Reuters: The editor of Egypt’s most prestigious government newspaper said Iran was trying to spread Shi’a Islam in Arab countries that have no Shi’ites in an attempt to recreate an Iranian empire in the Middle East. CAIRO, Jan 26 (Reuters) – The editor of Egypt’s most prestigious government newspaper said Iran was trying to spread Shi’a Islam in Arab countries that have no Shi’ites in an attempt to recreate an Iranian empire in the Middle East.
In a front-page editorial in al-Ahram on Friday, editor Osama Saraya accused the Iranian government of infiltrating hundreds of thousands of Iranians into Iraq, some as militia members and others to give Iraqis military training.
Saraya, whose newspaper usually reflects government thinking, said Iran did not seek stability in Iraq and was pushing the Shi’ite movement Hezbollah in Lebanon to monopolise power in the service of Iranian interests.
In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he added, Iran did not want a peace settlement and Egyptian peace efforts clearly cut across Iranian policies in the Middle East.
“Lastly Iran is working actively towards spreading Shi’ite doctrine even in countries which do not have a Shi’ite minority, for reasons…which have political dimensions, paving the way for reviving the dreams of the Safavids,” he added.
The Safavids, who ruled from 1501 to 1760 and sometimes controlled large parts of Iraq, have become a symbol in Iraq for Sunni Muslim fears of Iranian and Shi’ite influence.
The Safavids established Shi’ite Islam as the religion of the Iranian state and waged a long struggle with the Ottoman Turks, at that time the most powerful Sunni Muslim state.
Saraya added: “That some people defend the Iranian position and deny Iranian ambitions over the Arab region, I see only as naivety and stupidity, coated with hatred for the American presence in the region.”
However, Saraya did not advocate siding with the United States in a conflict with Iran. “It is true that the Arabs have many doubts and fears about the rise in Iranian influence but these fears will not be dispelled by military confrontation, which could have grave results,” he said.
The editor said U.S. President George W. Bush’s new plan for Iraq would not achieve its stated objectives.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt supported the plan when he met U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Egypt last week.
Soraya drew a distinction between support for the aims of the plan and support for the details, which included adding more than 21,000 troops to the U.S. force in Iraq.
“The aims of the initiative may have won support, but the mechanisms for action will lead to abject failure,” he said.