By Tawfik Hamid
22 Aug 2013
As a rule, and to put it rather mildly, U.S. and Iranian revolutionary interests have diverged considerably since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.
The Iranian regime seeks unabashedly to develop nuclear weapons, to erase Israel from the map, and to support terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Moreover, Iran supports Shia efforts to destabilise oil-rich American allies in the Persian Gulf region.
U.S. interests are supposed to be exactly the opposite.
This contradiction in foreign policy interests has been elucidated most recently in Syria where Iran supports the Shia al-Assad regime while the U.S. is supporting the Sunni opposition, which includes radical Islamists.
The recent removal of Mohammed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt has revealed a bizarre and disturbing situation in which the United States and Iran appear to share a common purpose: support for the predominantly Sunni Muslim Brotherhood.
Iran was one of the first countries to publicly support President Morsi, and as yet President Obama has not expressed anything like clear support for the June 30 Revolution against the Muslim Brotherhood.
In fact, quite the contrary, by not unequivocally supporting the tens of millions of Egyptians who took part in the revolution, he has implicitly aligned himself with the interests of the tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood Morsi supporters.
And the Egyptian people are not pleased. It raises eyebrows. And questions. The United States and Iran appear to share a common foreign policy objective, i.e., to condemn the Egyptian military for their actions and thereby to support Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and apparently Sharia law.
Iranian support for Morsi at least makes some sense.
They share some powerful common interests. Both Shia Iranians and the Muslim Brotherhood desire a pan-Islamic state under Sharia Law. Both regimes resent and oppose Western influence in the Middle East. But even more importantly, they share a common enemy.
They hate Israel, and everyone who supports Israel. Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that Israel should be "wiped off the map,"[ and former Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi called Jews “descendants of apes and pigs” and asked Muslims to “not forget to nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred towards those Zionists and Jews.”
What’s the Obama Administration’s excuse?
Let’s imagine for a moment that the United States decided to resort to military intervention to end Iran’s nuclear aspirations. And let’s imagine that Morsi was back in power at that time this decision to intervene was taken.
Could we reasonably expect Morsi to allow the U.S. to use the Suez Canal to attack his fellow anti-Semites in the Iranian regime? Doesn’t it seem more likely that he would stand beside his Muslim brothers in Iran irrespective of their sectarian differences, just as they are standing beside him now despite their theological differences?
Relying on the great Sunni — Shia divide to work for our benefit during such a major crisis is unrealistic. The recent support of Iran for Morsi —despite their opposing positions in Syria, and their theological differences — just confirms this point.
The common desire to create a dominant pan-Islamic state to rule the world with Sharia and the ambition to utterly destroy Israel are powerful unifying forces — far more powerful than the obvious divisions and conflicts.
There is an old proverb from the region that translates something like this: “Me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother and my cousin against the outsider.”
Iranian support for Morsi and the country’s opposition to his removal from power is indicative of a stronger relationship between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran than many would expect.
This strong relationship can manifest at crucial times and can cause significant damage to our interests.
In brief, when the U.S. finds itself allied with the current Iranian regime on any issue — whether directly or indirectly — we need to tread very carefully indeed.
We really need to apply rigor to our thinking on the subject. And we need to be very certain of our objectives. Rushing in where angels fear to tread —we’d be very wise to consider the potential implications and outcomes.
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam."