CAIRO: US President Barack Obama made a televised speech directly addressing the Iranian people and their leaders Friday in which he promised to resolve the longstanding impasse between both countries through diplomatic means.
Obama’s speech indicated a rapprochement which was a clear departure from methods employed by the previous American administration vis-a-vis Iran. Yet talk of reconciliation is premature despite Iran tentatively welcoming Obama’s comments, albeit with some caveats.
“We seek the promise of a new beginning, Obama said. “This process will not be advanced by threats. We seek instead engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect.
Even if the friendly sound bites do eventually translate into diplomatic measures and improved relations, a similar improvement in relations between Egypt and Iran are predicated on more specific regional issues.
The day before Obama’s address, Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit sounded the latest of his many warnings to Iran while in Muscat, calling on it to halt critical comments on Egypt, especially concerning the recent Israeli war on Gaza, and instead cooperate with the Arab nations.
“Egypt acted in line with its responsibility in the region and maintained the ties of Islamic brotherhood with Iran, and decided not to respond to these provocative actions, but only to defend its stance towards the Palestinians, he said.
Egypt and Iran are at loggerheads over a plethora of issues, including Iranian support for Hamas and perceived interference in Lebanon and Iraq.
“If Iran freezes its support for Hezbollah, Hamas and Syria, only then could it lead to an improvement of relations with Egypt, said Nabil Abdel-Fatah from Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.
“Disputes in the region can be influenced by countries’ relations with the major powers but there are other considerations specific to the region. Things are more personal here, so Egypt’s alliances in the region will be influenced by the relations those allies have with Iran, he added.
Obama said in his address that Iran had the right to be a member of the “community of nations but that it needed to take active steps in this direction.
“You have that right – but it comes with real responsibilities, and that place cannot be reached through terror or arms, but rather through peaceful actions that demonstrate the true greatness of the Iranian people and civilization, he said.
Abdel-Fatah stated that US interests in the region will remain the same irrespective of the overtures to Iran, and those were the securing of oil routes and the championing of Israel.
“All that’s changed is the method of implementing foreign policy, from strong arm diplomacy to the use of seductive language in the political sense, he said.