Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi recently made some surprising remarks at a media festival in Cairo in which he warned about what he called Iran’s threat to Persian Gulf countries. Morsi also called for the establishment of a defense alliance of Arab countries, a move which seems to be in line with Morsi’s efforts to attract more economic assistance from wealthy Arab states.
It is not clear, though, what Morsi meant by claiming there is an Iranian threat to the countries on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, since Iran has always extended a friendly hand to its neighbors and other countries. Moreover, Egypt has no geopolitical interests in the Persian Gulf region, and if anything happens in the region, Cairo would never be a part of the story.
Thus, the ostensible convergence of Morsi’s stance with the positions of the rulers of the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf is just a move meant to encourage them to pump more money into Egypt’s ailing economy. So far, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar have granted billions of dollars to Cairo in the form of loans and investments, and this trend is expected to continue since Egypt is in urgent need of cash to meet its budgetary needs.
Morsi’s claims about a convergence of the interests of Egypt and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf are also very unrealistic, given the traditional hostility of most Arab rulers to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is regarded as the ruling party of Egypt. In the United Arab Emirates, for example, 10 members of the Muslim Brotherhood were recently arrested on charges of extremist activities. The government of Kuwait is also totally opposed to the political presence of the Brotherhood in the country, and the party was disqualified and barred from participating in the recent election. In Bahrain, followers of the Brotherhood are fighting against the government alongside the Shias, and in Saudi Arabia the government has repeatedly arrested members of the party. Thus, there is no logical link between the interests of the Arab governments of the Persian Gulf and the new Egypt, with its Muslim Brotherhood leadership.
Morsi’s initiative to establish a NATO-like defense organization for Arab countries, with Egypt as a key member, will certainly fail because there is no natural or ideological connection between the new Egypt and the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf. In the past, similar initiatives also failed, like the proposal for Egypt and Jordan to form a group with the six members of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council and the proposal for these eight countries and Syria to form a group.
Thus, Morsi’s proposal to form a defense alliance like NATO is just another tactic to convince rich Arab monarchs to open their coffers and spend some money on Egypt.
Hossein Ruivaran is a Middle East expert based in Tehran.
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