Photo’s Source:, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah El-Sisi met on the side-lines of a joint meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League, held in Riyadh on November 11, 2023.



The history of relationships

The relations between Iran and Egypt go back to the ancient times of the conquest of Egypt during the Achaemenid period. Later on, Persians also had their presence in Egypt during the Sassanid period. In the following centuries, relations in various fields continued with ups and downs.

Following Egypt’s independence from Britain in 1922, Iran recognized the country’s independence. Political relations between Iran and Egypt were cut off after Gamal Abdul Nasser’s speech against Tehran, and Mohammad Reza Shah’s alliance with Israel that lasted for 10 years. With the election of President Anwar Sadat in Egypt, the bilateral relations were re-established.[1]

The Shah of Iran and Anwar Sadat were close friends, and Mohammad Reza Shah helped the Egyptian army.

Therefore, the political relationship was at the highest level until the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Cairo’s reception of Mohammad Reza Shah, ideological differences, and relations between Egypt and Israel caused Tehran to cut ties eventually.

Despite the various meetings of the officials and leaders of the two countries, there were wide differences and challenges in the relations, and the relations were kept at a low level. After the developments of 2011 in Egypt, in a short period of development of relations, Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi himself came to Iran and in his meeting with Iranian then President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, he considered Iran as his strategic partner.[2]

However, following the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 2013, political and ideological differences, different geopolitical positions, and international strategies of each country intensified the tensions, and led to the very minimal relations between the two countries in the form of “neither enmity nor friendship” and just keeping the minimal interests at stake.

Normalization process

In fact, the sinusoidal relations between Iran and Egypt in the last few decades have been accompanied by patterns of cooperation, competition, conflict, complete diplomatic alienation, and a range of structural conditions, regional rivalries, political-economic considerations, and various leaders’ perceptions.

Earlier this year, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian had a conversation with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi at the regional meeting to support Iraq. The Vice President of Iran met and consulted with the Egyptian Foreign Minister in Sharm el-Sheikh in the fall of 2022.

Iran has repeatedly expressed its interest in expanding relations with Egypt and has tried to warm the cold atmosphere between the two countries. However, Egypt’s desire has increased greatly after the historical Tehran-Riyadh agreement. Since March 2023, the conversation about the normalization of relations has gained momentum.

After Iranian minister of Foreign Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met with his Egyptian counterpart in September 2023 in New York,[3] the meeting between Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi and El-Sisi in the fall of 2023 in Riyadh was a critical turning point. While Raisi said: “Iran does not see any obstacle to expanding relations with the friendly country of Egypt,”[4] Al-Sisi also expressed his definite political will to establish constructive relations with Tehran. Therefore, the foreign ministers were assigned to pursue enhanced relations between the two countries.

In continuation of normalizing relations, apart from Iranian President Raisi’s congratulations to President El-Sisi after his victory in the recent presidential elections,[5] the presidents emphasized the need to expand relations in various fields by telephone at the end of December 2023.[6] Also, several talks between senior diplomats about the crisis in Gaza and an agreement to return the relations between the two countries to a normal state continue.

Effective variables

In fact, important factors are effective in the divergence of Iran and Egypt at three domestic, regional, and international levels. The most important of them is the nature of the two countries political systems, Egypt’s support for the UAE’s claims about the three Iranian islands and different approaches to the US, Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, the use of names and symbols, Palestine and Israel, etc.

However, the factors affecting the convergence and paying attention to the complete normalization of the two countries are the historical and civilizational background of the two countries, the political-economic necessities, the need for security and intelligence and security cooperation of the two countries,[7] the common approach towards the region in instances like Syria, the desire to improve the position in the Islamic world and cooperation in the field of trade and tourism.

The change in America’s policy in the Middle East, the reduction of its interests and its focus on the Pacific region, global geopolitical changes, the war in Ukraine, the change in the pattern of regional interactions, the trend towards more pragmatic policies, are also variables to pay attention to in the process of normalizing relations. Also, the variable of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Countries) is one of the determining factors of the relations between Egypt and Iran. Previously, Egypt, as an ally of Saudi Arabia, reacted positively to the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Therefore, in addition to looking for ways to coexist with Iran and expanding relations between Tehran and Cairo, Egypt is also looking at the outcome of the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Iran pursues the policy of reducing problems with the countries of this region, including Egypt, if possible, to zero, and considering solutions for the development of economic and trade relations with North African countries.

Along with diplomatic talks and mediation measures by countries such as Iraq and Oman, it is very important to form a committee for the return of bilateral relations and the desire and will of the Supreme Leader of Iran for Iran’s immediate readiness[8] for the process of normalizing relations with Cairo.

Also, bilateral efforts to create geo-economic opportunities and reduce negative consequences on national interests in areas such as the North-South International Transport Corridor/INSTC (by Iran and Russia), can be a variable for the normalization of relations. Cairo does not want to challenge this Suez Canal corridor. Many domestic political circles in Egypt and Iran support the process of full normalization of relations. Hamdeen Sabahi,[9] the former presidential candidate, emphasized the necessity of reviving relations between Egypt and Iran and considered it in the interest of the entire Arab nation.


Many in the Middle East predict that the United States will eventually reach an agreement with Iran, so with the process of full normalization with Iran, Egypt will be able to render its regional foreign policy more active. Cairo and Tehran are eager to use the normalization of relations as a strategic card.

Considering Iran’s close relations with Yemen’s Houthis, the normalization process can bring Iran and Egypt’s cooperation in the security of shipping in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandab strait, traffic in the Suez Canal, and lead to the strengthened relationship between Cairo and Tehran.

Egypt is worried about the relations between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood,[10] as Cairo considers such a group as a great threat to its stability. Cairo and Tehran have mutual interests in many security and terrorism issues, and normalization can affect cooperation in this field, such as the security of the Sinai Peninsula.

A possible confrontation between Tehran and Tel Aviv is an important threat to the stability of Egypt. Egypt shares a border with Israel and the Gaza Strip, and the renewal of relations between Tehran and Cairo will lead to closer interests. Despite the Iranian president announcing that he “expected” [11] the Egyptian president to stop Israeli attacks on Gaza, strengthening ties could potentially lead to more cooperation in the Palestinian cause.

Considering the official membership of Egypt and Iran in BRICS and the Non-Aligned Movement, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the normalization of relations can have significant geopolitical consequences in the wider Middle East.

The improvement of Tehran’s relations with Egypt will have a positive effect on the improvement of Iran’s relations with Morocco and other Arab countries. Also, Tehran can help to strengthen Egypt’s relations with Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria and resolve Egypt-Ethiopia disputes.

Economic dimensions are also very important, as a complementary and strengthening factor in the process of the normalization process. The population of the two countries makes an optimal market for mutual products.

Egypt is the gateway to Africa for Iran. Egypt also considers Iran as a connecting bridge with Asia, especially the Caucasus and Central Asia. Also, the normalization of relations can help to create a direct commercial relationship (not a third party),[12] opening economic opportunities in allied countries with the other party, Fimabin’s cooperation in the field of Asian Infrastructure Bank, Islamic Development Bank, Joint Bank of Egypt and Iran,[13] Textile Company of Egypt and Iran, and joint shipping company, etc.

Previously, the trade between Iran and Egypt has experienced a significant decrease.[14] Now, with the recent meeting of the ministers of economy and finance of Iran and Egypt after a decade,[15] the development of cooperation in the fields of new knowledge such as nanotechnology, aerospace, investment in the private sector, service sectors, etc. can strengthen the communication bridge. There are also opportunities for cooperation in nuclear energy, military, and weapons as relations further complement each other.

At the end of March (2023),[16] the Ministry of Tourism of Egypt took steps to facilitate the entry of foreign Iranian tourists to this country. The normalization of relations can lead to an increase in tourism and cultural exchanges, parliamentary diplomacy,[17] and “Islamic-Islamic” dialogue.


Fundamental and previous disagreements can still challenge the normalization process of Iran-Egypt relations. Divergent factors such as nationalism, conflict over national interests, perception of conflicting goals and interests, and conflicting political nature of Iran and Egypt’s systems are still present in the relations between the two countries.

In the framework of Egypt’s foreign policy, America is still a priority, and Israel is a key factor determining the relations between Cairo and Tehran. Therefore, until the views of the two countries on the security issues of the Persian Gulf region, the Arab-Israeli compromise, and the approach to the United States of America are not aligned, the completion of enhancing relations between the two countries will have difficulties.

However, some factors and components such as cultural commonality, common interests, maintaining stability and security in the Middle East, and common economic interests bring convergence. Normalization does not necessarily mean eliminating or solving all the disagreements between Cairo and Tehran, but it means pragmatic cooperation in pursuit of common interests, determining common areas for cooperation, deepening relations step by step, and exploiting opportunities and initial privileges.

In the meantime, focusing on cooperation despite the difference of views in other cases can promote normalization. Meanwhile, the prospect of establishing relations between the two countries in four political, economic, security, and cultural fields seems positive. Therefore, in the coming months, we will probably see the promotion of representation and the exchange of ambassadors, the preparation of guidelines for the development of relations based on mutual respect, good neighborliness, and non-interference in internal affairs, and even official Iranian-Egyptian meetings[18] at high official level.





















Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:

Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

Dr. Farzad Ramezani Bonesh is a writer, senior researcher, and analyst focusing on the Middle East and South Asia. He has written research articles, short analyses, and journalistic pieces in both Persian and English. He has also appeared on international outlets such as Al-Jazeera, RT, and Al-Araby among many others.

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