Morsi and Ahmadinejad
Photo: EPA
Syria's Assad
Photo: AP

Egypt trying to persuade Iran to drop Assad

In Tehran meeting, Morsi offers Ahmadinejad to drop support of Syria in exchange for help in easing Tehran's regional isolation

Newly activist Egypt is trying to convince Iran to drop its unquestioned support of Syria's embattled President Bashar Assad in order to end that country's bloody civil war in exchange for help in easing Tehran's regional isolation at a time of mounting pressure on it over its disputed nuclear program.


The offer is the centerpiece of a diplomatic push by Egypt's new Islamist president, who is hoping his "Islamic Quartet" — grouping Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all supporters of the Syrian rebellion, with Syria's top regional ally Iran — can succeed where other initiatives have failed.


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The grouping is the first major effort to involve Iran in resolving the crisis. But it may be a tough sell. Tehran's influence in the Middle East is strongly tied to its alliance with Assad and his fall would be a major blow.


Moreover, the quartet members themselves have their own divisions. Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, along with other Gulf Arab nations, has been staunchly opposed to any Iranian expansion and may resist ending Tehran's isolation.

איראן ומצרים. שתיים מארבע הצלעות ב"קוורטט האיסלאמי" (צילום: רויטרס)

Morsi and Ahmadinejad (Photo: Reuters)


Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi made the offer when he met last month with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran, officials close to the Egyptian presidency said. Morsi's visit to Iran, to attend a summit of the 120-nation Nonaligned Movement, was the first by an Egyptian president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution there, when diplomatic ties between the countries were cut.


Morsi offered a package of incentives for Tehran to end its support of Assad, the officials said.


Cairo would agree to restore full diplomatic ties, a significant diplomatic prize for Iran given that Egypt is the most populous Arab nation and a regional powerhouse. Morsi would also mediate to improve relations between Iran and conservative Gulf Arab nations that have long viewed Shiite Iran with suspicion and whose fears of the Persian nation have deepened because of Iran's disputed nuclear program.


Also, Morsi offered a "safe exit" for Assad, his family and members of his inner circle.


The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the terms of the offer. They did not give a timeframe for the offer or say what Ahmadinejad's response was.


Morsi's argument is that neither Assad nor the rebels fighting his regime appear to be capable of winning the civil war, creating a stalemate that could eventually break up the Arab nation with serious repercussions for the entire region, the officials said.


"Egypt is convinced that what is ahead in Syria under Assad will be much worse than anything the world has seen there so far," said one of the officials. "In view of this, Egypt believes that preventing more bloodshed will be a huge achievement."


Morsi, who took office less than three months ago as Egypt's first elected and civilian president, voiced his support for the rebels against Assad's "oppressive" regime in a speech at the summit in Tehran. The move angered the Iranians, but won accolades across much of the Arab world and in Washington. It also drove the point home to the Iranians that continuing to support Assad was untenable.




פרסום ראשון: 09.12.12, 09:58
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