Rivalry Between Egypt, Iran Spreads Beyond the Mideast

Rivalry Between Egypt, Iran Spreads Beyond the Mideast

Relations between Iran and Egypt have been strained -- if not outright hostile -- since the Islamic revolution of 1979. In addition to ideological hostility entrenched by the Islamic revolution, Egypt is the traditional regional power and does not welcome Iranian interference in issues Cairo considers to be Arab concerns. The growth of Iranian proxies in Arab states has raised the stakes in a rivalry that began in 1979 as a war of words and propaganda, but has now become a reflection of the broader struggle for regional leadership. While both sides have made efforts to improve ties, recent developments point to new spheres of conflict in the protracted tug of war between these two giants of the Middle East.

In early September, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit directly blamed Iran for the failure of the Hamas-Fatah negotiations sponsored by Egypt. Two weeks later, Iran responded by announcing that efforts to improve relations with Egypt are no longer on its foreign-policy agenda.

Despite this apparent freeze at the political level, backchannels are being left open. In early October, delegations from Iran arrived in Cairo to discuss bilateral business and economic ties. And on Oct. 3, the two sides took the symbolic step of restarting direct flights between Cairo and Tehran.

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