Iranian diplomat: Egyptian protesters should beware EU help

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Iran’s ambassador to the EU, Ali Asghar Khaji, has said that Egyptian protesters should be wary of EU and US patronage of the revolution due to the Western powers’ historic relations with the Mubarak elite.

Speaking to EUobserver on Friday (11 February) at an event in Brussels to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Mr Khaji said: “The Egyptian people should remember that the US and the EU were the principal supporters of President Mubarak. After his election, [US] President Obama gave his first speech to the Islamic world in Cairo [in 2009].”

The ambassador welcomed the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, who abdicated power earlier the same day.

“It is very important that the Egyptian people have taken a step toward realising their objectives. The coincidence that this took place on the anniversary [of the Iranian revolution] is a good omen,” he said.

“It is a very important and positive development for the region. We consider Egypt to be part of our region. It is a fellow Islamic country.”

Asked if Iranian authorities are concerned that the current of popular uprisings in north Africa could embolden anti-government movements in Iran, he added: “No. We are not concerned. You must remember that the Iranian state is also the product of a popular revolution.”

In terms of official ideology, Iran is depicting the events in Egypt as a mirror image of events in Iran in 1979, when Islamist opposition forces overthrew the regime of US ally, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Iran would like to see the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood party in Egypt share power in a future coalition government.

It is concerned that if the EU-and-US-backed former Egyptian spy chief, Omar Suleiman, and the Egyptian army take over, it would be as if the revolution never happened.

It is also concerned that Egyptian opposition forces have no clear vision how to rule the country. One negative option for Tehran is a political vacuum in Egypt that would allow EU and US ally Turkey to take over Egypt’s role as the pre-eminent Islamic power in the region.

Iran has become an international pariah primarily due to its alleged nuclear weapons programme.

But Mr Khaji’s remarks about the popular nature of the 1979 uprising come in the context of Iran’s brutal repression of latter-day anti-government movements. In 2009, at least 15 ‘Green Movement’ demonstrators were killed in the streets. Iran in January executed on drugs charges a Dutch-Iranian woman who took part in the protests, prompting the Netherlands to cut diplomatic ties.

On the likelihood of an Egypt-type uprising in Iran in future, some analysts believe the Iranian opposition’s “moment of opportunity” came and went two years ago.

But one diplomat from the region at Mr Khaji’s anniversary event on Friday was not so sure.

“The revolution in Egypt happened because people were kept under pressure for too long, like a spring,” the contact said. “You can keep a spring under pressure even for 1,000 years. But after 1,001 years, it will rebound.”

The Wall Street Journal on Friday reported the Green Movement has galvanised 30,000 people to take part in anti-government protests in the coming days on the back of events in Egypt.