In comments posted by Iran’s Fars News Agency that are ominous but not surprising, Egypt’s newly elected Muslim Brotherhood president Muhamed Morsi said Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel will be “revise[d],” blasted Egypt’s military leaders for dissolving its Islamist-dominated parliament, and asserted that forging relations with Iran is “part of my agenda” and would “create a strategic balance in the region.”
The Iranian Armed Forces, for their part, lauded Morsi’s victory as “the first stage of Egypt’s revolution in the era of Islamic Awakening.” They also called on the Egyptian military—the main opposition to the Egyptian Islamists—to “welcome this divine blessing with open arms” and share in the building of Egypt “based on Islamic foundations….”
Under former president Hosni Mubarak, Sunni-Arab Egypt led the regional bloc that opposed Shiite-Persian Iran. In one case in 2009, Egypt rounded up an Iranian-backed Hizbullah espionage ring in the country that aimed to bring down Mubarak’s regime.
It is, of course, always notable how easily Sunni and Shiite radicals—who in other contexts, like Iraq in recent years, fight each other savagely—will sometimes emerge as the best of friends. In this case, visions of jointly destroying Israel and subjugating the whole Middle East have evoked an orgy of smiles between Tehran and the Islamist faction in Cairo.
Hamas, too—formerly an Iranian client and recently moving back into the Brotherhood’s embrace—celebrated Morsi’s win in Gaza along with the population. Hamas head of government Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters TV that “We will look to Egypt to play a big, leading role…in helping the Palestinian nation get freedom [and] return home….”
Another Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, said, “We are ready to sacrifice our blood to protect Egyptian soldiers” as sweets were handed out to Egyptian-flag-waving civilians in the streets.
Naturally, Israel’s reaction to Morsi’s triumph is quite different.
Israelis are aware that Egypt’s Supreme Military Council (SCAF) made a major move last week—in addition to earlier dissolving the parliament—to curtail the Islamists’ powers, including the president’s power to declare war. Eyal Zisser, a Middle East specialist at Tel Aviv University, noted that “The military is hoping that Morsi loses his momentum quickly”—and also “hope[s] to get rid of him in the same manner that they dispersed the parliament.
But Zisser added: “We can only hope that…it won’t be the Islamists who have the last laugh. In Turkey, after all, the generals who anticipated Erdogan’s political demise after he won the premiership are now sitting behind bars.”
Veteran military commentator Ron Ben Yishai was also somber, writing that “for the first time in Egypt’s history, the country’s government adheres to blatant religious-Islamist ideology… regardless of the ongoing power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the generals of the Supreme Military Council.”
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