June 12, 2019 Special Dispatch No. 8115

Articles In Egyptian Press Oppose U.S. Attack On Iran; 'Al-Ahram' Editorial Board Member: The Iranian Regime Is Pragmatic

June 12, 2019
Egypt | Special Dispatch No. 8115

Amid the growing tension between Iran on the one hand and the U.S. and Gulf states on the other, and the recent developments and incidents in the Gulf area – including the May 13, 2019 attack on the oil tankers in Fujairah; the May 14 attack on the Saudi oil facilities by the Houthis, Iran's Shi'ite proxies in Yemen; the buildup of U.S. forces in the region and the talk about a possible military confrontation – Egypt finds itself caught in the middle between the two sides. On the one hand, Egypt has expressed support for its allies Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the face of the attacks. For example, in a meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Egyptian President 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi stressed that "the security of the Arabian Gulf is an inherent part of Egypt's national security,"[1] and in a meeting with Saudi Ambassador to Cairo Osama bin Ahmad Al-Nugali, Al-Sisi stressed Egypt's solidarity with Saudi Arabia and the need to enhance the coordination between them "in order to address all the threats to the Arabs' national security and to regional stability."[2] Speaking at a May 31 emergency Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia, the Egyptian president described the attacks in Saudi Arabia and the UAE as "blatant acts of terrorism," and urged the international community to deter and punish their perpetrators, while refraining from explicitly denouncing Iran.[3] Likewise, the May 20, 2019 editorial of the government daily Al-Ahram emphasized the need for "a united Arab and Gulf position" and welcomed the Saudi initiative to convene emergency summits of the Arab and Gulf states.[4] At the same time, Egypt seems to be uncomfortable with the threats against Iran and the possibility of a military confrontation with it.[5]

This assessment is in line with Reuters' April 11, 2019 report that Egypt had withdrawn from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (also known as the "Arab NATO"), aimed at confronting Iran's growing influence in the region, out of concerns about exacerbating the tension with Iran. While Egyptian officials did not comment on this report, journalists close to the Egyptian regime confirmed it and articles in the Egyptian press welcomed the move. [6]

Egypt's reservations about a military confrontation with Iran is also reflected in recent articles in its press, which warned that the U.S. incitement against Iran could lead to a regional or even global war whose victims would be Arabs and Muslims. Morsi 'Attalah, a member of the board of directors of the Government daily Al-Ahram, claimed in an article that "since Khomeini assumed office, Iran has been governed by a pragmatic regime that effectively bears no connection to radical ideological discourse," and that the Arabs must not let themselves be dragged into a confrontation with Iran to serve American interests.

Other articles, some of them in pro-regime papers, harshly attacked the U.S. and hinted that it and Israel, rather than Iran, may be behind the recent attacks on the oil tankers and facilities in the Gulf region. One of the articles claimed that Iran had no interest in carrying out these attacks, suggesting that the U.S. had "staged a war movie" in order to distract the world until it could complete its Middle East initiative known as the Deal of the Century. Another article accused Israel and the U.S. of staging the attacks in order to instigate a war against Iran, and yet another claimed that these countries have always worked to fan the hostility between Sunnis and Shi'ites.

The following are excerpts from these articles in the Egyptian press:

Al-Ahram Board Member: The Iranian Regime Is Pragmatic; The Arabs Must Not Be Dragged Into A Confrontation With It

In a May 28 article, Al-Ahram board member Morsi 'Atallah wrote that the U.S. does not intend to send its own troops to fight Iran, but rather to drag the Arab countries into a confrontation with it, as he claims it did in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. He advised the Arab countries, and especially the Gulf states, to resist this, adding that the Iranian regime, for all its extremist rhetoric, is essentially pragmatic.

He wrote: "If the U.S. really intends to isolate Iran and incite the international community against it by diplomatic, economic and military means, then the question is this: Why has Washington softened its tone vis-à-vis Tehran in the recent days and opened up a direct channel of communication with it via the Iraqi mediators, while [Iran's] neighbors in the Gulf continue their mobilization efforts in preparation for a possible direct confrontation with [Iran]? I am afraid that the U.S. is the last country in the world that really wants [to fight] a war with Iran, and that, just as it dragged Saddam Hussein into an eight-year war with [this country], it is [now] trying the play the same game by dragging the Arab countries, and especially the Gulf states, into a similar scenario. This will serve America's current goals and objectives, which are [the following]: forcing Iran to stop sponsoring Hizbullah in Lebanon, distancing Iran and its regional proxies  form [involvement in] the Palestinian cause, and drawing up a new energy map in the Middle East by building a network of pipelines secure from terror attacks.

"Unlike the Arab world, which is politically naïve, Iran and Washington are alike in their ability to don political masks and drop media bombshells that hide the essence [of things] and conceal their evil intensions from the sight of others. I think it is time for the Arab world to shake off its political naivete and recognize reality, which is that, since Khomeini assumed office, Iran has been governed by a pragmatic regime that effectively bears no connection to radical ideological discourse...

"The U.S. is not interested in [fighting] a war with Iran, but it is not against a proxy war that the Arabs will wage on its behalf – for the Americans realize the importance of Iran's sensitive geostrategic position between the Middle East and central Asia. I believe that we will not repeat the mistake of the eight-year war that Saddam Hussein waged, in his political naivity, [a war] whose price we are paying to this very day."[7]  

Egyptian Writer: The Recent Attacks On Gulf Targets Were Staged By The U.S., Just Like The Story Of Saddam's Hussein's WMDs  

In his May 15, 2019 column in the Al-Masri Al-Yawm daily, Muhammad Amin wrote that the attacks on the oil tankers and facilities appear to be an American fabrication, like the story about Saddam Hussein's  weapons of mass destruction, since Iran has no interest in staging such attacks at present. He added that the Trump administration wants to distract the world with the possibility of a war with Iran that it has no intention of actually engaging in, so as to promote its Deal of the Century. Amin wrote: "Is Trump serious about the war or about squeezing [money from] Saudi Arabia and the UAE? Was it [really] Iran that attacked the Saudi oil facilities and the vessels in the UAE? Would it make sense for Iran to attack oil facilities deep in Saudi Arabia while someone [i.e. the U.S.] is beating war drums? Would it make sense for Iran to attack ships in the UAE, two of them Saudi, and one of them said to be on its way to Washington? This is a script by one of the Hollywood directors, who created the cinematic myth of the U.S. army. It is a story like the one about Saddam [Hussein]'s nuclear weapons and Bashar Al-Assad's chemical weapons!

"This fuss is nothing new to us. We've seen it in corny movies. A [floating] military hospital arriving in the Gulf, attacks on Saudi and UAE targets, calls for ambassadors and diplomats to leave the country, threats to attack every Iranian plane entering Iraqi airspace...

"The [Egyptian] author and Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz could have written a novel [about it], titled The Bully. We now live in the period of [American] bullying. The important thing is that the victims [i.e., the Gulf States] are happy. How is it possible to see someone robbing you and be happy about it? The aircraft carrier  [USS Abraham] Lincoln set out [for the region] knowing that there was absolutely nothing to lose. The situation is similar to the verbal conflict between Trump and [North Korean ruler] Kim Jong-un, which ended in an embrace. [That time,] it was Japan and South Korea that were extorted!

"I anticipate the following scenario: There will be 'war scenes,' but no war... The Americans know that Tehran obeys nobody. It has come through years of siege possessing nuclear weapons, and the Americans know that it is nothing like Iraq, whose tragedy was [caused by] betrayals from within...

"[America's] goal is definitely not war. The goal is the Deal of the Century. And until the deal is in motion, there is no choice but to create a dust and smoke screen. There is also no avoiding the victims, who will be sacrificed by a party which has no interest [in such a war]..."[8]

Egyptian Journalist: The U.S., Israel May Have Staged The Attack On The Tankers To Instigate War On Iran

'Adel Al-Sanhouri, a columnist for the pro-regime Egyptian daily Al-Yawm Al-Sabi', wrote on May 15 that Israel and the U.S. seem to be behind the attack on the oil tankers since they both have an interest in starting a war on Iran. He wrote: "Is there a third party involved in lighting the fuse of the crisis and complicating the situation, [and causing] the military and economic losses that will ensue? To answer this question, we must [ask ourselves] who will benefit from the escalation and the attacks on the ships [in Fujairah]...

"Traditionally, we identify a certain intelligence force in the region – namely the Mossad –  as responsible for incidents and for urging military attacks on Iran. Although the concentration of U.S. troops is nothing like it was ahead of the Second Gulf War on Iraq, the deepening of the crisis directly serves the interests of Tel Aviv, which regards Iran as its chief enemy, [since] Iran's nuclear capabilities pose a grave threat to it.

"America's interest is also clear, since exhausting the region and its wealthy countries is a basic objective of the [current] U.S. administration and of its 'pay for defense' [policy], which it has explicitly articulated to the Gulf states in the last few years. A war could spell immense economic losses for the Gulf states, since they alone will shoulder its cost...

"The fuse has not yet been lit, but the incitement to light it continues, and this time war is no trivial matter, since it could involve [both] regional and international players, given that interests are mixed, tangled and complicated... [All] options are open, but the option of war is still somewhat remote... In any case, it will surely be the countries of the region and the security of the Arab region that will suffer. And this time the losses will be great, on every level, for the third Gulf war, if it breaks out, will not involve only two or three sides; it will be a global war motivated by the strategic interests of multiple countries in the Gulf region."[9]

Al-Ahram Columnist: The U.S. And West Are Trying To Spark War Between Sunnis And Shi'ites

Egyptian poet Farouk Gweda, who writes a column in the government daily Al-Ahram, wrote on May 15 that the West and the U.S. are trying to instigate a Sunni-Shi'ite war, and that they have always fanned the conflict between the sects, to the point where Iran has become an enemy of the Arabs. The U.S., he added, starts wars in the Arab world, but does not actually participate in them, so the price is paid by the Muslims themselves.

He wrote:  "The objective of the West, headed by the U.S., has always been to instigate conflict between Sunnis and Shi'ites in the Muslim world. Western media has played a major role in igniting internecine wars among members of the [Islamic] faith. What the Sunnis and Shi'ites have in common far exceeds what sets them apart, but the Western plots, which are varied, have always striven to create conflict between them...

"[True,] there is a dispute between Gulf states and Iran over a few pieces of territory, and a rivalry for influence. Yet millions of Shi'ites [living] in the [Gulf] states enjoy complete freedom, including the liberty to worship as they please and to handle their assets and resources, and no harm comes to them. The Shi'ites in the Gulf states regard themselves as citizens of those states, and have no religious or ideological conflict [with their surroundings]. It is the West that sowed these conflicts, to the extent that Iran has now become a real enemy of the Arab peoples. The media has played a significant role in this. The U.S., which sent its forces to the Arab word, [did this] to start wars [there] and test its newest weapons and gear while watching from the sidelines, without [risking] even a single U.S. soldier, because the war would be waged with modern technology that causes death and destruction without any losses [to the U.S. troops]. The blood spilled in these wars would be shed by the members of a single faith [i.e., Muslims]... This is a war with no achievements and no winners or losers. The fate that befell Iraq years ago at the hands of the U.S. army, and [the scenario] that is still unfolding in Afghanistan today, will now recur under the heading of 'Sunnis [versus] Shi'ites,' with the objective of adding Iran to the procession of defeated [countries] and to the list of rogue [regimes] in the world.  It's not about Sunnis and Shi'ites, but about the roles and interests that control this world."[10]


[1] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 16, 2019.

[2] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 19, 2019.

[3], May 31, 2019.

[4] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 20, 2019.

[5] On May 18, 2019 the London-based Qatari daily Al-Arabi Al-Jadid, known for its anti-Egypt positions, quoted  a source close to the Egyptian presidency as saying that Egypt has so far declined a Saudi and Emirati offer of economic aid in return for Egypt's support in the campaign against Iran and the sending of Egyptian troops to the Gulf. 

[7] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 28, 2019.

[8] Al-Masri Al-Youm (Egypt), May 15, 2019.

[9] Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), May 15, 2019.

[10] Al-Ahram (Egypt), May 15, 2019.

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