Iran blames Morsi's US stance for crisis
By Golnaz Esfandiari
"Islamic Awakening" was the Iranian establishment's term of choice for the popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa that began in late 2010. Tehran described the unrest as a sign of the defeat of US influence and of people's desire to embrace Islam. Now, the crisis in Egypt has posed a fresh challenge for Iran, sending it scrambling to explain how Egypt's "Islamic Awakening" went wrong.
Tehran has so far said little about the crisis, with the Foreign Ministry calling simply for the Egyptian people's "legitimate demands" to be fulfilled and warning of "foreign and enemy opportunism".
Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, has not yet publicly reacted
to president Mohamed Morsi's ouster. But a likely sign of the Iranian establishment's wariness came during Friday Prayers on July 5. Hard-line clerics throughout the country, who are said to receive their talking points from the supreme leader's office, suggested that Morsi's alleged pro-US and pro-Israeli stances were to blame for his deposition.
In his sermons at Tehran's Friday Prayers, Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami said, "Instead of inviting the Islamic world to unite, [Morsi's government] supported the murdering infidels. On the political front they dealt with the Zionist regime in a way that was against their previous principles".
"They confirmed the Camp David Accords and spread fear of Iran and Shi 'ite Islam," Khatami said, referring to the agreements that paved the way for a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979. He said Iran hopes the people who supported Egypt's "Islamic Awakening" will not allow the country to return to being Israel's "backyard".
US-based Iran analyst Rasool Nafisi says Tehran is now trying to justify what has been described by some observers as the failure of political Islam.
"What happened in Egypt is the continuation of the call for the de-Islamization of politics and of course Iranians would be quite wary about it. On the other hand, they're trying to justify it by saying [Morsi] government's wasn't Islamic enough," Nafisi says. "They will blame the government of Egypt or any other country that goes through this for not being serious like Iran".
Tehran's Khatami was not the only prayer leader to offer what appears to be the Iranian establishment's preferred reading of Morsi's ouster.
Hojatoleslam Hassan Ameli, the Friday Prayers leader in the northwestern city of Ardebil, was quoted by Iran's hard-line Fars news agency as saying, "Some believe that the developments in Egypt are a second revolution and a tendency toward secularization, but we must not forget that these events are the results of Muslim Brotherhood's imprudence and Morsi's lack of understanding, which encouraged the people to change their leadership".
"In the past year, Morsi did not even once frown at the US and the Zionist regime, while in the early days of their revolution the Egyptians not only set the embassy of the Zionist regime on fire, but they also confronted the excessive demands of foreign governments," he said, referring to the 2011 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Egypt.
In Mashhad, the hard-line Ayatollah Alam Ahdi claimed that Egyptians wanted an Islamic regime but that Morsi failed to deliver. "They gave their vote to an Islamic party, but this Islamic party violated the principles," he said, warning that the future is not looking bright for Egypt because of what he described as US dominance in the country.
In the city of Arak, former intelligence minister and prayer leader Ghorban Ali Dorri Najafabadi accused Morsi of having been dependent on the US and Israel. He said Morsi had erred in cutting ties with Syria, Iran's main ally in the region, while preserving ties with Israel, the "main enemy of Muslims".
Iran and Egypt had severed relations in 1980 after Cairo concluded its peace treaty with Jerusalem. However, since the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, Tehran was hoping to make a new friend in Egypt.
Despite divergent stances on Syria and other issues, Iran's outgoing President Mahmud Ahmadinejad became the first Iranian head of state to visit Cairo this February. The visit followed a trip by Morsi to Tehran last August to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit.
It remains to be seen how the current crisis in Egypt will affect the thaw, but early signs suggest Iran is less than confident.