A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ahmadinejad in Cairo: Swan Song for a Lame Duck?

For the first time since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, an Iranian President is in Cairo. Mahmud Ahmadinejad has already met with President Morsi and the Sheikh al-Azhar, and thus is ending years of open hostility, suspended relations, and mutual exchanges of accusations. Everyone is calling it a historic visit  and, of course, it is, in that no Iranian leader since the Shah has been welcome in Egypt.

But despite diplomatic niceties, this is no massive geopolitical shift. The Iranian Preaident is getting lectured about Syria by both Morsi and the Sheikh al-Azhar, warned against adventurism in the Gulf, and told not to try to spread Shi‘ism in the Arab world. (It hasn't been reported whether Ahmadinejad has brought up the plight of Egypt's small Shi‘ite population.)

Meanwhile Morsi is getting flak from the Salafis, who apparently consider any fraternization with a known Shi‘ite to be beyond the pale.

And let's not make too much of this "breakthrough": Ahmadinejad is there for an Islamic Summit Egypt is hosting, so it's not exactly Nixon going to China. And of course, he's term-limited, will be leaving office later this year, and has been engaged in a running battle with the Iranian Parliament, so he's not exactly dealing from a position of strength. (But then, of course, neither is Morsi.)

As a reminder of better times in Egyptian-Iranian relations: here's a 1939 photo of King Farouq with then-Iranian Crown Prince (later Shah) Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, visiting the Delta prior to the future Shah's marriage to the King's sister.

Then again, the Shah later divorced her.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

I love the picture of King Farouq and the Shah being propelled by an Egyptian laborer! The day when the latter will be in charge may yet come. When the Iranians say they are ready to change the name of the street in Tehran from Khalid Islambouli to something else (Hassan Al Banna?), they will look serious about rapprochement with Cairo.