Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- An informed source in the Iranian Foreign Ministry told Asharq al-Awsat, by telephone yesterday, that his country is closely monitoring the developments in Egypt, after the “blessed revolution undertaken by the Egyptian youth, against the rule of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak”.
Asked whether Tehran has been in contact with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, who Mubarak assigned to administer the country shortly before he relinquished power, the Iranian source said: “No, this has not happened yet”.
During the great wave of protests witnessed by Egypt, international observers began to fear that radical states in the Middle East may benefit from the results of the Egyptian revolution, after the Muslim Brotherhood appeared on the scene. Asked whether Iran would hold contact with the military council, or any of the parties present in the caretaker government headed by Ahmed Shafik, the Iranian source explained that his country “is monitoring developments in Egypt at this current time, but with regards to any steps relating to potential rapprochement between the two countries, this is still premature”.
It is well known that relations between Tehran and Cairo have been severed since 1979, because of conflicting viewpoints regarding how to deal with the region’s issues – Cairo has maintained relations with Israel for nearly thirty years, and advocates dialogue as a means to solve regional disputes. On the other hand, Tehran does not recognize Israel, and adopts a radical approach to resolving differences, by sponsoring movements such as Hezbollah and Hamas. Iran had been hostile towards President Mubarak’s regime for many years, and it gave its blessing to elements of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement, who carried out the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Iran even provided refuge for some of its members. Disputes between the two states were renewed approximately two months ago, when Egypt warned Tehran of the consequences of interfering in the affairs of Arab states. This deterioration in the relationship came despite the fact that Egypt has refused to sanction a military strike from the West against Tehran, against the backdrop of Iran’s controversial nuclear program.
For their part, sources in the National Democratic Party, [the former ruling party] in Egypt, revealed to Asharq al-Awsat yesterday that the reins of government in the former Egyptian regime were held by a number of influential businessmen. This posed an obstacle to any form of rapprochement between Tehran and Cairo, especially after an agreement was signed for renewed air flights between the two countries last October.
The party sources added that some of the businessmen had strong commercial ties with the United States and European countries. Thus they thought they could not benefit from any rapprochement between Egypt and Tehran, because of Western sanctions against Iran. They feared that their economic interests with the West would be damaged, especially after several Western countries had criticized the signing of the [Iran-Egypt aviation] agreement.
After Iranian Vice President Hamid Baghai attended the signing of the aviation agreement, along with the current Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Shafik, who was Aviation Minister at the time, Egypt said that this signing did not reflect a political rapprochement, or that it would “immediately” organize trips to Iran.
Several times late last year, Iran expressed that it was prepared to assist Egypt with wheat cultivation, and in constructing a nuclear program for peaceful purposes.