Senior Muslim Brotherhood member and former Parliament Speaker Saad al-Katatni denied the story reported in the Iranian network Press TV about meeting with Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani in Sudan and said he had not travelled to Sudan in the first place.
Several Brotherhood members in Egypt also hurried to deny the story. This demonstrates the Egyptian government’s anger at what Iran did and which apparently was meant to undermine Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s visit to Saudi Arabia to take part in the Riyadh Summit.
We have a bunch of stories that could also be fabricated about meetings between Brotherhood members and Iranian officials. This was preceded by a fabricated interview with Mursi that was published in Iran’s official press. What is worth looking at here is that mysterious relationship in which we are not sure who is using who and why. It is easy to deny reports of a fabricated interview or meetings, but the official invitation President Mohamed Mursi extended to his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a true story. This means that after all both countries enjoy a close relationship and that the Muslim Brotherhood has strong ties with Iran. The truth or falsity of this assumption remains to be seen.
Some Iranians want to see Mursi’s government besieged on the Arab level so that Egypt becomes Iran’s closest ally as an alternative to Bashar al-Assad’s collapsing regime. Meanwhile, some Brotherhood members in Egypt want to blackmail and frighten Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region, to get their political, partisan, and financial support. The second camp was represented by some Brotherhood writers who called for getting closer to Iran under the pretext that Gulf countries do not support the Brotherhood’s rule. Qatar, which is on good terms with Iran, is the only exception. This camp most likely does not distinguish between media absurdity and the state’s political strategy.
It will not be easy for Mursi’s government or any other Egyptian government to forge an alliance with Iran unless this government decides to drag Egypt into a series of domestic problems. Egypt gets one third of its remittances from the Gulf and not from Iran and its international value is derived from its positive role in the region and not the other way round.
It seems unlikely that the Muslim Brotherhood would choose to risk the interests of their people in return for changing the political map. If this happens, it will be a totally different story.
Whether Iranians are trying to undermine Mursi’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf region or the Muslim Brotherhood is using Iran to get closer to the Gulf, there are certain grounds that are quite clear on both sides and that are not to be evaluated through press reports, but rather through the actions of the new Egyptian regime. This would be demonstrated in the Egyptian government’s relationship with senior officials in Iran and the nature of the deals they strike together as well as any interventions or conspiracies on the part of the Brotherhood in the Gulf countries.
The most serious obstacle that would hamper the relationship between Mursi’s government, the Gulf, and Iran is the game of duality in which the statements and actions of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are said not to represent Mursi and his government. This would be hard to believe because after all this is a Brotherhood government even if negative statements are attributed to other names.
This article first appeared in Asharq al-Awsat on Jan. 24, 2013.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.