Ahmadinejad Visits Egypt Amid Iranian Tensions and Arrests
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Egypt on Tuesday to attend an Organization of Islamic Cooperation conference. This is the first visit to Egypt by an Iranian president since Iran’s 1979 revolution. President Mohamed Morsi met Ahmadinejad at the airport, and they briefly discussed ways of improving relations between their countries and ending the Syrian conflict without military intervention. Morsi had stated during his presidential campaign that he would “never meet with Ahmadinejad until he changes his stance towards the Syrian regime.”
Meanwhile, tensions are growing between Ahmadinejad and the politically powerful Larijani family. Ahmadinejad played a video in parliament on Monday to publicly accuse Fazel Larijani, brother of parliament head and possible presidential candidate Ali Larijani, of corruption. The video showed Saeed Mortazavi, a former prosecutor and ally of Ahmadinejad, discussing a fraudulent business deal with Fazel Larijani, who seemed to be asserting his family’s influence for financial gain. Mortazavi was arrested on Tuesday. No reason has been given for the arrest, but there is speculation that it is due to either Mortazavi’s alleged torture and murder of anti-government protesters following the 2009 elections or retaliation by Sadeq Larijani, head of the judiciary, as part of the escalating Ahmadinejad-Larijani feud.
Also on Tuesday, Iran detained a number of additional local journalists for alleged links with the BBC. Earlier, U.N. human rights experts condemned the recent wave of detentions as “a flagrant violation of Iran’s obligations under international human rights law.” Writing for Asharq al-Awsat, Diana Moukalled calls the targeting of mainly cultural journalists “a conscious decision that aims to spread panic among journalists and intellectuals…that tyranny will not exclude anyone.” She says the detentions are “a direct announcement that no civil activity will be permitted during upcoming elections and what happened in the 2009 will not be repeated.”