by Mahmoud Fouly
CAIRO, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Since Egypt's turmoil in early 2011 which saw the collapse of the ex-regime led by Hosni Mubarak, a relief in the tense Egyptian-Iranian ties gradually appeared, with the coming of the new leadership which has a Muslim-Brotherhood ( MB) background.
Ties between Egypt and Iran were cut off for over three decades after Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. But now both states are ruled by Islamic-oriented administrations after the MB's Mohamed Morsi came to power in mid-2012.
Morsi visited Tehran last August to attend the Non-aligned Movements (NAM) conference, becoming the first Egyptian president to visit Iran in decades.
On the other hand, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi wrapped up his second visit to Egypt under Morsi's leadership on Thursday, after meeting with Morsi, his counterpart Mohamed Kamel Amr, and Azhar Mosque's Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb and head of Orthodox Church Pope Tawadros II.
On Thursday, Salehi handed to Morsi an invitation from Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Tehran for the second time, and told reporters that "Iran's relations with Egypt improved after Egypt's January 2011 uprising."
Iranian senior officials attribute the long-time stagnant ties between Iran and Egypt to what they describe as the American control of Egypt's political decision during the time of Mubarak.
"The control of the United States over Egypt's political decision was a main reason, but after the glorious revolution in Egypt, there are serious steps in the right direction to re- establish Iranian-Egyptian ties," Ambassador Mojtaba Amani, head of the Iranian Interests Office in Cairo, told Xinhua.
"Egypt and Iran are two big countries and their relations are very important because they have great influence in the region," Amani said.
He told Xinhua that Salehi's recent visit to Cairo and his talks with top Egyptian officials, Iran's announced participation in the upcoming Islamic summit in Cairo in February, as well as Morsi's anticipated visit to Iran, all represented "steps of great importance to rebuild Iran-Egypt relations."
However, despite the above efforts, the Iranian-Egyptian ties seem to be subject to regional developments of hot issue, which may present obstacles for real normalized relations between the two due to their conflicting positions and interests.
After supporting Egypt's revolt against Mubarak, Tehran completely rejects the uprising in Syria against Bashar al-Assad, copying the Syrian administration in describing it as "a foreign conspiracy against Syria." In contrast, Egypt's Morsi said last December that "there was no place for the government of Assad in new Syria." However, both countries agree on rejecting any foreign military interference in Syria.
"The Egyptian government wants normal relations with Iran but it backs off due to Iran's position on the Syrian issue and its disagreements with the Gulf countries and the United States," Mostafa Kamel al-Sayed, a political science professor at Cairo University, told Xinhua.
Al-Sayed added that Egypt does not want to risk its interests with the Gulf states and the United States, whose support is necessary for Egypt to get an intended loan of 4.8 billion U.S. dollars from the International Monetary Fund.
Hussein Ali, top researcher at the International Center for Future and Strategic Studies, told Xinhua that "Iran is keen on restoring normal relations with Egypt due to Egypt's weight in the region, and Iran wants to expand its influence and maintain its regional position through normal ties with Egypt."
Yet, there are many challenges for these ties to be normalized, including Egypt's interests with the Gulf states that reject relations with Iran as "a red line" due to alleged Iranian attempts to dominate their affairs, Ali said.
Like any country, Egypt's ties with other states are based on mutual interests, and its ties with Iran for the time being conflict with its interests with supportive Gulf countries, the West in general and the United States in particular.