Iran courts closer ties with Jordan, Egypt

Tehran's ambassador to Jordan says it's ready to supply Amman with free oil, energy for 30 years in return for goods.

Jordan King Abdullah 370 (photo credit:  	 REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Jordan King Abdullah 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)
Iran made very public overtures to both Jordan and Egypt this week in what can be seen as its ongoing attempts to extend its influence in the region.
Tehran’s ambassador to Jordan, Dr. Mostafa Mosleh- Zadeh, said late on Wednesday that Tehran is ready to supply Jordan with free oil and energy for the next 30 years, in return for goods the Islamic Republic needs.
Mosleh-Zadeh said that Tehran is seeking to increase “diplomatic and commercial relations” with Jordan, in comments made on the Fi al- Samim program aired by Jordan’s Josat TV, according to Jordanian news outlet Petra News.
The Iranian ambassador’s comments come weeks after a decision by the Jordanian government to cut fuel subsidies sparked mass and sometimes violent popular protests, including calls for the overthrow of King Abdullah II.
Jordan’s economic situation has been exacerbated by the loss of financial support from oil-rich Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival.
Last year, Saudi Arabia gave Jordan a last-minute $1.4 billion cash handout to keep Jordan afloat, but it withheld aid this year, officials have said.
As well as offering Jordan a way out of its crisis and a way of bypassing Saudi aid, the Iranian ambassador also appealed to domestic fears about Syria and the Palestinians, and said Amman and Tehran were united by a common enemy – Israel.
Referring to but not naming Israel, Mosleh-Zadeh said Jordan and Iran faced a shared foe who “was and still is trying to divide the Muslims in order to dominate and control the region.”
Playing on local fears, Mosleh-Zadeh raised the issue of the “Alternative Homeland,” a much-debated conspiracy theory that postulates a US-backed Israeli plot to create a Palestinian state in Jordan, around 70 percent of whose population are Palestinian refugees.
“I think that the ‘Alternative Homeland’ is the largest project of the 20th and 21st century, and America does not have a solution to the Palestinian crisis, the biggest crisis of the past 60 years, except for the “Alternative Homeland,” which establishes a Palestinian state but outside of Palestine and has Israel ruling over the whole of Palestine,” Mosleh- Zadeh was quoted as saying.
Mosleh-Zadeh warned that the crisis in Iran’s regional ally Syria is “an introduction to this scheme.”
The plot intended for “the government in Syria to fall first, then the country will be divided up into small Alawite, Druse, Sunni and Christian states, which will change the map of the Middle East,” he said.
More Syrian refugees would then “flood into Jordan seeking statehood,” Mosleh-Zadeh cautioned.
Jordan has experienced a large influx of refugees from Syria, which has prompted fears that anti-Assad rebels would recruit jihadists in Jordan, which could lead to a backlash by forces loyal to President Bashar Assad.
Iran has supported Assad’s fight against rebel forces. In a recent report, Lebanon’s As-Safir cited Iranian sources as saying that Syria is “a vital part of the resistance and opposition front...”
Also on Thursday, Iran expressed interest in increased ties with Egypt, with whom it has courted stronger relations since the election this summer of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.
Again using the strategy of appealing to a common enemy, the speaker of Iran’s parliament Ali Larijani said that stronger ties between Iran and Egypt were “in the interest of Muslims” and would “serve the common goals of all Islamic countries in the face of its enemies.”
Larijani made his remarks during a meeting with the head of Egypt’s interests section in Tehran, Khalid Emara, who has been in his role since October.
Iran’s parliamentary speaker also emphasized the importance of dialog between Iranian and Egyptian religious scholars “in response to extremist currents in the Muslim world.”
Larijani’s comments were published in the Arabic-language service of Iran’s Mehr News agency, a clear sign that this is a message intended for an audience in the Arab world.
Iran’s attempts to expand its influence in the region – including in Gaza – have sparked Arab concerns that these “Persian aspirations” are endangering Arab national security, according to an editorial in As-Safir this week.
“In addition to their material effect, Iranian military capabilities reaching Gaza play another role in this time of deep polarization. They prove that the conflict with Israel can transcend ever-increasing sectarian barriers and fears, whereby the Shi’ite Islamic Republic of Iran does not hesitate to offer support to the Sunni Palestinian resistance movements in their fight with the common enemy,” the newspaper wrote.
This week Iran has directed considerable efforts both at home and abroad in capitalizing on the latest crisis in Gaza, not only by publicly announcing it had supplied weapons technology to Hamas and other Gaza terrorist groups but even claiming that its missiles were solely and directly responsible for Hamas’s “victory.”
However, Iran’s control over Hamas has weakened because of the Syria crisis, after Hamas publicly turned against Assad over his repression of Sunni rebels.
On Wednesday night, Hamas’s political chief Khaled Mashaal appeared to downplay Hamas’s relationship with Iran when he told CNN that while the Gaza terrorist group still has a relationship with Tehran, it was “affected by [Hamas’s] disagreement about Syria.
“[Hamas’s relationship with Iran] is not as it used to be in the past, but there is no severing of – of relations. But it is different according to the circumstances.
The Syrian crisis impacted our relationship with the Iranians. But we still have Iran in relationship in other fields,” he told CNN.
Mashaal also emphasized that Iran was not the only country from which Hamas obtained support. “Hamas, as a movement of resistance... for a people living under occupation, we see not just wait to get support, financial support, military support, political support from all over the world, from all the states in the world. Everyone giving us support, whether it’s from Iran or Europe,” the Hamas political leader said.