Ahmadinejad Beckons Egypt to the Dark Side
Ahmadinejad calls on Egypt to join Iran in forming a "great power" and driving "the Zionists from the region."
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 6/1/2011, 10:11 PM / Last Update: 6/2/2011, 2:14 AM
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday called on the interim junta in Cairo to rebuild diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic, Reuters reports.
At a meeting with Egyptian academics, clerics and media representatives in Tehran, Ahmadinejad pushed his plan to rebuild links with Cairo saying cooperation between the two countries would give them "great power" and "drive the Zionists from the region."
Rapprochement between Shi'ite-led Iran and Sunni-majority Egypt, the most populous Arab nation, would likely alarm the United States, Israel and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Saudi Arabia.
"Our enemies do not want us rebuild our ties because they know a great political and economic power will emerge from our cooperation," Ahmadinejad said.
"Then all the Zionists along with other enemies of nations must leave and escape this region."
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly forecast the imminent disappearance of the Jewish state as he thumbs his nose at international nuclear regulators and marches forward Iran's nuclear program. Tehran denies it is seeking atomic bombs.
Ahmadinejad's seeking to seduce Egypt to the Islamic Republic's arms comes during a cooling of relations between Egypt and Israel following the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year.
Under Mubarak, Egypt was a close US ally which maintained its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and shared Saudi Arabia's suspicions of Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program.
Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies are negotiating the creation of a diplomatic and military confederation - and the inclusion of Jordan and Morocco - as a bullwark against what they perceive as Iranian power-plays in their region.
Ahmadinejad suggested an alliance with Iran would remove Egypt's need to rely on US support, but how Tehran can compete with the billions of dollars in aid the Obama administration is extending to Cairo is unclear.
"If we stand together, there is no need for their [American] help because Iran and Egypt have needs which can be met by relying on each other's capabilities," he said.
Ties between Cairo and Tehran were severed after Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution and Egypt's signing of the peace treaty with Israel, but each nation has a diplomatic mission in the other's capital.
Tehran sees improved ties with Egypt as a desirable outcome of what it calls the Arab world's "Islamic awakening," which it hopes will reduce US influence and unite Muslim countries.