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Analysis of Morsy's visit to Iran
By: - TAWFIK HAMID

 

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy's recent visit to Tehran was seen by many as a foreign policy shift. Deeper analysis of this move appears to indicate that the move was mostly to send a message to the wealthy Arab countries and to the West rather than a genuine desire to become closer to Iran at least at this stage.
The message that Morsy wanted to send was that 'If the wealthy Arab countries and the West did not show active steps to support the new Egyptian government, Egypt will be an ally to the Iranians'.
Morsy was probably using the model of former President Nasser when he allied with the Soviet Union - partially as a reaction to his failure to gain financial support from the West for his major projects such as Aswan Dam. This was reflected in a very subtle way in Morsy's speech in Tehran when he mentioned Nasser in a positive manner despite the well-known animosity between the Muslim Brotherhood and Nasser.
After the recent visit of Morsy to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with King Abdullah, many in Egypt expected that he would return with significant financial support from the Saudis. Failure to get such a support was likely one of the factors that made Morsy decide to go to Tehran to send a covert message to the Saudis that "If you do not support us we will support Iran against you". It was not surprising - after Morsy's announcement that he will visit Tehran - to hear that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia may soon visit Egypt. Probably this time King Abdullah may give a strong financial push to Egypt to prevent it from siding with the Iranians.
Morsy's visit to Tehran was sending a similar message to the US before his expected visit to NY this month. For Morsy, in the worst case scenario his visit to Tehran and the possibility that Egypt may side with Iran will give him a better bargaining position with the US and other countries who do not want to see this happening.
This attitude of the Egyptian President could be seen by many as a form of political intimidation but is certainly understandable in the world of politics.
If the recent visit of Morsy to Iran was a genuine move toward it rather than to send the above message, he wouldNOT have insulted the Iranians by blessing the first two Islamic Caliphs Abu-Bakr and Umar - as the latters are hated by the Shi'ia probably more than anything else. Additionally, Morsy annoyed the Iranians by mentioning that the Al-Assad regime should be removed from power while he knew very well that Iran is a very strong supporter to the Alawi regime.
If the aim of Morsy was to seriously get closer to Tehran -at this stage, he would have avoided the frictions with the Iranian Shia regimen by simply avoiding the conflicting religious issues between Sunni and Shei'ia and by using, instead, verses from the Quran that are respected by both of them. Similarly, he could have used softer diplomatic language with Al-Assad to avoid creating anger among the political leaders of Tehran.
Mursy also was clever in his speech in Tehran when he spoke positively about Nasser as this was seen in a positive way by the leftists and young revolutionists in Egypt who were angry with Morsy when he mentioned the era of Nasser in a negative way during his first speech in Cairo after his election.
From an ideological point of view, Mursy - despite being a Sunni - could be attracted to the Shi'ia regime in Tehran as both of them share in a desire to erase Israel from the map. Additionally, the nuclear ambitions of Tehran seem lucrative to the new Egyptian President who actually crystalized his military intentions when he choose the following verse from the Quran during his speech to the Egyptian Army to celebrate the graduation ceremony of new military officers on July 9 2012 "Quran 8:60 Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know". It is important to notice that this was the same verse that was used by the blind Sheick Umar Abdullrahman to justify terrorism.
On the contrary, from a pragmatic point of view, it is very difficult for Morsy to take serious active steps toward Iran at this stage- since supporting a pro-Assad regime in the meantime would be a political suicide for the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, it will create a strong back lash by the West and the wealthy Sunni Arab countries against the Muslim Brotherhood. This can lead to more economic failure of Egypt in the short term -which will end the dream of the Muslim Brotherhood to prove that "Islam is the solution". The MB simply cannot take such a risk at least at this stage.
In brief, the recent visit of Morsy to Tehran can be seen as a 'bluff' in a Poker game to send a message to the West and to wealthy oil rich Sunni Arab countries that Egypt will side with Iran - if they do not actively support Egypt's fast deteriorating economy.

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