What Position Iran Should Take on Egypt?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mohammad Masjed-Jamei
Iran's Former Ambassador to Morocco

Egypt, especially its capital city, Cairo, and other big cities have been going through a highly chaotic situation for many months. The unrest escalated a short while after the country’s first elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was toppled by the Egyptian military, and has reached its acme in the past few days. As a result of the escalation of crisis in the North African country, hundreds of Egyptian civilians and tens of the country’s military personnel have so far lost their lives.

Since Morsi had come to office through a free election and was toppled by the military, most analyses about the situation in Egypt, especially those published in Iran, have been inclined to take sides with Morsi and his supporters. However, this issue has another dimension to it, which deserves to be taken into consideration more carefully. Paying attention to these and other dimensions of the ongoing crisis in Egypt is important for two reasons. Firstly, it will help with a better and more thorough understanding of these developments, taking into account that such developments will inevitably influence the future outlook of the entire Middle East region as well as the whole Arab world. Secondly, attention to these dimensions will shed more light on the relationship of these developments with us, our interests and expediencies, as well as those of our allies. The following points should be taken into account in this regard.

1. The important point for the understanding of the actions and reactions between Morsi and his opponents is that he grabbed the power and became president through a totally free election, but once in office, he did not abide by any rules of democratic management of the country. Here, the main problem was not with Morsi as a person. The main problem was that he lacked necessary capacities and characteristics to fulfill his democratic tasks. It was the supreme leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood which told him what to do and Morsi was just a means of implementing their will and decisions. That central leadership expected Morsi to purge all state-run institutions, including the media, the press, newspapers, the armed forces, the Judiciary, as well as educational, academic and even religious institutions. During their short rule, they changed thousands of officials in charge of various managerial posts in favor of the Muslim Brotherhood. Faced with the opposition, they overemphasized on the legitimacy that they had derived from the election. This is, in essence, correct, but befits where the society has no problem, or at least no acute problem, with the elected chief executive. On the contrary, the Egyptian society was boiling from many months ago as a result of which that society had become totally polarized.

2. Morsi won the presidential polls with slightly more than 51 percent of the votes, though that figure was much lower in Cairo and many other big cities of Egypt. In addition, the Islamist parties had won more than 80 percent of the votes in Egypt’s parliamentary election which was held about a year before the presidential election. The meaningful disparity between those two election turnout figures proved that the Egyptian people were rapidly distancing from Egyptian Islamist groups. During that short period, their behavior was so unacceptable, and the way they talked to people through their media and issued fatwas [religious decrees] was so reprehensible that it elicited a lot of fear and even sense of hatred in the Egyptian society. Although the Muslim Brotherhood did not have a great share in that process, the problem was that following the election of Morsi, those behaviors and assertions continued and even intensified. The collection of all these factors led to difficult conditions which finally rendered the Egyptian society highly polarized.

3. At present time, the big problem with all Islamic parties in the Arab world is that their behavior and conduct totally changes once they win an election. Before winning, they are simple, good-tempered and even bashful people. After grabbing the power, their characteristics are quite the opposite. In reality, such a remarkable change in behavior has not been seen among other political parties.

4. The political developments, which have swept through the Arab world during the past two and a half years, were born on a backdrop of religious and Takfiri radicalism. It was a smoldering fire under the ashes which was ignited in full following the overthrow of the former Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, and political developments which resulted from his overthrow. The victory of the Lebanese resistance movement, Hezbollah, in the 33-day war against Israel as well as its profound influence on the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, which led to its victory during the 22-day war against Tel Aviv galvanized into action those states which saw further success of Iran and its regional allies as a serious threat to them as well as their religion and identity. It was under those circumstances that political developments started from Tunisia and, before long, swept through Egypt. In those conditions, even moderate and more pragmatist Islamic parties were naturally touched by the wave of radicalism in the region both from an ideological and intellectual viewpoint, as well as a social and political viewpoint. Moreover, in some instances they were forced to feign radicalism in order to maintain their newly-found position and popularity.

This current was so powerful that even a pacifist and pragmatist party like Tunisia’s Ennahda came under its influence. In spite of the introspective and conservative policy adopted by the new Tunisian government, this country was the first among all Arab states to cut relations with Syria and order Syrian ambassador to leave its soil. Also, the Tunisian government remained indifferent toward the outflow of Tunisian youth, both men and women, who set off for Syria to fight along Takfiri militants against the government of the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The Tunisian government even removed the grand mufti of Tunisia from his post because he refused to endorse the ongoing war in Syria as an instance of Jihad. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood was naturally more influenced by this current of radicalism than its peers in other Arab countries. The signs of that influence were quite evident both in domestic and foreign policy of Cairo under Morsi's rule. Therefore, there was no doubt that as time went by the Muslim Brotherhood would become more radical in both ideological and political terms. This is one of the most serious points of difference and friction which stands between the interests and expediencies of us and our allies, and their interests.

5. Egypt is going through dire straits. It is difficult to precisely predict the future outlook of the country. Of course, the problems nagging the North African country are far more numerous and profound than just the faceoff between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian Army. There is a host of negative factors embedded in the history and society of this country which have deepened the pessimism and suspicion among various Egyptian religious, intellectual, and social groups. The most important of those factors are extreme poverty; underdevelopment; burgeoning of population; the issue of job creation, especially for the young people; absence of a single and consensual source of reference for religious issues; and disruption of social unity and solidarity.

Bloody incidents have already taken place in Egypt. Without a doubt, killing hundreds of people in the course of dispersing protesters from one or two rallying points in Cairo should be condemned. However, it is also hard to say whether this is more heinous and criminal, or exploding bombs among ordinary people. These bombs usually target mosques, other places of religious gathering, teahouses and coffeehouses, public markets, gathering points for simple workers, as well as funerals and other religious rites, killing women, men, children and the elderly people. They are present everywhere from Iraq to Pakistan, Afghanistan, and most lately, the Dahiya district of the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Here, the goal is by no means to defend the atrocity of violent measures taken by the Egyptian military. The problem, however, is that this is not the only crime which has been committed in our hectic region. We must, therefore, pass a more balanced judgment and especially take a more balanced position on what has already taken place – and will continue to take place – and don’t forget that the measures taken by the Egyptian army have the endorsement of a great multitude of the country’s general population and the elite as well. Of course, most people in the country have been shocked and are sad about what has happened.

But where do we feature in these developments? We should undoubtedly condemn any crime that has been committed so far, but should not talk in such a belligerent tone as to undermine our present and future relations with other parties that are not on the same side as the Muslim Brotherhood, and do not agree with their actions. These parties make up the most important part of the Egyptian society and will play a great role in determining the future outlook of their own country and other Arab countries. Also, for reasons which cannot be fully explained here, they are closer [than the Muslim Brotherhood] to us and our regional allies.

Key Words: Iran, Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, Free Election, Muslim Brotherhood, Arab World, Masjed-Jamei

Source: Khabaronline News Website
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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