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Iran Press Report: Reactions to Developments in Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria

In reaction to the week’s bad news for Iran’s close ally in Lebanon, there was all-around condemnation in the Iranian press this week for the European Union’s decision to add Hezbollah’s military wing to its list of terrorist groups.   Mohammad Safari in the conservative Siasat-e Rooz argued that the move was likely to poison the atmosphere for future negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 over the nuclear program.  He added that it was yet another example of the Western service of the Zionists: “The occupying regime [Israel]…has stood to this day only thanks to the West and the European nations, and if, one day, the West stops its support for the Zionists, that day will be the day of the definitive fall of the regime.” Hossein Sheikholeslam in the reformist Etemaad agreed that the move was dishonorable, suggesting that much as European nations resisted against Nazi occupation in World War II, they are going against their historical principles in calling a group which is fighting Israel for its “occupation of Lebanon and Syria” terrorists. 

The situation in Egypt has continued to draw reflection from Iranian commentators, many of whom focused their attention on where they thought deposed president Mohammad Morsi had gone wrong.  Yadollah Javani in the hardline Javan said that Morsi’s mistake had been trying to secure the Muslim Brotherhood’s grip on power by reaching out to the United States, Israel, and their allies, who could not be trusted. “After his victory, Morsi’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia…but after his fall from power, the Saudi king was the first person to congratulate the interim president who replaced Morsi,” he wrote, adding that the coup had vindicated the anti-American nature of Iran’s Islamic Revolution. He posed the rhetorical question, “If the American Embassy [in Tehran] had not been captured, would the Islamic Revolution still be around in its fourth decade?”   In Qods, Mohammad-Mehdi Shirmohammadi agreed that Morsi had put his faith in the wrong partners, saying, “Instead of relying on the Egyptian nation he relied on the reactionary regimes and America,” and argued that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan should view Morsi’s downfall as a cautionary tale and change his behavior.  Meanwhile, Amir Mousavi added in a Hamshahri interview that the Muslim Brotherhood’s rejection of cooperation with other parties and the retreat of Qatar from active support played roles in Morsi’s fall.

Not all articles put the primary blame on Morsi and the Brotherhood. Despite Iranian problems with the Brotherhood, however, and despite the mistakes that Morsi made in government, Mohammad-Mehdi Mazaheri argued in Hamshahri that the Muslim Brotherhood being allowed an active role in politics is the only way Egypt can reclaim its democracy.  In a more convoluted analysis, Hassan Hanizadeh claimed in Tehran-e Emrooz that instability in Egypt has been deliberately stoked by Washington as part of a conspiracy to create chaos that will prompt the partitioning of the nation between Christian and Muslim regions, with the Christian region used by America to provide greater security to Israel. 

Commentators also discussed what they saw as weakness of countries that had been acting against the interests of Iran and the “resistance axis.”  In his interview, Amir Mousavi added that Turkish distraction with domestic protests, Qatar’s retreat from the stage during the transfer of power to the new Emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, and the downfall of Morsi’s presidency meant most of the regional actors who had been supporting the Syrian opposition were increasingly absent from the scene, leaving Saudi Arabia on its own there with little chance for success.  This dynamic, wrote Seyyed Emad Hosseini in the reformist daily Etemaad, left one-time staunch Iranian ally Hamas, and its political leader Khaled Meshaal, in a tough situation.  Citing the retreat of Hamas’s new anti-Iranian supporters, he wrote that Meshaal has made a “180-degree turn” and is asking for Iranian support, and questions whether the resistance axis should welcome Hamas back.  He suggests that Meshaal might be too ungracious to deserve it:  “[Meshaal], meanwhile, has not explained why, in spite of the widespread support that the government of Bashar Assad had given his movement, he sharply criticized the Damascus government.”



APPENDIX: Translated Summaries of Selected Opinion Pieces (Newest to Oldest)



“The Consequences of Adding Hezbollah to the Terrorist List.” Mohammad Safari, Siasat-e Rooz, 2 Mordad 1392 / 24 July 2013.

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In the conservative daily Siasat-e Rooz, Safari writes that the move by the European Union to add Hezbollah’s military wing to its list of terrorist groups is one that will have serious repercussions in the European-Iranian relationship, and could hamper the future of negotiations over the nuclear program.  He writes that the move is a disappointing one taken due to an apparent European need to follow the requests of the Israelis and Americans. “The occupying regime [Israel]…has stood to this day only thanks to the West and the European nations, and if, one day, the West stops its support for the Zionists, that day will be the day of the definitive fall of the regime.”  He also criticizes the European position on Syria, saying it is supporting the “terrorists” in a conspiracy against “the legal government and the people of Syria.” 



“Hamas’s Retreat Toward the Resistance Axis.” Seyyed Emad Hosseini, Etemaad, 31 Tir 1392 / 22 July 2013.

Hosseini writes in the reformist Etemaad that it seems very interesting that Hamas political head Khaled Meshaal has made new comments indicating a desire for support from Iran, in a “180-degree turn” that seems spurred by regional events.  Slamming Meshaal for having “turned his back on the resistance axis [of alliance with Syria and Iran]” over the past year to instead go “stay in fancy hotels on the countries on the south shore of the Persian Gulf” and seeking their funding and support, he argues that Meshaal is only returning to seek Iran’s help now that his new friends have abandoned him.  He cites Qatar as being busy with its own leadership change, Turkey being preoccupied with its own domestic troubles, and the shocking downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt as having deprived Hamas of its three biggest recent supporters.  He questions whether the resistance axis will or should respond positively to overtures from Hamas, noting that, “[Meshaal], meanwhile, has not explained why, in spite of the widespread support that the government of Bashar Assad had given his movement, he sharply criticized the Damascus government.”

“The Changes in Egypt Illustrate the Correctness of the Islamic Revolution.” Yadollah Javani, Javan, 30 Tir 1392 / 21 July 2013.

In the hardline daily Javan, Javani writes that the failure of the Morsi government in Egypt was due not to any emphasis it put on Islamism but rather to straying from Islamic independence.  He writes that after “fighting for more than 80 years to revive political Islam and build a government to implement Shari’a,” the Brotherhood “made a mistake… The Brotherhood envisioned that to hold onto power and solve Egypt’s problems, it would have to depend on America and its allies in the region like the Zionist regime and Saudi Arabia.”  In the end, he argues, this not only angered the people, but proved fruitless, as the pro-American powers did not support Morsi when it mattered.  “After his victory, Morsi’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia…but after his fall from power, the Saudi king was the first person to congratulate the interim president who replaced Morsi.”  He continues by arguing that this shows putting trust in the Americans is a losing strategy, and that the case of Egypt vindicates Iran’s anti-Americanism in its Islamic Revolution.  He poses the rhetorical question, “If the American Embassy [in Tehran] had not been captured, would the Islamic Revolution still be around in its fourth decade?”



“The Weakening of the Three-Part Anti-Syrian Axis.” Interview with Amir Mousavi, Hamshahri,  30 Tir 1392 / 21 July 2013.

In a discussion with the daily Hamshahri, Mousavi writes that recent regional events have been highly to the benefit of the Syrian government, which now finds itself in a stronger position thanks to the fall of the Morsi government, the retreat from active support by Qatar that has coincided with the power handover there, and the weakening of the Erdogan government by public protests.  As these three countries had been staunch supporters of the Syrian opposition, he argues, now only Saudi Arabia is left as an untouched external actor against the Syrian government.  He suggests the transfer of power in Qatar, long a backer of the Egyptian government, impacted the situation there as well: “On the Egyptian front, after Sheikh Tamim took power, Morsi was weakened and eventually fell, and this allowed Saudi Arabia to take Qatar’s place in Egypt.”  Overall, he suggests that other major factors in Morsi’s downfall were the Muslim Brotherhood’s rejection of other political parties, its lack of relations with Iran, its continuation of relations with Israel, and putting too much trust in America and the Gulf monarchies.  He does not expect Saudi Arabia to be able to succeed in spurring the Syrian opposition to victory, saying, “the first step for defeat…is the clash between the Free Syrian Army and the Al-Qaeda terrorists,” who were once united in their anti-Assad goals.

 

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