The Coming Egyptian-Iranian Romance

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Egypt’s announcement that it is looking to re-establish full diplomatic ties with Iran is a troubling indication that its post-Mubarak foreign policy may be headed in a different and dangerous direction.

While full diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran had broken off in 1979, the relationship between the two nations — long marked by mutual hostility and distrust — has actually grown even more contentious since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad became Iran’s president in 2005.

Yet, this rift has now apparently diminished, as Egypt has begun to reevaluate its strategic priorities and diplomatic affiliations following the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. As Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil el-Arabi explained, “The Egyptian government doesn’t consider Iran to be an enemy state. We’re opening a new page with all countries, including Iran.”

A beneficiary of the 2011 Mideast rebellions, Iran has seen, among other things, the ouster of its longtime adversary Mubarak, its proxy Shiite organization Hezbollah take power in Lebanon, and its Sunni Persian Gulf foes face severe challenges to their rule. Moreover, the chaotic events of the past several months have taken Western focus off Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

So, not too surprisingly, the diplomatic rapprochement was warmly received in Tehran, evidenced by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi’s statement: “A good relationship between the two countries will definitely help stability, security and development in the region.”

For many, Egypt’s flirtation with Iran is precisely the type of scenario they feared Mubarak’s ouster would generate. In fact, some see it as its first step toward jettisoning the pro-Western foreign policy of the Mubarak regime, one that will plunge the entire region into a morass of instability and danger.

Yet despite the worry that this ambassadorial tete-a-tete with Iran may be a reversal of longstanding Egyptian foreign policy, those concerns have been curtly dismissed by one Egyptian foreign ministry official: “We are pursuing with Tehran basic normal relations, no less, no more.” While that may eventually prove to be the case, additional actions undertaken by Egypt argue otherwise.

For example, at the same time it has re-opened the diplomatic door to Iran, Egypt has also called for an “easing of relations” with Syria. While relations between the two nations had always been strained under Mubarak’s presidency, they deteriorated rapidly when Syria’s strategic partnership with Iran became more pronounced after 2005.

Now, however, one Egyptian diplomat said Egypt believes the opportunity exists for “the resumption of good relations between the countries.” The first concrete evidence of these efforts came in a March 2011 visit to Syria by the new chief of Egyptian intelligence, Mamdouh Mawafi, in which he reportedly conveyed a “message of friendship.”

Added to the blossoming Syrian comradeship is Egypt’s apparent softened approach to Hamas. Specifically, Egypt has reportedly begun a re-examination of its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Begun in 2007 after Hamas took control of Gaza, the blockade has been used to prevent, however unsuccessfully, Iran and Syria from arming Hamas and other Gaza-based terror groups.

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  • Wesley69

    Coming on the warming relationship between Turkey and Iran, what had been feared in Egypt is becoming more a reality today.

    With a normalization of relations between Iran and Egypt, the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979 make become a causality. With another possible Fundamentalist Sunni Islamic Republic on the Sinai border with Israel, in addition to the Hamas-governed Gaza Strip, Israel is, once again, being surrounded. One wonders how long will it be before the Jordanian government is topped and another Fundamentalist regime is established, completing Israel's encirclement.

    The demands of an internationally recognized Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 borders will increase, coupled with the unlimited return of Palestinian refugees. Can the calls for a nuclear-disarmed Israel by far behind?

    War seems to be inevitable. There will be no repeat, this time of the Nazi Final Solution. Israeli citizens will not march peacefully into mass graves and be executed like sheep. Rather, there may be a repeat of the Jewish stand at Masada against the Romans, but only after the cities of Tehran, Cairo, Damascus, Ankara, Amman, Alexandria are reduced to nuclear-rubble.

  • Wesley69

    I do not believe this for a minute. Islamic Fundamentalism is the driving force in Iran, in Egypt and Turkey. The idea of these democratic revolutions is mistaken. The Islamic forces, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are poised to make an attempt at power. Already, many of the people of these "newly freed" countries favor the imposition of strict Shariah law of which a key component is jihad. Turkish-Israeli relations have been in a downward spiral since Israel stopped the freedom flotilla from reaching Gaza. The next freedom flotilla will be coming soon. How will Turkey and other Arab countries respond if Israel prevents this flotilla from reaching Gaza? We are living in scary times.

  • Arash

    "but only after the cities of Tehran, Cairo, Damascus, Ankara, Amman, Alexandria are reduced to nuclear-rubble." – He who shoots first dies second. Don't con yourself for a minute to think the promised land won't be turned into a permanent desert by either Russian or Iranian (by all counts with probably a handful of warheads already strategically deployed) or even Pakistani or Chinese nukes. Can you feel the walls around you creeping in? mmmm?

    • ziontruth

      The point is, anti-Zionist scum, that this time round, if we go down (God forbid), we take our enemies down with us–that we will not leave their aggression unpunished as was the case with Massadah and the Holocaust.

  • Wesley69

    Arash, you do not understand. The Jews at Masada, rather than surrender to the Romans, committed suicide. Israel will not walk into the gas chambers or shooting pits like sheep as they did at Babi Yar. They will go to their deaths fighting and that means taking as many of the enemy with them as they can. Will it mean world war, national suicide? Yes. As Muslim martyrs go to their deaths, so too will the Israelis. You are right – the promised land will become a permanent desert. This the price both Arabs and Jews will pay for their failure to find a way to end the hatred, the violence. This is so tied up in religious ideology that it will never be resolved unless both parties disappear.
    I admired Sadat for the attempt he made in 1978. He was truly a great man, a statesman of the world. Yitzhak Rabin was another man devoted to a peace that he almost had if Arafat had not pulled out of the deal. As so often happens, these type of men can not be allowed to exist, yet the world would be a better place if it would put down its guns, stop the hate and try to work together regardless of race, color, creed, under each man's God. Please reply, Arash. I am looking for your response.

    • Nestor James

      What do you suggest the Israelis do to help find a way to end the hatred? Really. What would you suggest the Israelis do? Put it in point form.

      • Wesley69

        The only thing that will make Palestinians happy is to see Israel pushing into the sea. The hatred is too deep. The militants among the Palestinians will get rid of any person thinking about making peace with Israelis. There will be no peace.

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Being surrounded is nothing new for Israel, it is some of it's own
    leftist politicians that have been the greatest fault in their defense.
    Islam is on the move against Israel and Jews, this is known by
    anyone breathing air in Israel. Anyone that thinks there can be peace
    is stuck in wishful thinking, the bare facts are pointing to bad days
    ahead, I put my money on the Jews, they have more friends in the
    World than is spoken to by the UN or the leftist media. Israel may
    be surrounded but there is a Biblical story to show the precident,
    Jonathan, Saul's son made it a point to let it be know what happens
    when surrounded, It's what he wanted and he was victorious.

  • ziontruth

    "Be positive and please do not create fear."

    I try, but then people say things like this:

    "Egypt is following Turkey's diplomatic path in the region…"

    Which makes it quite hard for me to believe that

    "…the outcome should be good for all nations."

  • Wesley69

    Nestor James, I am assuming you are referring to this line – "This the price both Arabs and Jews will pay for their failure to find a way to end the hatred, the violence. This is so tied up in religious ideology that it will never be resolved unless both parties disappear."

    Am I blaming both sides? Well yes and no. If both sides could build up a degree of trust and were truly committed to peace, maybe the violence would have ceased long ago. The best time for this was the late 70's and early 80"s. Religious hawks within Israel did not help the cause of Israel when they referred to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria. The settlements have always been a major roadblock in any deal with the Palestinians. However, Begin, whose Likud Party did believe in this, was able to make peace with Sadat over the return of the Sinai and Israeli usage of the Suez Canal.

    As for the Palestinians, I have never known them to want to live side by side with the Israelis. Before Hamas and Hezbollah, it was the PLO. The radicalization of Iran in 1979 and its support of Hamas and Hezbollah did much to damage any chance of a settlement. It is unfortunate that the US stopped Israel from wiping out the PLO & Arafat in Beirut in the 80"s. Israel was willing to sacrifice much in Camp David II in 2000, but it was Arafat who walked away and started the Second Intifida.

    The most recent firing of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip and Southern Lebanon has done nothing to encourage any land for peace deals. As for religious ideology, we know about the goals of the Fundamentalists – one world under Allah. However, the issue of the Temple Mount is extremely important to Israel and Islam. Should anything happen to the Dome of the Rock, it would start a pan-Islamic jihad. However, there are those who want to see the Third Temple built and are actively preparing for that day.

    • ziontruth

      "If both sides could build up a degree of trust and were truly committed to peace, maybe the violence would have ceased long ago."


      "Religious hawks within Israel did not help the cause of Israel when they referred to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria."

      Yeah, calling those regions by their original Hebrew names is such a drag. And don't get me started about those zealots who say "Jerusalem" instead of "Al Kuds"! Fanatics, all of them!

      "The settlements have always been a major roadblock in any deal with the Palestinians."

      They are not settlements, and those are not Palestinians. Jews are the only true Palestinians, and no inhabitation of theirs in Palestine is a settlement. It is the Arabs who are the settlers in Palestine, and no deal could ever be reached with them, because they want everything the Jews have.

      "However, Begin, whose Likud Party did believe in this, was able to make peace with Sadat over the return of the Sinai and Israeli usage of the Suez Canal."

      A peace which is crumbling before our very eyes, and with it goes the whole misconceived notion of the land concessions to the Arab imperialists. We are set to rue each and every concession we have ever made. Soon no Israeli Jew will take seriously any idea of conceding lands to the enemy.

      • Wesley69

        During the 1948 war, Arabs fled to neighboring countries as Israel marched to victory. They were housed in camps. Naturally, Israel did not want them back. But, NEITHER did the Arab states. They were maintained in these camps and not allowed to become part of Syria, Jordan or Egypt. This is the origin of the “Palestinian.” The Arab states used them, allowed terrorist actions against Israel. In 1967, Israel settled many scores against Syria, Egypt and Jordan. To this day, it holds onto most of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem.

        During all these years, Israeli-Arabs have better lives than any of the other peoples surrounding Israel. There are those among the Palestinians that would be willing to make peace, but the militant groups of Hezbollah, Hamas and others would execute these people as traitors. If Israel occupied all the territories to the Jordan River, the people, there, would be treated humanely, as long as they wish to live in peace and prosper. The problem Israel sees in “Judea & Samaria” is a high birthrate. Israelis fear, as does Europeans, they, in time, will become minorities within their own country.

        How will this all play out? I don’t know. But, Jordan should become the home of the “Palestinians.” Iran was not be able to get nuclear weapons & its regime must be overthrown. With Iranian support, Hamas and Hezbollah would lose a major supporter. The course that Egypt and Turkey are on very disturbing. As long as dictators rule in the Mideast, to keep the focus of their citizens away from their poverty, they will continue to whip up hatred against the “Zionist” enemy, when in fact, they are the enemy of their own people.

  • Wesley69

    Reading different opinions, some have expressed the idea that the Second Temple was built over the Gihon Spring and the Dome of the Rock is situated where Fortress Antonia was located, the Wailing Wall being a part of that structure. The actual Temple site was located south of the Dome. And Christians may be worshipping at the wrong site. Instead, the site of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ was east of the Temple, on the Mount of Olive. Religion is so tied up in Jerusalem that the various parts of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher are operated by different denominations of Christian Churches, with monks actually getting into fights over slights to their particular sect.

    During the Six Day War of 1967, East Jerusalem was captured by the Israeli army. Divided since 1948, it was finally a unified city. It needs to stay that way. Muslims should have religious rights to the Temple Mount. But, Jerusalem is part of Israel. There should be no negotiations on this point.