Cairo, Tehran and "The Assassination of a Pharaoh"
Cairo, Tehran and
Sunday, July 13,2008 05:51
By Mohamed Salah

Egyptian-Iranian differences go beyond Egyptian anger over the film, "The Assassination of a Pharaoh." This explains why Egyptian officials are not convinced by Tehran"s announcement that it washed its hands of the film and that the Iranian regime is innocent of having produced it. As long as the interests of the two countries diverge widely, the anger of one side can explode at any critical moment, thus widening the gulf and exacerbating the dispute which arose three decades ago, with both countries failing to bring it to an end. For years, Cairo was angry because of the street in the Iranian capital named after the assassin of President Anwar Sadat, and a giant mural with his picture. It then objected to "The Assassination of a Pharaoh." Measures such as changing the street"s name, or covering or removing the mural, lead to the belief among Egyptian officials that Iran is not sincere about achieving a reconciliation that restores diplomatic relations and erases memories of their frosty bilateral relations, which sometimes reached the point of hostility. Egyptians feel that Tehran is only trying to convince the Arab and Muslim worlds, as well as the international community, that it has taken steps to guarantee the return of normal ties with Egyptians, thus holding the Egyptians responsible for any delay. Based on what Egyptian officials say privately, Cairo does not believe the above scenario to be correct: Iran"s positions on objective issues, irrespective of matters of form, and especially issues connected to the region, have a negative impact and push the region toward increased tension - tension that outpaces historical crises there. Cairo may welcome the leaders of Hamas, as is the case today, to support a cooling-off period or an inter-Palestinian reconciliation. However, Egyptian officials do believe that Tehran is playing a dangerous role in occasionally heating things up between Egypt and Gaza for political objectives that have to do with Iranian interests or the pressures that Iran is facing from the international community, and especially the US.

Even though Egypt has publicly objected to a military strike against Iran, it disapproves of Iran"s policies on the nuclear issue and of its role in Lebanon. More than one Egyptian official has attributed many crises Lebanon has experienced to the actions of other countries, which are not in the interest of the Lebanese; topping this list is Iran"s role. Likewise, some Lebanese predicaments can be settled when instructions are issued by Tehran or Damascus to this end.

Like dropping a stone into the calm water of a pond, "The Assassination of a Pharaoh" has propelled the nature of the crisis between Egypt and Iran back to the forefront. In a world where interests overlap and problems become more complicated, more stones are likely to be dropped in the pond, which is no longer calm; the likeliest scenario is that the relations between the two sides will deteriorate further.

It is no secret that the security issue for Egypt and Iran contains many secrets. Cairo still believes, especially after it has received numbers of fundamentalists coming from various countries, including Iran, that the Iranians have not been completely innocent during the period of religious violence in various regions of Egypt. Perhaps the film, "The Assassination of a Pharaoh," as much as it angers Egyptians, reminds them of what they cannot accept, neither now nor in the future.