Take a deep breath. That’s good. The right wing reaction to this story has been hyperventilating hysteria.
For the first time in decades, an Egyptian President is going to meet with an Iranian President. By the end of the month, President Mohammed Mursi will be traveling to Tehran for face-to-face meetings with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The right wing is viewing this summit as proof that Mursi is going to turn Egypt into a Sharia-based repressed state like Iran, taking from Egyptians all the secular rights they had under Hosni Mubarak and driving out everyone who is not an Islamist. Our right wing insists that the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt signed in 1979 is in jeopardy as is the Oslo Accord of 1992, which resulted in the assassinations of the men who signed it, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
But that ignores the actions Mursi took last week following the confrontation between Hamas terrorists and Egyptian troops on the border with Gaza. Hamas members have been setting up camps in the Sinai to attack Israel. A group of them killed 16 Egyptian soldiers and then tried to loop through the Sinai into Israel. They were stopped by the Israelis. Mursi’s response was to bring in bulldozers to collapse the tunnels used to smuggle goods into Gaza from Egypt and start hunting down the Hamas camps in the Sinai. Hardly the actions of a man who supports terrorism against Israel.
The Muslim Brotherhood is Sunni, not Shia like Iran. The extent to which the Brotherhood will interpret their ideology of creating an Islamic state is yet to be seen. That will only be known as the negotiations proceed for an Egyptian Constitution. Should the Brotherhood follow the precepts of the 11th Century Caliphate, they will create a constitution that protects non-Muslims while imposing special taxes on them. Egypt has an educated population and a history of female equality that cannot be easily repressed.
A freely elected Muslim leader of a mostly Muslim country is something Iran has never had to deal with before. Mursi is the one person in the region that Ahmadinejad cannot accuse of being a pawn of the West. He must be dealt with as an equal. This will probably be a “getting to know you” meeting with no real advances in policy or new alliances being forged. It is, however, a first step to breaking the isolation of Iran from the rest of the region.