Egypt Warns of Iranian Moves

Egypt raises red flags about the growing strength of Iran in the Middle East, even as the Islamic Republic makes diplomatic overtures to Cairo.

Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 13:27

Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Egyptian FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit
Israel news photo: (file)

Egypt has issued a warning about Iran's growing potential to change the balance of power in the Middle East. Cairo's suspicions are based on an estimate of the Iranian regime's intentions to spread its Islamic Revolution to Shi'ite and Sunni states and communities in the region -- including those in Egypt.

The concern was discussed at a conference held at the Center for International Political Studies in Cairo late last month, at which experts evaluated the entire Iranian strategic threat to the region.

Participants emphasized the need to maintain tight surveillance on Iranian operations in the East Horn of Africa and their impact on the strategic security interests of countries in the region, especially Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Gulf states.

 Egyptian General Ahmed Fakhr, head of the political studies center, called on the Arab world to work together to thwart Iranian activities in the Horn of Africa and its direct threat to Cairo. Fakhr said the Iranian operations poses a challenge to Egypt and to other countries in the region.

Muhamad Abas Naji, an expert on Iranian affairs in the Strategic Research Center of Ah-Ahram University, noted that Iran is striving to create a presence in the region. Such a move, he said, will reduce pressure on the Islamic Republic as the country moves its forces around in the Middle East, in order to avert an American or Israeli attack. He also explained that the Iranian activities are being carried out by companies and associations that represent the economic arm of the Islamic Republic.  Financial institutions that support social services also spread spiritual messages by funding Shi'ite religious centers, he said.

Even as Egypt raises the red flag about Iran's growing strength in the region, however, the Islamic Republic is moving to allay Cairo's fears.

Iran Cozies Up to Egypt?
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki invited his Egyptian counterpart, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, to pay a visit to Tehran to discuss bilateral ties between the two countries.  According to the Iranian Fars news agency, Mottaki issued the invitation Saturday during a meeting with the newly appointed head of Egypt's Interest Section in Tehran, Alaedin Hassan Yousef.

Mottaki was quoted by the state-run news agency as saying that Tehran-Cairo deliberations would favor regional nations. He noted that Aboul Gheit was the foreign minister of the nation presiding over the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which he noted is expected to have a mounting role in international issues.

Iran attempted to solicit the support of NAM nations in its bid to win a rotating seat on the United Nations Security Council last year.

The 118-member nation NAM is an international organization of countries that consider themselves not formally aigned with or against any major power bloc. The group comprises nearly two-thirds of the United Nations's membership and some 55 percent of the world's population, primarily those of the third world and developing nations.

The Iranian foreign minister expressed his hope that Iran and Egypt could together take steps "in favor of Islamic countries under mutual understanding," according to Fars.