Iran, Egypt and What Cairo Needs

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri
Faculty Member; University of Tehran

Active ImageDespite differences between Iran and Egypt in such key regional issues as the Middle East peace process and security arrangements, the two countries share certain viewpoints. The most important of those viewpoints which can provide a good ground for future cooperation between Tehran and Cairo is both countries’ opposition to Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Iran and Egypt have recently moved to reestablish flights between Tehran and Cairo as a first step toward détente. Meanwhile, the Egyptian officials have voiced their support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear activities and while admitting the risk of Israel’s nuclear buildup, have announced that such buildup will be a great threat to regional security and stability. It seems Iran and Egypt have shared concerns about nuclear weapons and the need to establish a zone free from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East. This can be used as a stepping stone in the march toward full restoration of official relations between the two countries.

Mutual security needs of Egypt and Iran, both in the Persian Gulf and the whole Middle East, constitute the most important reason behind the two countries endeavors to bring Israel’s nuclear weapons under control of international community. This can be a first step toward more cooperation between Tehran and Cairo. The next step can be total elimination of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.

Such cooperation will be based on the two countries’ joint initiative in 1974 which aimed to establish a WMD-free zone in the Middle East. The goal is still being pursued and provides good grounds for political, security and regional collaboration.

Israel’s nuclear weapons
Israel possesses an advanced nuclear arsenal without being member of Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). This situation has thus far elicited protests from other regional states, including Iran and Egypt. Existence of Israel’s nuclear arsenal has rendered any effort aimed at establishment of a WMD-free zone in Middle East futile. Such efforts have been regularly held up by the Arab and Islamic countries.

Israel has never tried to hide its intention to proliferate nuclear weapons and has been under no serious international pressure to accede to NPT. This has provided certain Arab states of the Middle East to reject calls for accession to NPT. Accession to NPT and regular inspections of Israel’s nuclear arsenal by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are major demands of Iran which were brought up during NPT Review Conference in 1995. Meanwhile, Israel has so far developed 200 nuclear warheads through outright support of the United States.

To use the customary literature of the nuclear weapons, Israel possesses the second generation of nuclear weapons in the world.

The following factors have increased Iran’s and Egypt’s sensitivity to development and proliferation of nuclear weapons by Israel:

1. Iran and Egypt are unanimous that western states topped by the United States are following double standards when it comes to nuclear disarmament and freeing the Middle East from all kinds of weapons of mass destruction. They put more emphasis on nuclear programs of Muslim states and avoid of any discussion on controlling Israel’s nuclear weapons.

The United States maintains that possession of nuclear weapons by Israel is requisite for the realization of broad-based peace in the Middle East, but shows stern reaction to nuclear programs of Muslim countries.

2. Israel’s military supremacy policy: As said before, Israel will never allow its military supremacy in the Middle East be challenged. Iran and Egypt are aware of this attitude and believe that development of nuclear weapons by Israel will pose long-term threat to both countries’ security as well as that of the Middle East.

3. US commitment to Israel’s military supremacy in the region: The United States considers Israel a strategic asset and believes that Tel Aviv’s military supremacy in the Middle East is in line with the United States national interests. Meanwhile, the Zionist lobby, especially American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), sways great influence in decision-making centers of the American foreign policy and has played a prominent part to keep influx of military and economic aid from Washington to Tel Aviv. American statesmen have clearly announced that they will never swap Israel’s security and supremacy for good relations with other regional countries.

Active ImageFollowing the Persian Gulf War and revelations about possession of weapons of mass destruction by Iraq, the United States has launched powerful media propaganda incriminating Iran and certain Arab states that they are determined to build such weapons without any mention of Israel’s possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Therefore, Iran and Egypt, as important players in the Middle East, consider handling the risk of Israel’s nuclear weapons as their most crucial priority.

When asked about possible development of the nuclear weapons by Iran during a visit to the United States, the Egyptian President noted that the true risk came from Israel’s nuclear program and added that Israel should be forced to accede to international conventions which ban proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

It is noteworthy that being sure about its military and economic superiority in the Middle East and relying on unbridled support from the United States, Israel has been trying to impose its views on other regional states, including Egypt. Admitting to this fact, the Egyptian politicians have been taking steps to get closer to Iran as a logical solution to military and economic threats from Israel. On the other hand, as pro-Iran tendencies grow, they are trying to modify Washington’s policies toward Israel. While fully aware of Israel’s expansionist policies and wary of isolation in the Middle East after losing their geopolitical importance, Egyptians are playing Iran card as their trump in interactions with Israel and the United States.

Translated By: Iran Review

Links for Further Reading:

1- Egypt Plays Iran Card:
2- Rivalry Between Egypt and Iran Beyond Mideast:
3- Iran-Egypt Relations: Obstacles and Solutions:

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