Saad El-Katatni, a senior Muslim Brotherhood member and former speaker of the Egyptian parliament, has denied a story recently reported by the Iranian network Press TV about him meeting with the Iranian speaker of the parliament Ali Larijani in Sudan, affirming that he never traveled to Sudan in the first place.
Several Brotherhood members in Egypt also rushed to deny the story. This demonstrates the Egyptian government’s anger towards Iran’s fabrications, which were apparently meant to undermine Egyptian president Mohammed Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia to participate in the Arab economic summit.
There are several stories, all of which could in fact be fabricated, about meetings between Brotherhood members and Iranian officials. We all remember the false Mursi interview that was published in the Iranian official press. Yet what is really worth our attention here is the mysterious relationship between the Brotherhood and Iran; who is using who and why. It is easy to deny a report or claim an interview or meeting was fabricated, but the official invitation extended by President Mursi to his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a true story. This means after all that both countries enjoy a close relationship, and reinforces the suspicion that the Muslim Brotherhood has strong ties with Iran, although the validity of this assumption remains to be seen.
Some Iranians want to see Mursi’s government besieged on the Arab level so that Egypt becomes a close ally to Iran and an alternative to Bashar Al-Assad’s collapsing regime. Meanwhile, some Brotherhood members in Egypt want to blackmail and intimidate Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region, to obtain political, partisan, and financial support. The second camp is represented by some Brotherhood writers who call for rapprochement with Iran under the pretext that Gulf countries do not support the Brotherhood’s rule, with the exception of Qatar, which is on good terms with Tehran. However, I do not think this latter camp distinguishes between media tampering and the official political strategy of a state.
It will not be easy for Mursi’s government, or any other Egyptian government for that matter, to forge an alliance with Iran unless it decides to drag Egypt into a series of domestic problems. Egypt gets one third of its remittances from the Gulf, not from Iran, and its international value is derived from its positive role in the region, not the other way round.
It seems unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood would choose to risk the interests of their people in return for changing the political map. If this happens, it would be a totally different story.
Whether the Iranians are trying to undermine Mursi’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf region or the Muslim Brotherhood are using the Iranian scarecrow to get closer to the Gulf, there are core issues that will become clear on both sides. These will not be revealed through press reports, but rather through the actions of the new Egyptian regime. They will be demonstrated in the Egyptian government’s relationship with senior officials in Iran, the nature of the deals they strike together, as well as any Brotherhood interventions or conspiracies in the Gulf states.
The most serious obstacle to hamper the relationship between Mursi’s government, the Gulf, and Iran would be dual policies, in other words when the statements and actions of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt do not to represent Mursi and his government. Yet this would be hard to believe because after all this is a Brotherhood government, and even if negative statements are sometimes issued they are attributed to other names.