Iran, Egypt to Restore Diplomatic Relations

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Iran, Egypt to Restore Diplomatic Relations

A breakthrough in Egyptian and Iranian relations foreshadows the creation of a new order in the Middle East.

Iran and Egypt will hold talks in the coming days to discuss restoring full diplomatic relations and opening embassies in Tehran and Cairo.

The recent warming of relations occurred when last month in a visit to the United Arab Emirates, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated: “We are determined to pursue normalization of relations with Egypt, and if the Egyptian government declares its readiness, before the working hour is over today, we are willing to open Iran’s embassy in Cairo.”

The Egyptian foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, responded by sending a message that Egypt was willing to restore relations with Iran.

Similar announcements were made back in 2004, but those statements produced little action. Three and a half years later, however, the situation has changed to make this go-around more likely to get results.

The biggest change has been the recent thaw in relations between Iran and the United States, an Egyptian ally. An Egyptian source told Haaretz that American pressure once prevented any revival in relations between Iran and Egypt. Now that the U.S. is engaging Iran in discussions over Iraq’s future, Egypt has the bandwidth to open up its relations with Iran. Even if the U.S. frowned on the talks, Egypt could point to the cooperation treaty Saudia Arabia signed with Iran in order to argue its case.

Both Iran and Egypt stand to gain by reviving their relationship, as both are maneuvering to become the region’s leader. Restoring relations with Egypt would give the Shiite-dominated Iran more legitimacy in its dealings with the international community and, more immediately, with its Sunni Arab neighbors—particularly as Egypt is the traditional leader of the Arab world. For Egypt, opening relations with Iran is an attempt to maintain that leadership position.

The U.S. may actually be open to a warming of relations between Egypt and Iran. Particularly since the U.S. toppled Iran’s former competitor, Iraq, it has been uneasy about Iran’s ascendancy in the region. Some reports suggest that the U.S. might view this as an opportunity to establish Egypt as a counterweight to Iran’s power in the region.

Such reasoning would be extremely short-sighted, however. The moderate government in Egypt is being threatened by a popular and growing Iranian-aligned, anti-American, radical Islamist movement. In fact, we expect the most radical elements within Egypt to assume control and directly ally themselves with Iran. This worst-case scenario for the U.S. is just what the Bible prophesied will occur soon.

The present move toward alignment between these two nations, should it occur under the rulership of Hosni Mubarak, will only presage a far stronger alliance likely to be cemented after he is gone. For more information on the growing relationship between Egypt and Iran, read The King of the South.