Egypt and Iran: Will the Two Walk Together?

Until Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt, which viewed the Islamic Revolution as a threat to its regime, was a central link in the axis of anti-Iran Arab nations. The more than 30 years following the Khomeini revolution were marked by hostility between Egypt and Iran and the lack of diplomatic relations between them. Sadat’s Egypt was willing to grant asylum to the deposed shah, and the Islamic Republic of Iran honored Sadat’s assassin by naming a Tehran street after him. After Mubarak’s fall, various political elements in "the new Egypt" contended that the hostility with Iran was unnatural, and testified rather to the propensity of the Mubarak regime to subordinate Egyptian interests to United States and Israeli interests. Consequently, they argued, it is now incumbent on Egypt to renew relations with Iran and maintain close ties with it. The fact that Egypt allowed Iranian military vessels to pass through the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean seemed to be a practical expression of this change in the Egyptian approach to Iran. Iran, of course, welcomed these developments, and since then there have been attempts, mainly at the behest of Iran, to renew bilateral relations. These efforts, however, have come to naught – and apparently, this result is intentional.

When the Arab Spring began, Iran saw an opportunity to change the balance of power in the Middle East and improve its own standing. It eyed the fall of Mubarak, one of its greatest enemies, as a major opportunity to do so. Iran was one of the first countries to congratulate Mohamed Morsi on his victory in the Egyptian presidential elections. “This is the final stage of the Islamic awakening,” commented Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbhar Salehi in response to the announcement by the central voting committee in Cairo, adding: “The revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people has led to a new era and change in the entire Middle East.” Fars, the official Iranian news agency, even claimed that Morsi said in an interview that he is interested in good relations with Iran in order “to create a balance of power in the region.” The comment was subsequently denied by a Morsi spokesperson.

The question, then, is: Will the tendency to pursue policies contrary to that of Mubarak’s regime, in addition to the potential ideological proximity between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic regime in Tehran, generate a change in Egypt’s position in the titanic struggle between the axis of Iran and its proxies and the Sunni Arab nations, especially the Gulf states, that see Iran as a threat? This struggle demands that nations that in the past tried to maintain neutral policies take sides; Qatar, for example, which tried to maneuver between the camps, recently came out clearly against Iran....

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Egypt and Iran: Will the Two Walk Together?

Until Mubarak’s ouster, Egypt, which viewed the Islamic Revolution as a threat to its regime, was a central link in the axis of anti-Iran Arab nations. The more than 30 years following the Khomeini revolution were marked by hostility between Egypt and Iran and the lack of diplomatic relations between them. Sadat’s Egypt was willing to grant asylum to the deposed shah, and the Islamic Republic of Iran honored Sadat’s assassin by naming a Tehran street after him. After Mubarak’s fall, various political elements in "the new Egypt" contended that the hostility with Iran was unnatural, and testified rather to the propensity of the Mubarak regime to subordinate Egyptian interests to United States and Israeli interests. Consequently, they argued, it is now incumbent on Egypt to renew relations with Iran and maintain close ties with it. The fact that Egypt allowed Iranian military vessels to pass through the Suez Canal en route to the Mediterranean seemed to be a practical expression of this change in the Egyptian approach to Iran. Iran, of course, welcomed these developments, and since then there have been attempts, mainly at the behest of Iran, to renew bilateral relations. These efforts, however, have come to naught – and apparently, this result is intentional.

When the Arab Spring began, Iran saw an opportunity to change the balance of power in the Middle East and improve its own standing. It eyed the fall of Mubarak, one of its greatest enemies, as a major opportunity to do so. Iran was one of the first countries to congratulate Mohamed Morsi on his victory in the Egyptian presidential elections. “This is the final stage of the Islamic awakening,” commented Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbhar Salehi in response to the announcement by the central voting committee in Cairo, adding: “The revolutionary movement of the Egyptian people has led to a new era and change in the entire Middle East.” Fars, the official Iranian news agency, even claimed that Morsi said in an interview that he is interested in good relations with Iran in order “to create a balance of power in the region.” The comment was subsequently denied by a Morsi spokesperson.

The question, then, is: Will the tendency to pursue policies contrary to that of Mubarak’s regime, in addition to the potential ideological proximity between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic regime in Tehran, generate a change in Egypt’s position in the titanic struggle between the axis of Iran and its proxies and the Sunni Arab nations, especially the Gulf states, that see Iran as a threat? This struggle demands that nations that in the past tried to maintain neutral policies take sides; Qatar, for example, which tried to maneuver between the camps, recently came out clearly against Iran....

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