Iran's Hope for an 'Islamic Awakening' in Egypt

The dangerous power vacuum left by an absence of U.S. leadership.

640x392_31494_145906One of the most detrimental consequences of the Obama administration’s avoidance of taking a robust and assertive foreign policy leadership role is that it has directly contributed to emboldening the hegemonic, ideological, and geopolitical ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran – not only across the region, but also in the international arena. Because the Obama administration has been hesitant to take decisive action towards the heightening political leverage and influence of the Islamists and Salafists in Egypt, Iran has been able to pursue actions that further preserve its geopolitical, national, geostrategic and ideological privileges across the region.

After the recent overthrow of the Islamist and authoritative leader, Mohammad Morsi from the Muslim Brotherhood party, the Islamic Republic of Iran under the leadership of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has been publicly calling for the Islamists, fundamentalists, Salafists, and advocates of radical Sharia law to mobilize on the streets and to protest Israel and the United States until Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are reinstated to power. Due to the political vacuum in Egypt and due to the absence of U.S. leadership, Iranian leaders are eagerly intervening in Egypt’s political affairs in order to shift the current political developments to their favor.

This week, the Supreme Leader and his loyal followers – in a manner that appears to be following the footsteps of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution – are publicly encouraging another uprising in Egypt, referring to it as an "Islamic Awakening.” Intriguingly enough, the Iranian leaders used a description other than an “Islamic Awakening” when describing the nation-wide protests in Syria. Instead, Iranian officials hypocritically labeled Syria’s uprisings as a struggle between Assad’s legitimate Alawite-based government on one hand and Israeli-and-U.S.-backed conspirators, traitors and “terrorists” on the other.

After former Egyptian president Morsi was removed from power by the high generals of the Egyptian Army, as well as through the efforts of millions of protesters, Iran's Foreign Ministry harshly criticized the Egyptian military, U.S. and Israel for toppling the nation's Islamist president. In an official interview, the Islamic Republic of Iran's Foreign Ministry called the move to remove ex-president Morsi as extremely improper. According to the official Iranian news agency IRNA, the ministry spokesman Abbas Araghchi stated, "We do not consider proper the intervention by military forces in politics to replace a democratically elected administration." In addition, Mansour Haqiqatpour, a member of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, said on Tuesday that “Militarism does not favor democracy…. The Army must defend the great Egyptian people against foreign threats.”

First of all, it is fairly ironic that the leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran are lecturing the Egyptian people about democracy and legitimate elections. The Islamic Republic of Iran – a country in which the gilded circle of the Supreme Leader and his loyal members of the Guardian Council hold the power to veto any politically-undesirable candidate from running for presidency – is instructing the Egyptian people and military on the meaning of democracy. Iran, which is encouraging Morsi’s supporters to mobilize on the streets, is the same country that became notorious for its repeated and oppressive crack downs on leaders and participants of the Iranian Green Movement ever since its formation after the highly-contested 2009 presidential election. Many of the oppositional political figures, including Mir Hussein Mosavi and Mehdi Karoubi, are to this day still under house arrest. In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran ranks among the lowest in freedom of speech, press, assembly, rule of law, and social justice. Iran is also ranked among the top five countries in human rights abuses, media censorship, oppression of political parties, and discrimination against minorities, including the Sunnis, Christian and Bahaeis.

The fact is that Iran gained tremendous geostrategic, geopolitical and political leverage after Mohammad Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood came to power. The Iranian leaders exploited the increasingly shrinking leadership of the Obama administration, which allowed them to shift the regional balance of power to their favor. For instance, after more than thirty years of denied access, Iran is now able to use the Suez Canal. Although Egypt is one of the largest recipients of donations from the United States (receiving almost over 1.5 billion dollars a year), it was Morsi’s government which submitted to Iran’s assertive demands and signed a contract to grant permission to Tehran to use the Canal. Moreover, Iran had long been in a complete political and diplomatic stalemate with the deposed government of Hosni Mubarak, who gave asylum to the U.S.-backed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, and who had been in tension with Shiite Iran ever since the 1979 Iranian revolution. For decades, Tehran was denied any kind of strategic access by Mubarak, who also had the military’s backing for over thirty years. In addition, the Islamic Republic of Iran was capable of reopening its embassy in Egypt under Morsi’s rule, which helped restart Iran-Egypt diplomatic, political, and economic ties.

More fundamentally, Obama’s lack of leadership has helped Iranian leaders gain not only a strategic naval access to the Mediterranean Sea, but also the capability to project their naval power into the Atlantic Ocean. The increasing access to the Mediterranean Sea assisted Iran’s navy and Revolutionary Guard Corps to more directly provide militarily and advisory assistance to its closest Arab ally: Syria. In addition, after gaining access to the Atlantic Ocean, the country’s next plan according to the Supreme Leader is to situate its warships near the coasts of the United States.

Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.