Morsi’s Visit to Iran Was Message to West

Thursday, 06 Sep 2012 03:30 PM

By Tawfik Hamid

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Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s recent visit to Tehran was seen by many as a foreign policy shift. Deeper analysis of this move may indicate that Morsi wanted to send a message to wealthy Arab countries and the West rather than having a genuine desire to become closer to Iran at this stage of his presidency.

His message was clear: If wealthy Arab countries and the West do not actively support his new Egyptian government, Egypt will become an ally to the Iranians.

Morsi was probably using the model of former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser when he allied with the then Soviet Union — partly as a reaction to his failure to gain financial support from the West for major projects such as Aswan Dam.

Morsi-and-Iranian.jpg
Egypt's Mohamed Morsi (right) speaks with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran.
(Getty Images)
This was reflected in a very subtle way in Morsi ’s speech in Tehran when he mentioned Nasser in a positive manner despite the well-known animosity between Nasser and the Muslim Brotherhood.

After his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and his meeting with King Abdullah many in Egypt expected that Morsi would return with huge financial support from the Saudis.

Failure to get such support was probably one of the factors that made Morsi decide to go to Tehran to send a message to the Saudis that Egypt will support Iran if the Saudis do not support Egypt.

It was not surprising then after Morsi’s announcement that he will visit Tehran to hear that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia may soon visit Egypt. Probably this time King Abdullah will give a strong financial push to Egypt to prevent it from siding with the Iranians.

Morsi’s visit to Tehran was aimed at sending a similar message to the U.S. prior to his visit to New York this month. For Morsi, 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 U.S. and other countries that do not want to see this happening.

This attitude of the Egyptian president could be viewed as a form of political intimidation but is certainly understandable in the world of politics.

If Morsi’s recent visit to Iran was not intended to send a message, he would NOT have insulted the Iranians by blessing the first two Islamic Caliphs Abu-Bakr and Umar since they are hated by the Sheiia. Additionally, Morsi annoyed Iranians by mentioning that the al-Assad regime should be removed from power, knowing full well that Iran is a very strong supporter of the regime.

If Morsi’s intention was develop closer with Tehran, he would have avoided the frictions with the Iranian Shia regime by simply avoiding the conflicting religious issues between Sunni and Sheia and by using, instead, verses from the Quran that are respected by both. Similarly, he could have used softer diplomatic language concerning al-Assad to avoid angering the political leadership of Tehran.

Morsi also was being clever when he spoke positively about Nasser in Tehran. His remarks were embraced by leftists and young revolutionists in Egypt who were angered by an earlier speech in which Morsi referred to Nasser’s rule in a negative way.

From an ideological point of view Morsi, despite being a Sunni, could be attracted to the Shia regime in Tehran since both he and they share a common 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 a speech to the Egyptian Army: “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 Sheik Umar Abdullrahman to justify terrorism.

On the contrary, from a pragmatic point of view it is very difficult for Morsi to take serious active steps toward Iran at this stage — since supporting a pro-Assad regime would be political suicide for the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, it would create a strong backlash from the West and wealthy Sunni Arab countries against the Muslim Brotherhood.

This could lead to economic failure in the short term, which would end the dream of the Muslim Brotherhood to prove that “Islam is the solution.” The MB simply cannot take such a risk at this stage.

Morsi’s visit to Tehran should be viewed as a ‘bluff’ in a Poker game to send a message to the West and to wealthy oil reach Sunni Arab countries that Egypt will side with Iran if they do not win support for Egypt’s fast deteriorating economy.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam." Read more reports from Tawfik Hamid — Click Here Now.

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