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The direct target of the Egyptian regime\u2019s attacks in the past two weeks is Hizbollah
and its terror arm in Egypt. However, the Egyptians themselves do not conceal the fact
that in their view Hizbollah is merely the tool, and that their main concern is the driving
force behind the organization \u2013 Iran.
The details of the episode are new; the phenomenon itself is not new. Every few
years overt tension emerges between Egypt and Iran, where it is usually Egypt that
accuses the Iranian regime, and its proxies, of operating terror and acts of subversion on
its territory, and in other Arab states, and of threatening regional stability. The backdrop
to the flawed relations between Egypt and Iran is the nature and character of the
fundamentalist regime in Tehran which initially initiated the rift with Egypt:
immediately after the revolution the new regime annulled the close relations that had
existed between the Shah\u2019s regime and Egypt. Iran even cut diplomatic ties with Egypt,
in response to the signing of the peace treaty with Israel, and Egypt\u2019s hosting of the
exiled Shah in Cairo after he left Iran. In the intervening thirty years numerous attempts
were made to renew and improve relations between the two countries, usually on Iran\u2019s
initiative, but to date Egypt has refused to renew diplomatic ties with the Iranian regime
as long as the regime does not end its intervention in the internal affairs of Arab
\u2022 Both countries have a wide circle of interests, and they are consistently working to
solidify their position as leading and influential countries in the Middle East, and
beyond. This striving for hegemony naturally generates friction, disputes and hostility
between the two regimes.
\u2022 Egypt believes that the Iranian regime is looking to export the Islamic revolution to Muslim countries, including to Egypt, and to this end uses subversive means in these countries. At the time, Egypt openly accused Iran of aiding the wave of Islamic terror in Egypt in the 1990s.
\u2022 The Egyptians were particularly concerned about the Iranian move into Sudan,
which, following the military coup there in 1989, included Muslim religious clerics in
its leadership. The extensive cooperation that developed between Iran and Sudan in the
1990s turned the latter into a significant Iranian base in Egypt\u2019s backyard. While this
cooperation has decreased since the end of the 1990s, following American and Egyptian
pressure on Sudan, the unstable internal situation has still left plenty of room for Iranian
and terror elements to operate there.
\u2022 Egypt and Iran were divided over central components of their regional policy:
Egypt supported Iraq during its war with Iran in the 1980s, while Iran opposed Egypt\u2019s
close relationship with the United States, and its peace ties with Israel.
In the last decade the Egyptian regime sees the Iranian threat as increasing, for two
reasons. On the one hand, Egypt considers Iran\u2019s efforts to obtain nuclear arms a serious
threat. In Egyptian eyes, nuclear arms in Iranian hands would strengthen its position as
a leading regional power and as the cornerstone of the radical camp, would encourage it
to follow aggressive policies, would increase the pressure on Arab states to follow the
Iranian line, would lead Egypt to a problematic junction with regard to the nuclear issue
and would damage its regional standing. At the same time, the strengthening of the
Shiite-radical axis in recent years, following the rise of the Shiite sector in Iraq and in
Lebanon, the Iranian penetration into the Palestinian arena, and the strengthening of
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