Daily Telegraph: Iran has sought to use Gaza’s border crisis to increase its influence in the Middle East.
The Daily Telegraph
By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
Iran has sought to use Gaza’s border crisis to increase its influence in the Middle East.
Teheran offered yesterday to provide Egypt with funds to help with the influx of Palestinians flooding across the frontier.
It is the latest sign of improved relations between Cairo and Teheran which last week saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, telephone Hosni Mubarak, his Egyptian counterpart, the first contact between the two.
The contents of their discussion were not revealed but officials in Teheran said that diplomatic relations were close to being restored almost 30 years after they were cut over Egypt’s decision to recognise Israel.
The rapprochement will be watched closely by Israel which regards Iran as a hostile state and which monitors closely all attempts by Teheran to influence Palestinian public opinion.
While Hamas, the Palestinian militant Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, is regarded by the West as a terrorist group, it already enjoys diplomatic, military and financial support from Iran.
Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran’s foreign minister, announced yesterday that diplomatic relations with Cairo were close to being restored.
“We are on the threshold of establishing official, political relations and are waiting for our Egyptian brothers to express their readiness,” he said.
He also revealed that Teheran had asked Cairo not to seal the border with Gaza and to allow Iranian-funded aid deliveries to civilian Gazans.
Iran is known to use humanitarian aid to further its political aims around the region, most notably in its support of the Shia Arabs of southern Lebanon.
Israeli intelligence officials have long accused Iran of providing arms that were smuggled into Gaza through tunnels dug under the border.
Now the border fence has been breached, there are fears that the illicit arms traffic could surge with backing from Iran.
Links between Iran and Egypt were severed in 1980, a year after the revolution that turned Iran into an Islamic republic, in protest at Egypt’s recognition of Israel, its hosting of the deposed Shah and its support of Baghdad during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.