President Morsi attempts foreign policy balancing act
President Mohamed Morsi to arrive in Tehran Thursday with plan to strike new balance in Egypt's foreign relations without upsetting old allies
Dina Ezzat, Tehran, Wednesday 29 Aug 2012
A reflection is seen on the Non-Aligned Movement Summit logo in Tehran, as it hosts the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Iran (Photo: Reuters)
"What is happening in Egypt? Are you going to be like Iran? Egyptians have to be careful because political Islam is very dangerous," said Ali, an Iranian in his early 20s.
Speaking to Ahram Online at a bus stop in Tehran, this young Iranian, who said he was an engineer – and adds jokingly "but not like (Iranian President Mahmoud) Ahmadinejad" – was born after the Iranian Revolution that in 1979 ousted the Shah and established an Islamic Republic that has radically altered the way of life of many Iranians.
Ali, who heard from his parents endless accounts of how life was better before the revolution – accounts that are contested by the wide support Imam Khomeini's revolution had in 1979 and by data on living standards in Iran reported by international organisations – is not sure if the election of an Islamist president is good news for Egypt or not. "I just hope your future is better than what we have and your president is not coming here to copy the Iranian experience," Ali stated.
According to the president's aides, the visit of Mohamed Morsi, who is expected to arrive in the Iranian capital on Thursday morning, is not designed to copy the Iranian example, nor, for that matter, to abruptly end three decades of severed relations between Cairo and Tehran.
"The president is going to Iran to head the Egyptian delegation at the Non-Aligned Movement summit, whose presidency is being transferred from Egypt to Iran," said Yasser Ali, the presidential spokesman, in Cairo earlier this week.
He added that the president was only going to the opening session of the two-day summit.
Informed Egyptian official sources have told Ahram Online that Morsi courteously declined a longer stay in Iran due to pressing commitments at home.
According to Egyptian diplomats, Cairo is keen to end all association with the Mubarak regime's exaggerated association with US policy in the region, including the isolation of Iran.
However, the same diplomats said Cairo is not currently in the business of any strategic partnership with Islamist or Islamic regimes in region.
A more diversified foreign policy approach is now being considered, according to the same diplomats.
Morsi is arriving in Tehran from Beijing after a three-day visit with a firm business component – the president was accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen.
According to Ali, Morsi is also planning visits to Malaysia and Brazil among other Asian and South American countries. Morsi is also keeping Africa high on his agenda for foreign visits, he added.
However, presidential aides and Egyptian diplomats said the expansion East and South would not undermine the already established commitments that Egypt has towards the US and other Western allies.
Since he took office on 30 June, Morsi has twice visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt's strongest Arab ally during the rule of Mubarak, once on a bilateral visit – his first overseas mission - and second for an emergency Islamic summit on Syria.
Morsi has also been to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, which provides Egypt with its largest share of Nile waters and has recently been contesting this share. The visit, however, was for Morsi to head the African Summit.
Morsi will fly to New York in September to head the Egyptian delegation at the UN General Assembly. He is also expected to meet with President Barack Obama and other world leaders with close ties with Egypt.