Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Egypt and Iran Forging Closer Links
Egypt and Iran are preparing to resume diplomatic relations and appoint ambassadors to end 30 years of hostility, in a sign of Cairo’s shift away from America and the West after the February revolution.
The Iranian foreign ministry on Tuesday confirmed that moves were under way to appoint its first ambassador to Cairo since 1980 but denied a state media report that it had already appointed the son of a prominent cleric to the role.
“We are ready to take steps,” the spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, said. “We believe that developing relations between Iran and Egypt are in the interest of both countries and the region.”
The official Egyptian foreign ministry spokeswoman, Ambassador Menha Bakhoum, said this week: “We are prepared to take a different view of Iran. The former regime used to see Iran as an enemy, but we don’t.”
The man named as the new ambassador was Ali Akbar Sibouyeh, the son of an ayatollah as well a long-standing diplomat. Mr Mehmanparast said the story was a “prediction made in a rush”.
However, Egypt’s new foreign minister, Nabeel al-Arabi, appointed after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February, has already said the new regime is willing to “turn a page” in relations with Tehran.
Mr Mubarak, a lynch-pin of American policy in the Middle East, had a particular loathing for Iran, the standard-bearer for Shia militancy in the region and a principal backer of his strategic rivals, Hamas in the Palestinian occupied territories and Syria.
Iran never forgave Egypt for offering sanctuary to the deposed Shah in 1979, under Mr Mubarak’s predecessor Anwar Sadat, or for making peace with Israel.
In another sign of the new forces emerging in Egypt following Mr Mubarak’s downfall, Magdy Hussein, the leader of a long-banned religious party, the Islamist Labour Party, travelled to Iran this week to meet the Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.
Mr Hussein, who was released from prison the eve of the revolution and now intends to stand in September’s presidential elections, said that events in Egypt had been “inspired by the Islamic revolution” in Iran.
Meanwhile, Mr al-Arabi himself, who has been an outspoken critic of Egypt’s role in the blockade of Hamas-run Gaza, has said he may visit the enclave in person, a major break with the policy of the old regime.
The Supreme Military Council that has ruled Egypt has appointed allies of the Muslim Brotherhood to the constitutional committee and other key positions.
More radical groups are also playing a more visible political role.
However, it insists that Egypt has no intention of becoming an Islamist state, and Mr al-Arabi made a key concession to historic allies of both Cairo and Washington this month by saying that the “Arabhood and stability of the Gulf states was a “red line”. Gulf states claim that Iran is trying to exert an influence over the region’s Shia minority.
Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli-Iranian analyst, said Egypt was trying to win greater leverage over the United States and Israel, but would not shift altogether into the Iranian camp for fear of upsetting neighbours such as Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
“Egypt will find it far too costly to enter into a strategic alliance with Iran,” he said.
Posted By Angelia Phillips