Iran, Iraq React Differently to Morsi's Fall

A comparison of the Iraqi and Iranian reactions to the situation in Egypt shows a profound difference in their perspectives on democracy.

al-monitor Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi shout anti-army slogans during a protest in Cairo, July 9, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Suhaib Salem.

Topics covered

military coup, military

Jul 10, 2013

News about the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is reverberating in the streets of Iraq and Iran. Both societies are preoccupied with concerns about democracy and building a civil state. However, reactions took two different directions among Iranian and Iraqi intellectual elite circles.

In Iraq, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sent a congratulatory telegram to Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, expressing his support for the Egypt’s popular choice. Salman al-Moussawi, an MP in Maliki’s coalition, said, "The reason behind the downfall of Morsi is that he became subject to the control of the Salafists. This proves that the Arab street rejects extremist religious rule.”

Sami al-Askari, a leader in the State of Law coalition, tried to draw a distinction between the different models of religious rule in the region. He said that the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood does not represent a failure of political Islam. Askari’s reaction is an attempt to defend the religious principles of Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party, which is considered the Shiite equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood, since it is deeply influenced by the ideas of the latter movement's leaders.

Sheikh Mohammad al-Yacoubi, an active cleric in the political sphere, said that the Egyptian people's revolution re-liberated Egypt from those who have deceitfully hijacked it in the name of Islam. These statements come in the context of a sectarian conflict in the region, during which Shiite political parties criticized the Muslim Brotherhood, although both share the same intellectual and practical principles.

Liberal intellectuals broadly welcomed Morsi's fall. In an interview with Al-Monitor, Iraqi academic Kamal Taher said that democracy and legitimacy are about more than the ballot box — they mean a commitment to public freedoms and the principle of national partnership, protection of minority rights and mutual trust between the people and the regime, all of which were violated under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Political scientist Mushtaq al-Helo told Al-Monitor that the youth revolution has revealed the clear demands of the people for the first time in the Arab world. Arabs have declared their rejection of ideological systems and demand the management of earthly life with a technocratic approach, independent of religion, which is a private, personal matter. In an article, Helo advised the Shiite parties to learn from the experience of the Muslim Brotherhood, describing them as the "brothers of the Brotherhood."

Recent posts on Facebook have demanded the establishment of an Iraqi rebel movement following the example of the Egyptian youths, to pressure the government on its inability to meet the demands of the people, rampant corruption and its attempts to Islamize the public sector and limit public rights and personal freedoms.

The Iranian official reaction, expressed by Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi, reflected indifference toward the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood, despite Iran’s keenness to consolidate relations with Egypt under Morsi. This can be attributed to the escalating sectarian strife between the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Shiite Iran, in addition to the sharp difference between the two parties over Syria.

Iranian intellectuals widely criticized the army’s interference in politics and the ouster of the elected president, despite recognizing the mistakes made by Morsi and the Brotherhood. Iranian-Israeli academic and media personality Meir Javedanfar said that the coup in Egypt is the biggest strategic mistake in the history of the country. He warned of serious consequences that will affect the entire region, not only Egypt.

Iranian opposition figure Akbar Kanji stressed the negative role played by the Egyptian army and the rampant corruption in society that is a direct result. He said that the crisis following the coup on the Brotherhood in Egypt will likely get worse.

Yasser Mirdamadi, an academic researcher and political activist close to Iran’s reformist current, told Al-Monitor that what happened in Egypt was an illegitimate coup. He added that this event will significantly affect the future of the democratic model of political Islam, which the traditional reformist movement in Iran sees as a possible, even preferred system of governance.

Finally, a comparison between the Iraqi and Iranian reactions to the situation in Egypt shows a profound difference in perspectives on democracy. Free elections and commitment to their results are the main concern of Iranian intellectuals, while Iraqi intellectuals focus on the liberal principles of democratic governance.

Ali Mamouri is a researcher and writer who specializes in religion. He is a former teacher in Iranian universities and religious seminaries in Iran and Iraq. He has published several articles related to religious affairs in the two countries and societal transformations and sectarianism in the Middle East.

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