The Iranian regime’s new enemy, it seems, is Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Iran’s mullahs apparently fear Sisi’s secular stance against Islamist movements, and see him as an obstacle to Iran’s future influence in the Middle East.
According to the Jordan-based media outlet Al-Bawaba, Iran is determined to put an end to Al-Sisi’s rule by training the Libya-based Islamist group known as the Free Egyptian Army [FEA]. The FEA is composed of both Egyptian jihadists who went to fight in Syria during the rule of Egypt’s former President, the Islamist Mohamed Morsi, as well as other Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood militants who fled from Egypt to Libya after Morsi was removed from power. According to Al Bawaba, personnel of the Quds Force— the special-forces arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] —arrived in Libya to train the FEA in Misrata, northwestern Libya. Quds Force officers met with FEA leaders -- reportedly Abu Dawud Zouhairi and Karam Amrani. There, Lebanese jihadists coming from Syria and led by Abu Fahed Al-Islam also joined the FEA.
Iran is planning an offensive against Egypt not only from the west (Libya), but also from the south.
The Egyptian newspaper El- Watan reports that the Iran has also deployed Quds Force personnel to Sudan, to take advantage of the deterioration of the relationship between the Islamist-led Sudanese government and Sisi’s Egypt, and is now training Muslim Brotherhood militants in Sudan. A Jordanian newspaper, Al-Arab Al- Yawm, confirmed the news, and reported in addition that Iran is organizing violent operations to destabilize Egypt from Libya and Sudan.
Although in the Middle East, Sunni and Shia factions usually fight each other, this time an unholy Sunni-Shia alliance has been formed between Shia Iran and the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood to fight their common enemy: Al-Sisi.
For years, Iran’s regime has dreamt of seeing the Muslim Brotherhood rise in Egypt as part of a plan to Islamize the Middle East. In this vision Iran would take the leadership role—brushing aside that for years, Iran and Saudi Arabia have jockeyed over who would assume the leadership of the Muslim world. As the Muslim Brotherhood has always been opposed to the Saudi Kingdom, it was taken for granted that an Egypt governed by the Muslim Brotherhood would be the natural ally of Iran.
As Iranian author and journalist Amir Taheri describes in the Saudi-owned newspaper, Asharq Al-Awsat, Iran cherished Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood-backed former President, Mohamed Morsi. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and President Morsi, Taheri writes, were supposed to symbolize the triumph of radical Islam. The leadership in Tehran apparently also felt that it had to “profit from its political, propaganda and even financial investment” in ensuring Morsi’s election.
Khamenei took care to woo the newly-elected Morsi to bring Egypt to Iran’s side. He even started speaking about an “Islamic Awakening” in Egypt, and hinting that what was happening in Egypt was similar to Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. The Iranian Ministry for Culture and Islamic Guidance, according to Taheri, even decreed that the media should no longer use the phrase “Arab Spring,” but “Islamic Awakening.”
“This is an Islamic awakening inspired by Imam Khomeini’s revolution in Iran,” the Iranian diplomat and Khamenei’s long-serving adviser, Ali Akbar Velayati said, in a presumed attempt to have Iran adopt paternity for the Arab Spring. But as Morsi evidently considered himself sufficiently powerful after winning the election, he failed to endorse Khamenei’s superiority in “an imaginary hierarchy of claims for the leadership of political Islam,” in the words of Amir Taheri.
The Iranian regime now has long-term plans, and the Muslim Brotherhood needs the help of Iran to fight their common enemy: Egypt’s President Al-Sisi. Should they succeed this time, Iran will no doubt demand that the Muslim Brotherhood publicly recognize Iran as the leader of the Muslim world.
By Anna Mahjar-Barducci, Gatestone Institue