s escalating civil war. The proposal for the group, which includes Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, was made at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation summit in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca. During the summit, Morsi exchanged handshakes and kisses with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in their first meeting since Morsi assumed his post as Egypt’s first elected president.
Meanwhile, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud has called upon the Muslim nation to stand united to strengthen global peace and stability. In their joint Eid-ul-Fitr message, the king also urged Muslims to show mercy toward the poor and weak and engage in righteous activities, taking inspiration from the holy month of Ramazan. The leaders of Muslim countries held their emergency solidarity Islamic summit in Makah to protect the Ummah’s unity, prevent its division and avoid further bloodbath,” the message said in Makah on Aug. 14-15. King Abdullah called upon Muslim rulers and leaders to work for the betterment of their societies and fulfill their trust.
A leading member of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood said that Tehran’s acceptance of the proposal was a sign Egypt was beginning to regain some of the diplomatic and strategic clout it once held in the region. Last July, former Egyptian foreign minister Nabil Elaraby, who also heads the Arab League, delivered a conciliatory message to the Islamic Republic, saying “Iran is not an enemy.”
The visit could certainly mark a thaw between the two countries after years of enmity, especially since Egypt signed its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and Iran underwent its Islamic revolution. Under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, several attempts were by trade ministers and business leaders to bolster economic ties. But they stirred objections from the foreign ministry and intelligence circles.
Until now, contacts have been channeled through interest sections, a low-level form of diplomatic representation. In May last year, Egypt, which was ruled by an interim military council, expelled a junior Iranian diplomat on suspicion he tried to set up spy rings in Egypt and the Gulf countries.
Any normalization, however, would have to be based on careful calculations. For more than three decades under Mubarak, state-run media fed the public stories of Iranian plots to weaken the Egyptian state. As a result of media gimmicks fuelled by the CIA, majority Sunni Egypt has developed its own suspicions of Iran on both religious and political grounds. The country’s ultraconservative Salafis even consider Shiites heretics and enemies.
However, most Egyptians sympathize with Iran‘s Islamic revolution and consider Tehran’s defiance of the I dictatorial US power a model to follow, while others seek a foreign policy at the very least more independent of Washington.
President Morsi’s scheduled visit shows that Egypt’s foreign policy is active again in the region. A new understanding with Iran would be a big shake-up for the region, which has been sharply split between Tehran’s camp – which includes Syria and Islamic militias Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza, and a U.S.-backed group led by Saudi Arabia and rich Gulf nations.
This is indeed a way to tell Gulf countries that Egypt is not going to simply abide by their wishes and accept an inferior position.
Although it can be argued that Morsi will be honoring an obligation because Egypt is handing-off the rotating presidency of the group to Iran at the August 30th meeting, most agree that the trip to Tehran signals a new direction for Egypt. This really signals the first response to a popular demand and a way to increase the margin of maneuver for Egyptian foreign policy in the region.
Importantly, Morsy’s trip to a meeting of Non-Aligned Nations later this month reinforces the belief that the new Egyptian regime is signaling a turn-away from the West and the Arab nations that eschew Iran, of which it had been part under Mubarak.
In order to pursue a joint policy by all Arabs in Mideast, Morsi chose Saudi king for an Islamic unity dialogue, and he visited Saudi Arabia twice, once just after he won the presidency, and a second time during the Islamic summit. In an attempt to assuage fears of the Arab uprisings by oil monarchs, he vowed that Egypt does not want to “export its revolution”.
It’s, however, too early to assess the implications of the visit to what extent the Arab world’s most populous country may normalize relations with Tehran, but analysts believe it will bring Egypt back to the regional political stage. But observers are already scrutinizing the meaning of newly-elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to visit Tehran, the first visit by an Egyptian head-of-state in decades. Only imaginative, aware minds can create the positive thinking itself for Islam and unity.