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Rushing to Resume Iran’s Relations with Egypt: Neither Honourable nor Wise nor Expedient

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Interview with Seyyed Hadi Khosrow-Shahi
Former chief of Iran’s Political Bureau in Egypt

"If relations between Iran and Egypt improve, a 350-million-strong force will be formed, which can be constructive, effective, and path-breaking. Some people’s rush to re-establish Iran’s relations with Egypt is in accordance with neither our honour, nor wisdom, nor expediency. These people should wait until the new Egyptian government is formed, and the first group which will take action to establish new relations with Iran is the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, Iranian authorities and policymakers are highly recommended to observe the rules of wisdom and expediency in this regard. They have waited for 30 years and now they had better exercise patience and wait a bit more."

Question: Does the news that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has called for the formation of a unity government means the group is distancing itself from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, a body which had thus far had no special problem with the Islamist group and experienced a type of political interaction with it?

Answer: The Muslim Brotherhood is averse to seeing the military generals in power, but the prevailing circumstances in Egypt are so that either another bloody revolution or massacre should take place in order for the people to oust the generals or they should tolerate them until the presidential elections, which are to be held within two or three months. After these elections, the military rulers either will have to go back to barracks or will retire, as most of them are quite old. Indeed, all of the ruling generals are the elderly remnants of the Mubarak era, including Mr (Mohamed Hussein) Tantawi himself who used invariably to support and obey Hosni Mubarak. As a result, until and unless these generals are in office, one cannot make a precise prediction about the situation in Egypt or its relations with Iran, because in fact it is these military rulers who are holding power for the time being.

Question: Has the victory of Islamist currents in Egypt’s initial parliamentary elections following the fall of Mubarak allowed the Muslim Brotherhood more latitude to perform further political manoeuvres, and if so what are your predictions about the Brotherhood’s future moves?

Answer: Presumably, it is so. The Brotherhood’s electoral victory showed that it is still the most organized party in Egypt in spite of around 80 years of suppression and carnage from the time of Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser to the era of Hosni Mubarak. During the election time, some analysts maintained that the Brotherhood representatives will manage to secure only 10 percent of the ballots, but on the contrary, I believed that if they wished, they could win 80 percent of the votes. The Muslim Brotherhood did not want, however, to follow the example of Algeria where during the Islamic Salvation Front victory– which was led by Abbassi Madani – won the elections but were finally suppressed by the Algerian Francophile generals. Such issues might be repeated in Egypt, particularly given the fact that the United States still wields influence in the region, that is, it continues to exert influence over such leaders in the Arab world as the King of Jordan, the Emir of Qatar, and the House of Saud.

Therefore, Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood exercised caution and in fact refused to make any pretensions to victory, but in the end they demonstrated that they could be victorious.

Two Islamic parties in Egypt are seen as the primary victors, of which Salafists constitute the second group. As you may remember, in the parliamentary elections, the Brotherhood candidates garnered 48 percent of the ballots cast while the Salafists obtained 25 percent. The rest of the votes belonged to the Wafd and Tajammu’ al-Yasari (leftist) parties as well as secularist groups that are active in the country. In sum, one should say that the Muslim Brotherhood has gained a good measure of popularity.

The Brotherhood is so tolerant that the second deputy of the Freedom and Justice Party – which is their major political wing – is a Coptic Christian. In point of fact, in spite of being an Islamic group, the Muslim Brothers do not refrain from allowing a Christian to join them.

Question: Considering the recent trip of US statesmen to Egypt, will Cairo experience closer ties with Washington once again?

Answer: It will not experience proximity, but will retain it. US leaders who have paid a visit to Cairo are those very people who ordered Mubarak what to do and now are dictating terms to the ruling generals. This trend will most probably continue until the unity government is formed. The United States has threatened that it will cut its one-billion-dollar military aid to Cairo. And it continues to have influence over the Egyptian government.

Question: Do you mean to say that Egypt’s relations with the United States have not undergone any change?

Answer: No, all these people such as Ahmed al-Shabi (who was a cabinet minister during the Mubarak era), that is, all pawns of the previous regime are still in their positions. On the face of it, Hosni Mubarak , Habib el-Adly and a few other agents of the previous regime are gone, but it is like the pre-revolutionary era in Iran when the regime arrested Amir Abbas Hoveida and General Nematollah Nassiri to show that it is determined to change the situation and implement reforms, but that was not the case. God willing, the Egyptian unity government will be formed soon and the ruling generals will retire back to barracks.

Question: The Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu has warned against the annulment of Camp David Accords. Is there any possibility of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists who have been elected to the parliament moving towards abolishing the treaty?

Answer: From the very beginning, the Egyptian people did not agree to this treaty and in fact it was the Egyptian leadership which signed and implemented it by force. The pact at the end of the day was disadvantageous to Egyptians as according to it, Egypt cannot deploy military forces in the Sinai Desert. In other words, it is a sovereign state that cannot deploy military forces in a part of its territory, aside from other humiliating terms and conditions the treaty included.

Therefore, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood similarly opposed the agreement from scratch, but today Brotherhood politicians and Salafists alike have left the issue to the parliament to decide upon it, having been aware they will be suppressed if they openly protests against it. As for the parliament, it will not approve its cancellation. One should assess a given country’s situation on the basis of the requirements of time and place, or the context in which it is situated. First, not every nation is revolutionary like the Iranian nation, and second, Egyptians do not have such a leader as Imam Khomeini, hence there are numerous differences and divisions inside the country, which means that they cannot push for the immediate abolition of Camp David Accords. It should be noted, however, that the treaty will be repudiated gradually as it is not acceptable to the Egyptian public. Finally, a recent announcement that the Muslim Brotherhood have acceded to the pact is wrong. The Brotherhood leaders have only said that they will accept the parliament’s vote on the treaty.

Question: How do you envisage the political prospects for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, given their announcement that they will not nominate a candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in the country? And accordingly how do you assess the future of these elections as well as that of the candidates?

Answer: The prospects for the Brotherhood in the upcoming presidential polls will be similar to their status in the parliamentary elections. They have not nominated a candidate and declared that they will back anyone who the people accept. Those who announced their candidacy for the presidential poll belong to the Brotherhood’s Maktab al-Irshad (Guidance Office) including Dr Muhammad al-Awa and some others who have a background of membership in the Muslim Brotherhood, but apparently are no longer its members, organizationally speaking.

If other people also decide to stand for election, they will take advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood’s image and credibility. For instance, Mohamed ElBaradei has declared several times that he will cooperate with the Muslim Brothers. Of course, they did not support ElBaradei, as he does not have a good reputation in Egypt and has no outstanding background or affiliation, apart from the fact that he has lived abroad for fifty years outside and has not simply shown up with the motto of I want to have a part too. ElBaradei’s political record and performance vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear programme are also clear; He made any disruption possible in favour of the West and was finally granted the Nobel Prize for Peace. He has now announced his candidacy, but I think he will not win the polls.

Therefore, one should point out that they are waiting to see how the circumstances will turn out; they do not intend to propose a candidate, so that the plots of their enemies continue to unfold and then be defused. Similarly, we witnessed that the president and the parliament speaker in Algeria and Tunisia are secularist, and only the prime minister – who is Rashid al-Ghannushi in Tunisia - belongs to the Islamic Ennahda party. In Egypt, we should wait until the elections are held to see what happens.

Question: May Omar Suleiman, who was Hosni Mubarak’s deputy, come back to power?

Answer: No, Omar Suleiman was directing all those operations against the Egyptian people as the head of Egypt’s intelligence and security apparatus. They were behind all the suppression and crackdown on the opposition. Omar Suleiman has no grounds for returning to power. He has reportedly become an advisor to the Saudi King now.

Question: How do you assess Iran’s relations with Egypt after the Egyptian revolution?

Answer: If relations between Iran and Egypt improve, a 350-million-strong force will be formed, which can be constructive, effective, and path-breaking. Some people’s rush to re-establish Iran’s relations with Egypt is in accordance with neither our honour, nor wisdom, nor expediency. These people should wait until the new Egyptian government is formed, and the first group which will take action to establish new relations with Iran is the Muslim Brotherhood. Therefore, Iranian authorities and policymakers are highly recommended to observe the rules of wisdom and expediency in this regard. They have waited for 30 years and now they had better exercise patience and wait a bit more.

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
http://www.irdiplomacy.ir
Translated By: Iran Review

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