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05/24/11

Outlook of Tehran-Cairo Relations

By Nasrin Davarijou, Tehran Emrooz Daily; Translated By: Iran Review

Egypt, as one of the most important countries in the Middle East and North Africa is of special importance to both regional and international players and regional states, including Iran and Saudi Arabia, have been endeavoring to establish close relations with Egypt.

Following recent uprisings which have swept through the Middle East and North Africa, especially the popular uprising in Bahrain, Saudi officials who are concerned about spread of unrest to their country, have opted for a confrontational approach to Iran. Therefore, they have leveled various incriminations against Iran by alleging that Tehran is interfering in regional uprisings. They have also been trying to prevent possible détente between Iran and Egypt. Despite all those efforts by Saudi officials to sow discord among Muslim countries after the fall of the Egyptian dictator, it seems that circumstances are ripe for rapprochement between Tehran and Cairo.

1. Although Egypt is still far from a stable state and currently lacks an active diplomacy to deal with regional and global developments and while nobody can analyze the situation in that country properly before presidential elections, political figures who are considered good options for presidency such as Amr Mousa and ElBaradei have consistently condemned Mubarak’s policy which made their country subservient to the west. They support a new approach in Egypt’s foreign policy which will lead to the establishment of new relations with regional states, including Iran. Therefore, Egypt is not likely to follow suit with Mubarak’s policies toward Israel and the west anymore.

2. Despite efforts made by Saudi Arabia and certain conservative Arab states in preventing détente between Iran and Egypt, the latter country considers diplomatic relations with Iran as beneficial to the whole region and is eager to see those ties established in the shortest possible time. In view of the existing situation governing Tehran’s relations with Riyadh, Iran also seems to be poised for proving its diplomatic supremacy in the region and, thus, is interested in resuming relations with Egypt to the best interest of the two nations and regional people. It should be noted that Egypt is of special importance to the Islamic world as it is a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement. As put by Thierry Dugeon, Egypt is the beating heart of the Arab world and is a major hub for production of new ideas. Therefore, Iran’s effort to reestablish ties is quite expedient.

3. Israel will undoubtedly be the main loser of developments in Egypt. During 30 years of his rule, Mubarak was an unquestioning ally of Israel in the region and did his best to maintain peace with the Israeli regime and even mediated between Arabs and Israel. Following the fall of Mubarak, the new Egyptian government seems to be distancing from past policies and more willing to get closer to the rest of the Muslim world. As a first step, Rafah border crossing has been opened to Gazan people. Egypt is also trying to reconcile Fatah with Hamas to practically prove the long-awaited transformation in its foreign and regional policies. Egypt’s efforts to reconcile Palestinian groups have been hailed by Iran which considers establishment of a national reconciliation government a major stride toward realization of historical rights of Palestinians.

4. Despite recent optimism about resumption of relations between Iran and Egypt, it should be noted that many variables are in work here. The model chosen by the Egyptian people following the fall of Mubarak is more similar to that of Turkey. According to an unwritten agreement, the Egyptian army has stayed away from domestic politics to guarantee the country’s national security and security along borders. The Egyptian army chose to take sides with people during the uprising and ignored Mubarak’s call for cracking down on people, thus, paving the way for his ultimate fall. The army is currently swaying power and organizing a healthy and fair election will be a major test for it. It seems that the Iranian diplomatic apparatus should avoid of emotional reactions and carefully observe the state of affairs in Egypt.

5. Despite concerns about empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood and its revolutionary approach in the region on the part of the west and Israel, the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood have wisely managed the crisis and while preventing discord among domestic political groups, have also tried to prevent tension with the Egyptian youth. At the outset of the uprising, they openly announced that the Muslim Brotherhood would support demands of the Egyptian people until Mubarak stepped down and fair election was held. Following the fall of Mubarak, the Muslim Brotherhood, as the most broad-based social and political movement in the country, established a namesake political party to compete for parliamentary seats and even introduce an independent candidate for the upcoming presidential polls.

The Muslim Brotherhood has high potential for mobilizing political and social forces and get to the top of the political power pyramid. Since they support Hamas and other jihadist forces that resist Israel, empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt can bolster anti-Israeli currents in the region and change the balance of power in favor of Iran. This is a major concern for Tel Aviv officials and Israel is quite probable to increase threats against Egypt and Islamist current in the whole region to prevent empowerment of the Muslim Brotherhood.

6. Last but not least, subsequent to the conclusion of Camp David Accord, Egypt has been receiving a total of 2 billion dollars per annum in military and economic aid from Washington. After the recent developments which led to the fall of Mubarak, the Americans have been trying to use this economic leverage and prevent Egyptians from getting close to Iran. Therefore, the United States, as a global power, is interfering in Tehran-Cairo relations because it sees tension between the two nations as serving its interests. Washington is, thus, expected to promote Iranophobia in the coming months in order to prevent convergence between Iran and Egypt.

About Iran Review: Iran Review (www.iranreview.org) is the leading independent, non-governmental and non-partisan website - organization representing scientific and professional approaches towards Iran's political, economic, social, religious, and cultural affairs, its foreign policy, and regional and international issues within the framework of analysis and articles.

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