Flirting with Iran: Where is Egypt heading? - Part I

Thursday, July 05, 2012 |  Elizabeth Blade

According to the Egyptian media, President-elect Mohammed Morsi cancelled his visit to Iran, where next month he was supposed to attend an international conference organized by the Non-Alignment Movement, a group of states that take a harsh anti-American line, despite their general reluctance to affiliate themselves with any major power bloc.

The expected meeting led Tehran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi to state that Iran would be willing to bolster bilateral ties, reopen embassies, and exchange ambassadors.

The Islamic Republic severed formal connections with Egypt after Cairo sealed its peace treaty with Jerusalem in 1979. Iran was further aggravated by Egypt’s decision to give political asylum to the ousted Shah and by Cairo’s support for Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, when Egypt provided an estimated USD $5 billion in weapons, including tanks, Soviet Scud B missiles, and other ammunition. Egypt’s receipt of US aid (averaging USD $2 billion annually) didn’t help in easing tensions either, with Iranian officials often calling Egypt "the puppet of the West."

The Mubarak regime, on the other hand, had always eyed with suspicion Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and support for various terrorist organizations (like Hamas and Hezbollah) aimed at undermining regional security. Home to the main center of Sunni Islamic learning in the world (the powerful Al-Azhar mosque and university), Egypt sees itself as the leader of the Muslim world, a status that the Shia-dominated Iran constantly tries to weaken.

Now, however, things seem to be changing. When the Egyptian revolution erupted in January 2011, the Islamic Republic rushed to welcome the move, while pointing out the parallels to their Islamic revolution of 1979. Even though differences between the two countries abound, some are predicting that Egypt may turn into a Sunni version of Iran.

The rest of this article, including interviews with Muslim Brotherhood leaders, Egyptian Christians, and members of the liberal opposition will appear in the August issue of Israel Today. Don't miss it, subscribe now!

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